All posts by Hailey M.

Elvis and His Father

“He want to kill himself to join ya mama. Only you fit help him.”

“Me? He doesn’t love me either, how can I help him?”

“Elvis,” she said, catching hold of his arm. “I never talk to you like dis before. I beg you be like son to him.”

Elvis was a mess of conflicting emotions. He’d been pretty sure that he hated his father, and now he had this strange urge to help him. (51)

This passage shows Elvis’s stepmother begging him to do something about his father’s drinking problem. It illustrates the emotional distance between Elvis and his father. One thing that particularly stood out to me was the fact that Comfort told Elvis to “be like son to him.” How can he be like a son to Sunday when he really is his son? To me, this is even more telling about their relationship (or lack thereof) than the later part when Elvis thinks that he hates his father. We also see from this passage that Elvis is aware that his father does not love him; he even says this himself to Comfort. Although they are biologically father and son, they clearly lack the father/son bond.

We see elsewhere in the book that Elvis’s culture places a high value on masculinity. For example, on pages 61-63, Sunday is absolutely livid when he comes home to find that the women of the family have put lipstick and a dress on Elvis and styled his hair for fun. He even goes as far as to knock Elvis unconscious despite the fact that he is only a little boy at the time. Later, when he is shaving Elvis’s head, he tells him, “It’s not easy to be a man. (63)” Even if it is difficult to be a man in Nigeria, I imagine that it must be especially difficult for Elvis to grow up with this pressure because he lacks a positive role model. His relationship with his father has obviously been strained for years, and now it is almost as if he does not even have a father and that he can only be, as Comfort says, “like” a son to him. But we also see that he “had this strange urge to help him (51),” which could mean that he still hopes on some level that their relationship can be salvaged.

David’s Feelings of Alienation

I looked out into the narrow street, this strange, crooked corner where we sat, which was brazen now with the sunlight and heavy with people– people I would never understand. I ached abruptly, intolerably, with a longing to go home; not to that hotel, in one of the alleys of Paris, where the concierge barred the way with my unpaid bill; but home, home across the ocean, to things and people I knew and understood; to those things, those places, those people which I would always, helplessly, and in whatever bitterness of spirit, love above all else. I had never realized such a sentiment in myself before, and it frightened me. I saw myself as a wanderer, an adventurer, rocking through the world, unanchored. I looked at Giovanni’s face, which did not help me. He belonged to this strange city, which did not belong to me. I began to see that, while what was happening to me was not so strange, so unprecedented, though voices deep within me boomed, For shame! For shame! that I should be so abruptly, so hideously entangled with a boy; what was strange was that this was but one tiny aspect of the dreadful human tangle occurring everywhere, without end, forever. (62)

This passage, which I found particularly poignant, describes David’s feelings of alienation from the rest of the world while he is at the café/bar with Giovanni and Guillaume, not long before he leaves with Giovanni. His language (“I ached abruptly, intolerably… ”) suggests a sudden strong, urgent need to belong somewhere, to “go home.” Although we can see from earlier passages that he did not have the best childhood or the strongest sense of home and family, I think what he means by saying that he wants to go home is that he longs for some sense of familiarity to offset this sense of alienation. He sees himself as “a wanderer, an adventurer, rocking through the world, unanchored,” which reflects this weak sense of home, but at least New York is familiar to him and he knows the streets and the people. Maybe David believes that if he went home, away from Giovanni, he would be happier, which brings me to my next point.

David thinks that he will never “belong” the way that Giovanni does. I think part of this stems from the fact that he relates to his sexuality differently than Giovanni. David feels clear contempt for his attraction to men: “For shame! For shame! that I should be so abruptly, so hideously entangled with a boy.” This likely adds to the alienation, as he cannot enjoy his relationship with his girlfriend or his encounters with men. Giovanni, on the other hand, never displays this shame. He is able to “belong” because he is not ashamed the way David is.

I felt strong sympathy for David when I read this passage. It is clear to me that he just wants to belong somewhere, but he simply cannot the way he currently is. Perhaps he is struggling with the paradox of socialization– if he cannot belong to society, how can he accept his role?

Nora and the Role of Women

(I have a different edition, so page numbers will vary.)

Mrs Linde. So it has all had to come out of your own necessaries of life, poor Nora?

Nora. Of course. Besides, I was the one responsible for it. Whenever Torvald has given me money for new dresses and such things, I have never spent more than half of it; I have always bought the simplest and cheapest things. Thank Heaven, any clothes look well on me, and so Torvald has never noticed it. But it was often very hard on me, Christine–because it is delightful to be really well dressed, isn’t it?

Mrs. Linde. Quite so.

Nora. Well, then I have found other ways of earning money. Last winter I was lucky enough to get a lot of copying to do; so I locked myself up and sat writing every evening until quite late at night. Many a time I was desperately tired; but all the same it was a tremendous pleasure to sit there working and earning money. It was like being a man. (14)

Throughout Nora’s conversation with her friend Mrs. Linde, we learn that Helmer, Nora’s husband, has recently recovered from a potentially deathly illness, but he did not have the funds to travel for his treatment, so Nora (illegally) borrowed them. She has since been working in secret to repay her debts.

This particular passage stood out to me because Nora states that working is “like being a man (14),” which provides us with an interesting insight regarding the role of women in the time during which this play was written. Helmer treats Nora in an almost childlike way. Here, we see it in the way he gives her money like a parent would a child’s allowance. Because of the time period, it is uncommon for a woman to earn her own money. She is dependent on her husband a similar way to how children are dependent on their parents. We can find more examples of this childlike treatment in other places in the text, such as the scene near the beginning in which Helmer states that Nora is forbidden from eating macaroons and she replies that she “should not think of going against [your] wishes (5).” Some of his conversations with her seem almost as if he were speaking to a child instead of an adult woman. For example, his “sweet little spendthrift (5)” speech near the beginning of the play came across to me as very condescending. To a modern reader, the fact a simple act of adult independence such as earning her own money makes Nora feel like a man reads as an interesting comment on women’s place in society at the time.

Test post

When Wilhelm greeted his mother next morning she told him that his father was very annoyed and would very soon forbid him to pay daily visits to the theatre. ‘Even though I occasionally like to go to the theater myself,’ she continued, ‘I am all the same often inclined to curse it, since my domestic quiet is disturbed by your excessive passion for this form of entertainment. Father always asks what use it can be and how can people waste their time with it.’

‘I’ve already had to listen to him as well,’ replied Wilhelm, ‘And perhaps I answered him too hastily; but for heaven’s sake, Mother, is everything useless which does not immediately put money in our pockets and which does not procure us possessions near at hand?’

Wilhelm’s conversation with his mother provides us with an example of youthful rebellionHis parents disapprove of his passion for theater, believing that it is useless, but he refuses to submit to this viewpoint and stop enjoying it.