“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.