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.

2 thoughts on “Elvis and His Father”

  1. As the book progresses, we continue to see the high value of masculinity in Elvis’s culture. Through Sunday’s campaign for representative, Elvis watches his father sacrifice his stable job and money to defend his honor. When Sunday ultimately loses all of his supporters and is left with a massive debt, Elvis witnesses a somber moment. Elvis has seen his father play records, drink heavily, and cry before, but “it felt different—unremarkable, yet different” (218). Sunday is having this private sorrowful moment as he admits his defeat. He begins talking to his dead wife’s ghost, explaining the duty man has to defend their honor and how it is a foreign concept to women, who inherit their honor from their husbands and sons.
    Watching his father sob quietly into the night, Elvis wants “to reach out in comfort, but something deeper told him it would be wrong. This was too private a thing to be shared” (219). Elvis’s culture places a high value on masculinity, and if men must show a moment of weakness, it should be private. Although Elvis wanting to reach out to his father shows he may still want to salvage their relationship, his distant relationship with his father has taught him to keep his distance in order to respect his father’s masculinity.

  2. In their posts Hailey and Emma both address one of the main themes of the text, masculinity. We learn a lot about what is expected from an Igbo man while reading conversations between Elvis and his father Sunday. After confronting his father about Godfrey’s death, Sunday describes not only the importance of what it means to be a man, but also the importance of honor.

    “In dis place, it used to be dat all you had was your name-before dis new madness with money started. De measure of a man was his name. It will be again. It took me years of pain, suffering and hard work to build a name people could respect. My father was a houseboy to de white priests. We were nobody. To de whites we were their servant’s children, mini-servants. To de traditional world, we were white people’s slaves, a curse, so we were disinherited land, clan, everything. I built our name with honor until it became a force to be reckoned with. I have never had much money, but I had a name dat opened doors. A name people spoke with respect.” (187)

    In the quote above Sunday speaks about the respect their last name holds and how hard the he worked to gain that respect. He explains that although he never had money, “[he] had a name dat opened doors” (187). Sunday later expresses that the reason he does not want Elvis to be a dancer is to maintain the honor that the last name Oke still holds.

    When confronted, Sunday admits that Godfrey was killed because he was a threat to “all [they] had” as the only inheritance that Sunday had to give to his son was a “name of honor” (187). This confession is significant because it highlights the length an individual will go to maintain honor since Godfrey was family yet he is still killed. This conversation also displays the distant relationship that Elvis and his father have as they continue to struggle understanding each other’s mentality. Sunday shows no sign of regret while admitting the murder to Elvis,because to him Godfrey’s death had to be done, and he perceives it more as a “mercy killing” (188). Elvis on the other hand, is disgusted and now views his name to be one that is associated with rapists and murderers.

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