Things Fall Apart in Graceland

“Things Fall Apart” in Graceland. In fact, they truly disintegrate after a long tug of war: male ritual vs. female ritual, Afikpo vs. Lagos, Sunday vs. Oye and Beatrice, old vs new generation. The world of Elvis is torn between an imposing and brutal paternalistic society, and a powerful more tacit feministic world. As I tried to explain in our group conversation, and without trying to decipher Abani’s true intention, I cannot help to regard the paternal world of Sunday and the other men around Elvis as doomed to collapse under its own weight due to its lack of meaning and sustainability starting from the fake ritual – killing a chicken, which Elvis actually did not kill, instead of an eagle – to the unnecessary violence perpetrated by people at different places in the novel. The author portrays this traditional society in such a derogatory way: rape, killing, drunkenness, insensitivity etc. However, we see a totally different dynamic in the sub-world of Beatrice and Oye. I was struck by their tendency to always recuperating whatever the paternalistic society has already or is about to contaminate and turn it into a feministic-female entity that will divorce itself from the symbolic order as in the case of Elvis. This process I have considered a female ritual as opposed to the male one (the fake one). These rituals are present throughout the narrative: Elvis braiding his hair like a girl, putting on makeups, trying on women outfit etc. but the first ritual among these that I oppose to his fist male ritual is that intimate moment with his mother, “…. She placed his hand over the torn flesh. He moved it up and down, intrigued by the texture. She closed her eyes against the tenderness; then gently she pulled his hand from her” (P.40).
It is important, however, to realize that this female role has to come with great sacrifices; the feminine in Graceland suffers a lot from social violence. In the case of Elvis, he goes through everything that his alter ego Efua does; they both get raped, and the two scenes are identical. But Elvis, like Efua survive because he has been prepared to carry such a burden, the burden of keeping society alive while your own body is suffering. The only relaxing (peaceful) moments in the novel is when Elvis joins The joking Jaguars where, again, a group of young male stand for female characters in their demeanor and role; they are able to keep crowds away from the reality of this brutal society at least for a moment. Everything else is demonized be it traditional or foreign.


About sdiouf

Ph.D student in Comparative Literature.
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