Honing in on Violence and Killing

It is undeniably true that Graceland is absolutely chalk full of scenes of violence, physical abuse, sexual abuse, death, and war.  The scenes of sexual abuse are especially shocking, in addition to the description of the genocide and the bodies which seem to cover the land. Though these are of critical importance, I also noticed another instance of violence/cruelty/abuse throughout Book 1 of the novel.  Every few chapters there seems to be a situation in which one of Elvis’ friends is killing an animal for food.  This seems an innocent enough act, especially when this animal may be the only source of meat they have for weeks, but it is the way Abani goes about describing these scenes each time they crop up.

For example, on pages 180 and 181 Elvis is talking to Hezekiah about the upcoming Christmas holiday and what his family will eat for it.  The boys talk about the possibility of killing a goat and then a chicken.

“‘So what do you say about de goat?  Have you never killed on before?’” 

“‘No,’” Elvis said.”

“‘What of a chicken?  At least tell me you have killed a chicken.’”

 “‘One,’ Elvis said in a voice that betrayed the freshness of the memory.  Having caught the chicken, he had grasped it firmly by its wings and laid it on its side, trapping both its legs and wings under foot, al the while following the instructions Aunt Felicia was shouting at him.  Lifting its neck tenderly, he plucked a few feathers to reveal its pulsing pink neck.”

…”‘I don’t want to kill anything.’”

‘”Sometimes we don’t have a choice.’”

Each time Elvis has a discussion like this with one of his friends he finds the same thing–he does not feel comfortable killing animals for food.  He hates seeing the struggle, the slow death, the visible pain which the animal is going through.  Hezekiah claims that, “Sometimes we don’t have a choice,” and I think this statement says a lot.  This seems to be how much of the book is set up due to the environment of poverty, political unrest, and drug/alcohol abuse.  Poverty and severe political unrest, sadly, can lead people to do things that they normally would not do.  Acts that would typically be considered sinful and unheard of suddenly become acceptable because there is no other choice.  You do what you must do to live to the next day.  I think these scenes in specific help us to have a better understanding of Elvis.  Elvis has not only witnessed horrible physical and sexual abuse his whole life (in addition to death, murder, etc), but he has been victim to both.  I would imagine that Elvis feels hypocritical or just sheer guilt when faced with the task or idea of killing a living animal when the choice to NOT do so is plain and clear.  I think where most boys his age use violence and acting out as a means of growing into their manhood and the culture in which they live in, Elvis strays away because he has had his fill and knows that there are other ways.  I can imagine that harming a living entity would trigger the surfacing of memories of he himself being physically abused by his father, uncle, etc.  I think these scenes, interspersed throughout Graceland are there so that we as an audience may see how Elvis is different from the rest.  Violence has defined his life, therefore he chooses not to define himself by violence.

Indira Ghandi and the “Emergency”

Indira Ghandi was the third Prime Minister of India.  She ruled over India, a democracy, four times between the years of 1966 and 1984.  Her rule was undoubtedly controversial due to the events that took place between June 26, 1975 and March 23, 1977.  This period of time can be identified as the Emergency.

Indira ran for the position of Prime Minister again in the 1971 elections under the Allahabad High Court.  The campaign theme she used claimed to have a theme of decreasing poverty and bettering the lives of those living in poverty in India.  She funded this campaign through New Delhi and the Indian National Congress Party.  Indira Ghandi won the election.  Soon after winning though, there was a political uproar in India which claimed that Indira was guilty of using government machinery in order to propel her campaign.  The funds which she had been using were barely allocated toward the caused which she claimed they were being donated toward.  Her election was declared void on the grounds of electoral malpractice, and she was ordered to be removed from her seat and suspended from running for election for six years.  Indira Ghandi did not like this one bit, and she opposed the claims and denied the criticisms.  Her party backed her up, as well as many other supporters.  Indira was allowed to withhold her position of Prime Minister, and those who opposed this decision flew into a rage.

At this point, it is recommended to Indira that she impose a state of emergency under which she will rule by decree.  It is then, on June 26, 1975, that India is thrown into utter political upheaval.  Ghandi implements the following over the course of the next two years: 1. She arrests any and all who oppose her rule and throws them in jail without alerting their families of the arrest. 2.  She inflicts serious abuse and torture upon such political prisoners.  3.  She uses national television and other public means of communication for personal political propaganda. 4.  She forces sterilization, specifically vasectomies, upon people in an effort to stifle the overpopulation. 5. She destroys the Indian slum and most other low-income housing. 6. She implements large-scale and illegal enactment of laws. It is chaos.

The Emergency officially ends on March 23, 1977 when Ghandi releases all political prisoners and announces fresh elections for that March.   Read the rest of this entry »

Mothers are the Problem

(page 27)

Hel. Just think how a guilty man like that has to lie and play the hypocrite with everyone, how he has to wear a mask in the presence of those near and dear to him, even before his own wife and children.  And about the children–that is the most terrible part of it all, Nora.

Nora. How?

Hel. Because such an atmosphere of lies infects and poisons the life of a home.  Each breath the children take in such a house is full of the germs of evil.

Nora [coming near him]. Are you sure of that?

Hel. My dear, I have often seen it in the course of my life as a lawyer.  Almost everyone who has gone to the bad early in life has had a deceitful mother.

Nora. Why do you only say–mother?


In this excerpt from Ibsen’s “A Doll’s House”, we see Torvald’s manipulation of and domination over Nora in the realm of husband/wife roles.  Even though Torvald (referred to as “Hel” by Ibsen in the play) is indeed unaware of Nora’s affair with Krogstad, it’s almost as if he treats her with the knowledge that she is guilty of something.  The way in which Hel hovers over Nora is not just stifling, it’s domineering in nature.  Through the use of pet names such as “little squirrel” and “little skylark”, Hel, in one way or another, demeans Nora to that of his servant in a way.  By talking to Nora as if she is his precious counterpart, one with which he is so in love, she will then in turn desire to please him no matter what.  Even to the point of forging a signature on a bank document in order to save his life?  Why not?

In this excerpt, Hel is discussing with Nora the scandal in which Krogstad was involved regarding a forgery.  His tone is almost one of strict lecture-likedness as he warns Nora of the dangers that can occur within ones family when lying and deceit goes on.  A trick/intentional device put into place by Ibsen here, Hel is guilting Nora without even being aware of the situation at hand.  What connects back to the idea of Hel’s overbearing dominance in the role of husband is when he says, “Almost everyone who has gone to the bad early in life has had a deceitful mother.”  Why is Hel saying this at this point in time when it is clearly and obviously Krogstad himself as a husband who has brought deceit to his family.

At this point, Nora is well on her way to figuring out that the way she has lived her life up until this point is unfulfilling.  I say this, yet at the same time I don’t think Nora has quite figured out what exactly about her life is unfulfilling.  I think she has simply begun to realize that her husband is in control and maybe this isn’t the way things have to be.  This excerpt proves that Hel will take any opportunity he can to prove his dominance to his wife.  Anything he can say to Nora to make her feel as though her position, not just within the family but in her own life in general, is less important than his, he will.  As he reasonably concluded in the above excerpt (and despite the fact that Nora is unfortunately the cause and existence of the issue at all), Krogstad was deceitful and made a dishonest business choice, therefore he is bringing poor morals, poisons, and vibes into his family at home, therefore dishonest mothers are typically the cause for those children who “go bad”.  A logical conclusion and worthwhile lesson for Hel to teach Nora!

Poetic Reflection: My Life in Boston

I waited months for this time to come

More than months.  Years.

And now I’m here

And everyone talks different

And dresses different

And the drivers have no time to waste

And there’s no yes ma’am or no sir’s.

But I’m alright..

I’m different already.

And I will always say y’all.