Physical Violence as a Drastic Cultural Difference

Physical violence in Chris Abani’s Graceland is used to display a distinct cultural difference between Lagos and America.  In class on Tuesday, we discussed the scene in which Elvis confronts Sunday about the murder of Godfrey (pgs 187-189).  It is plausible that Sunday regrets his decision to murder Godfrey in order to save the family name, but it also demonstrates how in Lagos an act of murder is viewed as the only option to avoid a tarnished reputation.

In further readings, we see that physical violence is once again the answer to solving problems.  When the citizens of Maroko hear of being bulldozed by the government, they decide to create a physical human barrier.  When the police arrive to begin the process, we see an miniature war develop.  While the citizens are uniting to support Maroko, the police decide that the simplest way to stop the chaos is by shooting the citizens.  “The shot silenced everyone and brought one of the laughing men down…Confused, other policemen opened fire,” (pg 270).

The police were well aware that the citizens were trying to support Maroko, yet they knew that their gunshots would prove a point.  In Lagos, gun shots symbolize power.  In my opinion, Abani emphasizes how powerful physical violence to show the readers just how different Lagos culture is to American culture.  In the novel, moving to the states is seen almost as a “safe haven,” an escape from the poor, violent environment of Lagos.  Though murders happen often in America, they do not seem to be as casual as they are in Lagos.  That being said, Abani does an excellent job in making the readers question their ethical standards.  We are forced to recognize the difference between the two cultures and question America: do we really live in this “safe haven?  Or are areas of the United States just as physically violent as Lagos?


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One Comment on “Physical Violence as a Drastic Cultural Difference”

  1. sarahf says:

    On page 303, this difference becomes more clear. The scene describes soldiers killing the king and then panic ensuring. The whole scene is very primitive and animalistic. The soldiers are shooting at the citizens and they are returning with outdated weapons. One man is seen “wielding and old Igbo sword”. They are fighting guns with swords. In America,this would never happen. It would be guns on both sides. Each side would have a chance of survival. In the scene, the youths are throwing rocks at the soldiers. This does absolutely no damage to them. They have nothing to fight with and are resorting to primitive weapons. The violence here is very one sided and is not what we see in America.

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