Violence: An Extremity of Reality

“Elvis watched a young girl, no older than twelve, pick up a stone and throw it at Jeremiah. It struck him with a dull thud, and though she lacked the strength to break skin, the blow raised a nasty purple lump. That single action triggered the others to pick up and throw stones. The combined sound was sickening and Jeremiah yelled in pain. There was something comically biblical, yet purely animal, about the scene.” (225)

Chapter 21 opens with a scene where Elvis and Redemption witness a brutal mob lynching a man named Jeremiah, who allegedly stole money from another man. The mob circles around him, throwing rocks at him, calling him a thief; Jeremiah’s neck is hanging on a tire, claims he is not a thief, and begs for mercy.

Chris Abani’s Grace Land physical and sexual violence: both in graphic detail, and merely mentioned or implied. The previous passage is an example of Abani illustrating a scene that illustrates brutality and blood. This particular scene was one of the first times when Elvis, who is only a boy in his adolescence, is exposed to severe violence. His way of describing it as “comically biblical, yet purely animal” can be inferred that the young boy is shocked and unsure of how to properly react. He understands that there is something wrong in what is happening, yet the scenery is displaced from  his sense of reality to the point where it grazes humor.

When Elvis discovers human heads in a cooler which he though he would find beer, he was too shocked in make an audible reaction:

“The overheard light came on as Redemption opened the door, and Elvis staggered back in disgust. He tried to shout, but nothing came.” (237)

I believe that Abani’s intent behind these scenes are in order to project the moral and ethical dilemmas surrounding adolescence. The novel is set in post-colonial Nigeria, particularly centered around Elvis who dreams of escaping the  ghettos and its culture. The violence, graphic and implied, is likened to a punch to a punch in the gut. We observe Elvis being affected by the graphic violence, while the readers ourselves are affected by the implied violence. We cannot help but stop in disbelief; we hesitate to accept that the young girl in secondary school will be slaughtered as a “spare-part” for the organs they were transporting.

“Ys, dose children will arrive in Saudi alive, den, depend on de demand, dey will harvest de part from den. Fresh, no damage, more money for all of them.” (243)

Abani raises the question, “how does violence influence a child’s future?” Elvis is inevitably affected, perhaps scarred. How will he mature? What will his sense of reality be? Violence is an extremity of reality, and distorts the direction of his compass.

Print Friendly

One Comment on “Violence: An Extremity of Reality”

  1. sarahbraunstein says:

    This post has offered an important reason to why it took Elvis so long to grow up and become a man in “Graceland.” Elvis has not grown up because of all of the violence he has witnessed in Nigeria. He mentioned that because of the violence Elvis has seen, it has affected him from growing up. After reading the book in its entirety, the reader can finally see that Elvis has grown up after Redemption made Elvis take his passport so that Elvis could go to America. Elvis does not become a man up until he admits to the flight attendant that, “Yes, this is Redemption” (Abani 321). I believe this is the first scene in the book when the reader can see Elvis is a man because during the last 40 pages of the book, Elvis witnessed more violence than he has ever seen before. He saw all the parts of his life fall apart, from his dad’s dead body to a little girl being sexually active. Finally, with the help of Redemption, Elvis got on a plane to America to start a new life as a man.


Leave a Reply