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A Theme of Parental Relationships in 'Homegoing'

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Set in two different continents and spanning over 250 years, Homegoing is a historical fiction novel written by Yaa Gyasi. The novel follows the stories of two families descended from half-sisters, Effia and Essi, who never meet each other. Although the families have immensely different experiences, they both face personal hardship and tragedy along with racism. The half-sisters had different encounters with parental relations and motherly love which provoked them to wind up in two different circumstances. The way the sisters raised their kids also changed due to their circumstance and upbringing. Gyasi accentuates that a character’s relationship with their parents impacts how they treat and communicate with others. Yaa Gyasi uses the motifs of abandonment and sacrifice to portray parental relationships. 

Effia is a character who sees the unfavorable part of parental love, once she is married off she will “not hear from her family” (Gyasi 26). Baaba is resentful to care for a child that is not her own. Effia’s marriage to James gives Baaba the opportunity to get rid of Effia and offer some political gain to her village. Gyasi creates a sympathetic mood towards Effia that helps the reader relate more to the character. Once Maame is revealed to Effia, she has a sudden urge “to apologize perhaps for the burden her father made Babba carry all those years”. The sudden shift in Baaba’s characterization helps the reader sympathize towards Baaba. Furthermore, the apologetic tone used by Effia suggests that perhaps Baaba is a multifaceted character, through the sacrifice of self-respect Baaba makes in order to care for Effia. Later in the text, Ness lies to “the devil” about the death of Kojo and hopes to render the look mothers get when they “have killed their own children to set them free”. The use of allusion portrays that Ness is willing to do anything for the freedom of her child. However, Ness’ statement about sacrifice is ironic since Kojo’s freedom results in her imprisonment. Ness’ sacrifice and relationship with her son also ironically leads to the death of her husband and more slavery while it provides a slavery-free life to Kojo. Unfortunately Kojo’s deficit of parental love leads him to be a highly competent father. The loss of parental love impacts the way characters treat and communicate with their kids. For example, Kojo admits that being a caring father “felt like a debt he owed to his parents”. Gyasi uses the comparison between debt and parenting to convey that the loss of his parents in his childhood caused Kojo to be a continuous and impactful part of his kids’ lives. In addition, the remorseful connotation in “debt” creates a supportive response from the readers, engaging them more into the novel. 

Similarly, Quey reveals that Effia “never hit him, and spoke softly yet assuredly”. The repetition of the “s” sound creates a peaceful mood, which highlights Effia’s nonviolent characteristics and creates an emotional setting for the readers to engage themselves in. As a result, the readers are also left with a feeling of satisfaction to see that even though Baaba’s ways troubled Effia, the same ways aren’t being used on Quey. Unlike Effia, James was born into royalty and luxury, however, he pleads an Asante warrior to “tell everyone that he died in a war”. Quey and Nana Yaa’s constant bickering and participation in the slave trade causes James to believe leading a family life is better than a royal life. Though his crops fail to grow, earning James the nickname “Unlucky”, he is constantly thankful that he no longer has to participate in the slave trade, unlike his family. The fake death symbolizes the death of fortune and luxury and the start of the economic and emotional downfall of Effia’s lineage. Even though money is lost in Effia’s lineage, the passing down of the stone foreshadows that culture and heritage aren’t lost due to familial and financial problems. 

A character’s communication and treatment of others is influenced by their parental relationship. Do parents realize that they are responsible to their child and not for them? One’s parents should be a role model for them, not an enforcer. If Quey and Nana Yaa modeled a good relationship and not make James’ marriage decision, there is a high chance James would’ve stayed back. Even though Effia was a great mother, Quey turned out to be an inadequate father so one can never assume. However, Effia respected Quey’s decision in marriage just as she supported James’ decision in running away.                    

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A Theme Of Parental Relationships In ‘Homegoing’. (2022, April 11). GradesFixer. Retrieved May 17, 2022, from
“A Theme Of Parental Relationships In ‘Homegoing’.” GradesFixer, 11 Apr. 2022,
A Theme Of Parental Relationships In ‘Homegoing’. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 17 May 2022].
A Theme Of Parental Relationships In ‘Homegoing’ [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2022 Apr 11 [cited 2022 May 17]. Available from:
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