Fire And Water In Yaa Gyasi's Homegoing

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In Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing, fire and water are used as a way to talk about slavery and Effia and Esi’s sides of the family tree. Fire and water talk about the curse of slavery and the role that it plays during this time period. The motifs of fire and water represent slavery and enable the author to track the lives of one family.
Throughout the novel, fire is used as a metaphor for the legacy of slavery. The novel begins with Effia Otcher being born during a village fire. Effia’s father states “... the memory of the fire that burned, then fled, would haunt him, his children, and his children’s children for as long as the line continued” (3). By saying this, Cobbe is making a connection to fire and slavery. Slavery, similar to fire, is also a force that leaves wreckage behind without any concern for those it hurts. The imagery of fire in this example is used as a metaphor for slavery and the lasting impact it has on the world. Later in the novel, Akua, who is raised by a conservative missionary community, thinks to herself “[the yam] was a hungry sound, the sound of oil swallowing whatever it was given” (178) while cooking dinner. The description of Akua cooking her food is a metaphor for slavery. Similar to how the yam is swallowed by the oil, people’s lives are also destroyed by slavery. Akua often has dreams about fire and states “It’s the fire. I keep dreaming about fire” (178). Akua’s dreams about fire are a parallel for what is happening in Africa during this time.
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