Abani, Chamoiseau, and the Shifting Point of View

12 Apr

I hope this is okay, but I’m going to continue on my “theme” of comparing Texaco and Chris Abani’s GraceLand. The stylistic and thematic similarities are too prevalent to ignore. In that vein, the point of view shifts that are disrupting in Texaco – appearing in the middle of a paragraph, or right after the thoughts of another character, say – these perspective shifts are less disrupting, but just as noticeable, in Abani’s novel. Even though the book mainly takes place from an omniscient third person perspective on the protagonist, Elvis, the point of view in which Abani writes the story suggests a more “universal” perspective.

What I mean by this – and I think it’s relevant where Texaco is concerned as well – is that Abani wants to tell the story of a people, rather than the single story of a teenage boy. He could have put the novel in first person, but he chose to use an omniscient third, suggesting that, even though the story may most closely follow Elvis’s journey, his story is not the only one that needs to be told.

Further, the switches in point of view present in Chamoiseau’s novel abound in Abani’s novel as well. The reader will clearly be hearing Elvis’s thoughts, and will be following him on his tour with the King of the Beggars, say, or to his friend Redemption’s house; but suddenly, Abani will switch to what Elvis’s father is doing and thinking, or to what his stepmother is thinking. These switches are not only physical, but mental as well; Abani chooses to include descriptors such as, “she thought,” or “he was worried.” In doing this, Abani asserts that while Elvis may be his protagonist, the narrator is the main voice of the story, and his/her voice is able to tell the story of every character that populates Lagos.

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