In Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing,fire and water represent multiple concepts that are displayed throughout the novel. The recurring symbols of fire and water are subconsciously passed on from one generation to the next. These symbols reappear in dreams, fears, or through experiences and are a deep scar that many characters are unaware of. Fire and water depict the theme of slavery and the role that it plays for many generations. The motifs of fire and water represent slavery, as well as Effia and Esi’s sides of the family tree that help 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 story begins with Effia Otcher born into the world during a village fire. The impact…show more content… Marcus, one of Esi’s descendants has a great fear of water. Marcus’ father explains that “black people didn’t like water because they were brought over on slave ships. What did a black man want to swim for? The ocean floor was already littered with black men” (284). Marcus is not scared of the water itself, instead he is scared of the deep history that the water holds. The water is filled with the history of the transatlantic slave trade and the struggles that Marcus’ ancestors had to face. Slaves are held in the dungeons of the Cape Coast Castle shortly before they are loaded onto ships and sold to the Americas. As Esi is preparing to be sent to America, “[t]he scent of ocean water hit[s] her nose. The taste of salt [clings] to her throat. The soldiers [march] them down to an open door that [leads] to sand and water, and they all began to walk out onto it” (49). Esi is kept in a slave castle and is shipped through the middle passage, creating a connection between slavery and the water. The water represents the slave trade and the journey that many slaves, similar to Esi, have to face. The location of the Cape Coast Castle is also significant for it allowed slaves to be transported quickly to the Americas. The castle is located on a beach and slaves are shipped over water, creating an even stronger connection between the water and slavery. The motifs of fire and water are also used to follow the…show more content… Effia, who is born during a village fire, fears fire, and Esi, who is part of the transatlantic slave trade, fears water. Fire reappears later in the book in the form of dreams for Akua, Effia’s great-great-granddaughter. Akua has a recurring dream of fire where “the fire was shaped like a woman” (178). Fire represents the curse on Effia’s family and frequently appears in Effia’s descendants lives. Kojo, Esi’s grandson, works near water every day. He “[works] on the ships in Fell’s Point” (111). The symbol of water that began with Esi reappears in Kojo’s day to day life. At the end of the novel, Marjorie, Effia’s descendant, and Marcus, Esi’s descendant, meet each other and travel to Africa. Marjorie “walked to where he stood, where the fire met the water” (300). The joining of fire and water symbolize Effia and Esi’s sides of the family finally being able to come together. Fire and water neutralize each other, meaning that there is no more need for the author to track the separate lives of these families because now they are one. The lives of Effia, Esi, and their families are closely followed by using fire and water.
Fire and water follow the theme of slavery and reappear in the lives of Effia and Esi’s descendants. For slavery, fire represents the destruction that is left behind while water represents the slave trade. For family, fire and water are passed down through generations and help to tell the story