Essay on The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears

Essay on The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears

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Dinaw Mengestu’s novel The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears is a story about an immigrant from Ethiopia named Sepha Stephanos that discovers the freedoms he travels to the United States for are not easily accessible and that sometimes you can lose yourself trying to figure out who you are. The passage that most clearly represents this notion comes as Stephanos is reflecting at the end of the novel, he says: “What was it my father used to say? A bird stuck between two branches gets bitten on both wings. I would like to add my own saying to the list now, Father: a man stuck between two worlds lives and dies alone. I have dangled and been suspended long enough” (Mengestu, 228). This paper will examine the metaphor of the two worlds Stephanos is stuck between while observing the friendships Stephanos creates that attempts to help him discover himself. Finally, my hope is that this paper can provide a deeper understanding of this passage from using my own experience as an immigrant from another country.
Stephanos is trying to figure out who he can be in a new place without forgetting where he comes from. Stephanos plays a game with his two friends that are also from Africa. They connect because they have a common past, and hope for a similar future: hope of progress both from where they left, and progress in their new lives. The most apparent symbol representing the hope for progress for Stephanos is the store. The store represents a sense of shelter it symbolizes a home because there is personalized ownership attached to it. Stephanos uses the success of his store as a vision for the foreseeable future, for the potential success of the world outside of his store. An example of this occurs at the beginning of the novel when Kenneth a...


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...I remember, but it is not all I know. I know I was born in Russia, and I know my biological father left to go back to his home in Ethiopia before my birth. I remember the home I grew up in but I know it wasn’t the place I was born, or the orphanage I spent two years in. I think that is a part of being suspended between two worlds for myself. And similarly to Stephanos there is a sense of being lost that is natural that goes along with being an immigrant. There is the life I remember, and the life I know of but don’t remember. This is the reversal for Stephanos, he remembers the past but is uncertain about the future. That is the story of the immigrant, but it is also a valuable lesson for everyone that feels lost, because distance from Ethopia to America, or from Russia to America is measurable, but distance from yourself after you have lost yourself is immeasurable.

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