Symbolism In Dinaw Mengestu's The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears

analytical Essay
1135 words
1135 words

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 …show more content…

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 asks Stephanos, “if he hates America today?” [as a result of the lack of success the store is having, Stephanos replies,] “…with all my heart…” (Mengestu, 5). Stephanos measures the potential of his own success and America 's success as a country from the success of his store; this creates an intimate connection between Stephanos and his store. When he leaves the store and observes the physical environment that surrounds his store he is unable to find the same comfort as he has when he is in the store. And finally when he receives the eviction notice he is left separated from a part of himself, the only place where he is comforted appears to be missing and everyone else that creates a sense of family is also gone when the store goes. Similarly, …show more content…

Stephanos is stuck between two worlds from the most intimate friendships he makes in the novel. The memory of his father from which he is unable to reconcile, and the intimate friendship Stephanos makes with Judith and Naomi are the two worlds he is stuck between. When Judith and Stephanos share a passionate kiss Stephanos momentarily has a sense of family that was missing; but the closer Stephanos gets to fitting in Judith’s life the more real it becomes that it will not happen, he only becomes close to having what he wants but never entirely fills the hole created from the loss of his father. From the friendship Stephanos creates with Judith and Naomi he is able to create comfort somewhere outside of the store; at least momentarily he is separate from the store and can find good in the world that is happening outside of his store. Stephanos is stuck between the memory of the past and his hope for a future, but as we notice from the novel he is left “...dangled and suspended…” when things don 't work out between Judith and Stephanos. By the end of the novel Stephanos has nothing but the memory of the past; much like he started as an immigrant he embodies the same image of having nothing but what was left behind. With no store or family, he is lost again, “…a man stuck between two worlds lives and dies alone. I have dangled and been

In this essay, the author

  • Analyzes dinaw mengestu's novel the beautiful things that heaven bears about an immigrant from ethiopia named sepha stephanos who discovers the freedoms he travels to the united states for are not easily accessible.
  • Analyzes how stephanos is trying to figure out who he can be in a new place without forgetting his origins. the store symbolizes shelter and personal ownership.
  • Analyzes how stephanos is trapped between two worlds, one in ethiopia and the other in america.
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