American Gods

American Gods

American Gods Chapter 19 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The chapter starts with a paragraph from Mr. Ibis’s notebook, stating that tales are maps which can never be completely accurate but which show the territory nonetheless. Mr. Nancy and Shadow drive south for several hours. Mr. Nancy asks Shadow if he is happy. Shadow answers, “Call no man happy until he is dead,” quoting Herodotus. He clarifies that this doesn’t mean he is unhappy, just that you cannot judge someone’s life until it is over. Mr. Nancy asks if he has learned anything, and Shadow thinks that he will keep some of the deep lessons but forget the details.
Mr. Ibis compares maps to stories, as both are ways of representing the world that can never be truly complete or accurate. Shadow’s story includes important truths about America, but can never represent all that America is or will become as it continues to develop. Furthermore, Shadow echoes the idea that no story is ever truly over by cautioning Mr. Nancy against judging a life, as Gaiman subtly applies the same idea to America—cautioning against trying to judge or stereotype America.
Themes
Mythology, Belief, and Community Theme Icon
Change and Growth Theme Icon
Life, Death, Desire, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Plurality and the Power of the Individual in America Theme Icon
Shadow drives across the border to Florida, then finally reaches Mr. Nancy’s small house outside Fort Pierce. Nancy insists that Shadow stay with him, and then tells Shadow that Czernobog will be waiting for him to visit in Chicago. Mr. Nancy and Shadow walk to a small bar at the end of Mr. Nancy’s street, where there’s an open mic for karaoke. Mr. Nancy gets up and belts out “What’s New Pussycat” and “The Way You Look Tonight,” then tells Shadow it is his turn. Reluctantly, Shadow chooses “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood,” and finds incredible release singing to the half-empty bar.
Shadow again stays true to his promises, agreeing to face death by Czernobog’s hammer to stay faithful to his wager. He has a brief respite in the karaoke bar with Mr. Nancy, singing a song that reflects his experience through the entire book—as his appearance and character have been continually misidentified and misunderstood. Shadow finally knows who he truly is and can live a better life because of that.
Themes
Change and Growth Theme Icon
Life, Death, Desire, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Deception Theme Icon
Shadow falls asleep that night on Mr. Nancy’s couch, and he dreams of the Buffalo Man sitting next to a small fire. The Buffalo Man praises Shadow for diffusing the war between the gods, commenting that the gods are only here because the land allows them to stay. Shadow asks if Buffalo Man is a god. He answers that he is the land.
Shadow has aligned himself completely with the land, rather than with any of the Old or New Gods. The Buffalo Man, as the manifestation of the land, clarifies that American land is especially sacred (or sacred in a unique way), partially explaining why it is so difficult for the gods to exist here.
Themes
Mythology, Belief, and Community Theme Icon
Plurality and the Power of the Individual in America Theme Icon
The Sacredness of American Land Theme Icon
Shadow wakes to Mr. Nancy making breakfast and complains about a headache. Mr. Nancy reaches into a lavishly decorated African trunk and pulls out a generic bottle of aspirin. Shadow admits that he misses Wednesday, despite all the trouble he caused. Mr. Nancy assures Shadow that Wednesday will always be present whenever men try to con each other. Shadow asks what will happen if he doesn’t go see Czernobog today, but Mr. Nancy tells Shadow that they will inevitably run into each other.
Mr. Nancy’s fancy old trunk hiding modern aspirin shows how the old traditions can still be acknowledged even as one takes advantage of new conveniences. Gaiman suggests that this hybrid approach is the best way to move forward in America, and furthermore hints that the spirit of the gods can never truly die if humans continue to honor and believe in what those gods once stood for.
Themes
Mythology, Belief, and Community Theme Icon
Change and Growth Theme Icon
Deception Theme Icon
Plurality and the Power of the Individual in America Theme Icon
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Suddenly, Shadow remembers something and asks Mr. Nancy if he knows an elephant-headed god. Mr. Nancy thinks of Ganesh, a Hindu god that removes obstacles and eases journeys. Shadow remembers Ganesh telling him, “it’s in the trunk,” and he feels completely certain that Ganesh did not mean the trunk of a tree. Shadow realizes that he has to get back to Lakeside before the ice melts.
Ganesh’s message, “it’s in the trunk,” referred not to a tree trunk or an elephant trunk, but the trunk of a car. To resolve this final mystery, Shadow must find out what has been hidden in the trunk of the “klunker” on the ice in Lakeside.
Themes
Mythology, Belief, and Community Theme Icon
Deception Theme Icon