Deacon King Kong

by

James McBride

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Tommy Elefante Character Analysis

Tommy Elefante is an Italian man who runs a smuggling ring out of the docks at the Cause. Tommy inherited his business from his father, whom people call Mr. Elefante. Although Tommy can be a formidable man, he runs his business based on a strict set of morals and only imports items that would be legal under normal circumstances, like TVs and cigarettes. He also refuses to get involved with the drug trade, no matter how much money he is offered. Although he takes pride in how he runs his business, Elefante’s dream is to retire and settle down with a woman. At the start of the novel, he is a lonely middle-aged man who lives with his elderly mother, Mrs. Elefante. However, Elefante’s luck changes after the Governor tells him about the Venus of Willendorf. Elefante quickly realizes that the Venus, a priceless statue, could allow him to retire and live the life of his dreams. With the help of Sportcoat, Elefante eventually finds the Venus. In the meantime, he also strikes up a relationship with (and eventually marries) Melissa, the Governor’s daughter, who turns him into a kinder, gentler person. To show his thanks to Sportcoat and the people of the Five Ends Church, Elefante pays for a variety of upgrades and renovations for the church.

Tommy Elefante Quotes in Deacon King Kong

The Deacon King Kong quotes below are all either spoken by Tommy Elefante or refer to Tommy Elefante. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Substance Abuse Theme Icon
).
Chapter 5: The Governor Quotes

Greed, he thought wryly as he dug into the earth. That’s the disease. I got it myself.

Related Characters: Tommy Elefante (speaker), Deems Clemens, Joe Peck, Mrs. Elefante
Related Symbols: Flowers
Page Number: 49
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 12: Mojo Quotes

“The church got plenty money.”

“You mean the box in the church?”

“No, honey. It’s in God’s hands. In the palm of His hand, actually.”

Related Characters: Sportcoat (speaker), Hettie (speaker), Tommy Elefante
Page Number: 160
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 13: The Country Girl Quotes

He scanned the East River, checking the line of barges moving along. Some of them he knew. A few were run by honest captains who refused hot items. They wouldn’t move a stolen tire if you paid them a thousand bucks. Others were captained by blithering idiots who would kick their scruples out the window for the price of a cup of coffee. The first type were honest to a fault. They just couldn’t help it. The second type were born crooks.

Which one am I? he wondered.

Related Characters: Tommy Elefante (speaker), Joe Peck, The Governor
Page Number: 179-180
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 16: May God Hold You… Quotes

Elefante shrugged, pocketed his money, and leaned against the wall of his house. “I used to see her come and go from church,” he said. “She’d say good morning. People don’t do that no more.”

“No they don’t.”

Related Characters: Tommy Elefante (speaker), Sportcoat (speaker), Hettie, Joe Peck
Page Number: 230
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 25: Do Quotes

Until then he’d always believed a partner brought worry, fear, and weakness to a man, especially one in his business. But Melissa brought courage and humility and humor to places he’d never known existed. He’d never partnered with a woman before, if you didn’t include his mother, but Melissa’s quiet sincerity was a weapon of a new kind. It drew people in, disarmed them. It made them friends—and that was a weapon too.

Related Characters: Tommy Elefante, Melissa, Sportcoat
Page Number: 342-343
Explanation and Analysis:

“I think I can handle that, Mr. Sportcoat.”

“Come again? Mister?”

“Mr. Sportcoat.”

Sportcoat pawed at his forehead with a wrinkled hand. There was a clarity to the world now that felt new, not uncomfortable, but at times the newness of it felt odd, like the feeling of breaking in a new suit of clothing. The constant headaches and nausea that had been his companions after leaving the swigfest for decades had lifted. He felt like a radio tuning in to a new channel, one that was beginning to fuzz into range, slowly coming in clear, proper, the way his Hettie had always wanted him to be. The new feeling humbled him. It made him feel religious, it made him feel closer to God, and to man, God’s honored child. “I ain’t never been called Mr. Sportcoat by nobody.”

Related Characters: Sportcoat (speaker), Tommy Elefante (speaker)
Page Number: 352
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Deacon King Kong LitChart as a printable PDF.
Deacon King Kong PDF

Tommy Elefante Character Timeline in Deacon King Kong

The timeline below shows where the character Tommy Elefante appears in Deacon King Kong. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1: Jesus’s Cheese
Community and Religion Theme Icon
Two days later, Tommy Elefante’s crew finds Hettie’s body floating in the harbor. Elefante, or “The Elephant,” is a smuggler... (full context)
Chapter 5: The Governor
Parental Figures and Masculinity  Theme Icon
Not long after Sportcoat shoots Deems, a police officer arrives at Thomas Elefante’s house to tell him about the shooting in the Cause. The house belongs to Elefante’s... (full context)
Community and Religion Theme Icon
However, in the moment, all Elefante feels is annoyance. He does not like the young officer’s lack of tact and doesn’t... (full context)
Parental Figures and Masculinity  Theme Icon
Love, Hope, and Redemption Theme Icon
After the police officer leaves, Elefante begins working in his mother’s garden, an activity that he enjoys. The garden is full... (full context)
Parental Figures and Masculinity  Theme Icon
As Elefante works, he thinks back to a strange encounter he had two weeks ago. Elefante and... (full context)
Parental Figures and Masculinity  Theme Icon
Elefante invites the Governor to sit down, and the older man obliges. The Governor then states... (full context)
Race and Power Theme Icon
Parental Figures and Masculinity  Theme Icon
After the song, the Governor and Elefante return to the matter at hand. In order to gain Elefante’s trust, the Governor tells... (full context)
Community and Religion Theme Icon
Parental Figures and Masculinity  Theme Icon
The Governor tells Elefante that he is an old friend of Elefante’s father. The two of them met in... (full context)
Parental Figures and Masculinity  Theme Icon
Despite his initial skepticism of the Governor, Elefante now recalls that his father once told him about such a man who would come... (full context)
Chapter 6: Bunch
Substance Abuse Theme Icon
...expand his drug empire too rapidly. Bunch wants to start using the docks, which are Elefante’s territory, to smuggle drugs. However, Bunch is ultimately in charge, and he implies that he... (full context)
Chapter 11: Pokeweed
Community and Religion Theme Icon
Parental Figures and Masculinity  Theme Icon
Love, Hope, and Redemption Theme Icon
...far from the train station where Sister Gee and Soup are talking to Earl, sits Elefante’s house. Elefante and his mother are there discussing pokeweed, a plant that grows around the... (full context)
Community and Religion Theme Icon
Parental Figures and Masculinity  Theme Icon
Elefante tells his mother that he won’t be able to help her with her plants today.... (full context)
Race and Power Theme Icon
Ultimately, Elefante drops the subject and instead thinks to himself about race relations in his neighborhood. Overall,... (full context)
Parental Figures and Masculinity  Theme Icon
After the conversation with his mother, Elefante leaves for a meeting with the Governor to learn more about the mysterious artifact that... (full context)
Parental Figures and Masculinity  Theme Icon
And yet, previously, when Elefante searched all of his storage units, he found nothing. Elefante is angry with himself for... (full context)
Parental Figures and Masculinity  Theme Icon
On his way to his car, Elefante thinks about retirement. He longs to be away from his smuggling business and would much... (full context)
Substance Abuse Theme Icon
Before Elefante can get in his car, Joe Peck pulls up to Elefante’s house in an expensive... (full context)
Substance Abuse Theme Icon
Race and Power Theme Icon
...convinced that the old man is hiding from him and his men. He also tells Elefante that he’s sent a man after the shooter to get revenge. None of this information... (full context)
Substance Abuse Theme Icon
Race and Power Theme Icon
Ultimately, Elefante turns Peck down. Elefante has never trafficked drugs before, in keeping with the moral standards... (full context)
Chapter 13: The Country Girl
Love, Hope, and Redemption Theme Icon
Elefante heads to the Bronx, where he meets the Governor. To Elefante’s surprise, the Governor owns... (full context)
Love, Hope, and Redemption Theme Icon
Elefante and the Governor head to the Governor’s apartment to discuss their business in private. Once... (full context)
Race and Power Theme Icon
The Governor tells Elefante the story of the Venus of Willendorf. Apparently, the Governor’s brother, Macy, served in Vienna... (full context)
Love, Hope, and Redemption Theme Icon
...Macy owned. Macy gave the Governor the statue, which the Governor in turn gave to Elefante’s father for safekeeping. The Governor planned to sell the Venus and split the profits with... (full context)
Love, Hope, and Redemption Theme Icon
...cannot produce it. He fears for his own life as well as Melissa’s and urges Elefante to think hard about where the Venus could possibly be. Elefante tells the Governor that... (full context)
Chapter 16: May God Hold You…
Community and Religion Theme Icon
...Sportcoat shot Deems. It is a Wednesday, and Sportcoat is spending his time with Mrs. Elefante, helping her with her garden and gathering herbs. Together, they go to an empty lot... (full context)
Race and Power Theme Icon
When they return, Mrs. Elefante is weary and needs to lie down, so she leaves Sportcoat with instructions for the... (full context)
Race and Power Theme Icon
Community and Religion Theme Icon
To thank Sportcoat for helping his mother, Elefante attempts to give Sportcoat money for his work. However, Sportcoat rejects it. He tells Elefante... (full context)
Community and Religion Theme Icon
...that the members of the congregation often say. At first, Sportcoat is excited to tell Elefante about the church because he thinks he is interested in it for spiritual reasons. However,... (full context)
Chapter 19: Double-Crossed
Race and Power Theme Icon
The following night, at 2:00 AM, Elefante and his men are unloading a shipment of TVs at his dock when Joe Peck... (full context)
Race and Power Theme Icon
Elefante doesn’t know what Peck is so upset about and cannot imagine why he came to... (full context)
Substance Abuse Theme Icon
Race and Power Theme Icon
Peck tells Elefante about the shooting at the pier and assumes that Elefante had something to do with... (full context)
Substance Abuse Theme Icon
...thinks it will be difficult for him to get his hands on the shipment. Eventually, Elefante convinces Peck that he had nothing to do with the shooting. Because Peck believes him,... (full context)
Chapter 21: New Dirt
Substance Abuse Theme Icon
Potts decides to pay Elefante a visit to try and gather more information about the shooting. Like Joe Peck, Potts... (full context)
Parental Figures and Masculinity  Theme Icon
Potts also tells the story of how he first met Elefante’s father, whom he has great respect for. As a young man, Potts was staked out... (full context)
Love, Hope, and Redemption Theme Icon
The conversation between Potts and Elefante turns to their respective retirements. Potts discusses his desire to retire and go fishing. Meanwhile,... (full context)
Chapter 25: Do
Love, Hope, and Redemption Theme Icon
Elefante and Melissa, who are now dating, pick up Sportcoat who they think can lead them... (full context)
Race and Power Theme Icon
Love, Hope, and Redemption Theme Icon
This respectful attitude also carries over to how Melissa treats old people, including Sportcoat. Elefante notices that Melissa calls the old deacon “Mister Sportcoat” and never refers to him as... (full context)
Substance Abuse Theme Icon
Love, Hope, and Redemption Theme Icon
Thinking about “dangerous, odd, and foreign” matters shifts Elefante’s focus to Bunch Moon. Although there’s been no official confirmation, Elefante heard that Joe Peck... (full context)
Love, Hope, and Redemption Theme Icon
Elefante and Melissa’s courtship was initially strange because it was a first for both of them.... (full context)
Community and Religion Theme Icon
Parental Figures and Masculinity  Theme Icon
Love, Hope, and Redemption Theme Icon
While on their way to Sportcoat, Elefante thinks about a recent visit he paid to Sister Paul after Sportcoat insisted that they... (full context)
Parental Figures and Masculinity  Theme Icon
Love, Hope, and Redemption Theme Icon
Sister Paul told Melissa and Elefante about her life and the events surrounding the construction of the Five Ends Church, which... (full context)
Race and Power Theme Icon
Community and Religion Theme Icon
Love, Hope, and Redemption Theme Icon
Back in the present, Elefante and Melissa pick up Sportcoat and head to the Five Ends Church. Together, they chisel... (full context)
Chapter 26: Beautiful
Community and Religion Theme Icon
Love, Hope, and Redemption Theme Icon
...of the Cause gather at the Five Ends Church to attend Sportcoat’s funeral. After helping Elefante secure the Venus, nobody in the Cause (except for Hot Sausage) ever saw Sportcoat again.... (full context)
Community and Religion Theme Icon
Love, Hope, and Redemption Theme Icon
The church is now in a better state because of the money Elefante put into it (although it is still being renovated during the funeral), and Elefante himself... (full context)
Substance Abuse Theme Icon
Community and Religion Theme Icon
Parental Figures and Masculinity  Theme Icon
Love, Hope, and Redemption Theme Icon
Elefante and Melissa are now married, and Potts is retired from the service. Meanwhile, Deems, as... (full context)