Deacon King Kong


James McBride

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Love, Hope, and Redemption Theme Analysis

Themes and Colors
Substance Abuse Theme Icon
Race and Power Theme Icon
Community and Religion Theme Icon
Parental Figures and Masculinity  Theme Icon
Love, Hope, and Redemption Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Deacon King Kong, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Love, Hope, and Redemption Theme Icon

Deacon King Kong is a fundamentally optimistic novel; it repeatedly depicts positive forces of love, hope, and redemption, even in the face of oppressive forces such as racism, drug addiction, and violence. The redemptive arc of Deems Clemens is the most obvious example of the book’s optimism. Deems began his life as a promising young baseball player. Sportcoat, his coach, believed the young man could play professionally if he put his mind to it. However, instead, Deems gets involved in the drug trade and temporarily loses his way. Nonetheless, Sportcoat never stops loving Deems, nor does he lose faith in him. Sportcoat constantly visits Deems, even when he thinks the young drug dealer might want him dead, because he is convinced that Deems can turn his life around and return to baseball. Eventually, Sportcoat gets through to Deems, and Deems does indeed become a semi-pro player with a chance to make it to the major leagues. This transformation redeems Deems in the eyes of the community and leads him to a better life.

Sportcoat’s conversations with his deceased wife Hettie present a similar message of love and hope. Of course, Hettie is a figment of Sportcoat’s imagination, but she comes from a part of his mind that still remembers the young man he used to be before he became addicted to alcohol. Eventually, Sportcoat’s conversations with Hettie lead him to become sober after he realizes his drinking ruined their marriage. Because he loves Hettie and wants to honor her memory, he never touches another drop of alcohol, even though he wants to until his dying day. This transformation redeems Sportcoat in the eyes of the community and in his own mind, which was clearly tortured by his difficult past and the trauma of Hettie’s death. Deacon King Kong takes place in an unforgiving setting where characters often must compromise their personal morals in order to survive. However, the book suggests that even in the most trying circumstances, and even for its most morally comprised characters, redemption is always a possibility if they  love, hope, and the support of their community.

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Love, Hope, and Redemption Quotes in Deacon King Kong

Below you will find the important quotes in Deacon King Kong related to the theme of Love, Hope, and Redemption.
Chapter 1: Jesus’s Cheese Quotes

“In the middle of the night, she shook me woke. I opened my eyes and seen a light floating ’round the room. It was like a little candlelight. ’Round and ’round it went, then out the door. Hettie said, ‘That’s God’s light. I got to fetch some moonflowers out the harbor.’ She put on her coat and followed it outside.”

Related Characters: Sportcoat (speaker), Hettie (speaker), Deems Clemens
Related Symbols: Flowers
Page Number: 3-4
Explanation and Analysis:
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 14: Rat Quotes

“Soon as they started whipping on him, Deems ran off the roof. He run off soon as they started cutting Bumps up. The minute them Jamaicans left Bumps laying in the alley, Deems came out the back door of Building Nine and ran over to Bumps holding a steaming pot of rice and beans. He must’ve had it cooking in his house. He said, ‘Here’s your rice and beans, Bumps.’ He poured that whole pot on him.

Related Characters: Lightbulb (speaker), Deems Clemens, Bumps, Bunch Moon
Page Number: 198
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 17: Harold Quotes

“Seen ’em all,” Sportcoat said proudly. “Even barnstormed a little myself, but I had to make money. That ain’t gonna be Deems’s problem. He’ll make plenty money in the bigs. He got the fire and the talent. You can’t take the love of ball out of a ballplayer, Sausage. Can’t be done. There’s a baseball player in that boy.”

Related Characters: Sportcoat (speaker), Hot Sausage, Deems Clemens
Related Symbols: Baseball
Page Number: 237
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 20: Plant Man Quotes

“The man who come here to New York wasn’t the man I knowed in South Carolina. In all the years we been here, ain’t been a plant in that house of ours. Not a green thing hung from the ceiling nor the wall, other than what I brung in from time to time.”

Related Characters: Hettie (speaker), Sportcoat, Pudgy Fingers
Related Symbols: Flowers
Page Number: 285
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:
Chapter 26: Beautiful Quotes

As the ferry pulled away from the dock and arced into New York Harbor, heading due southwest, it offered her a clear view of the redbrick Cause housing projects on one side, and the Statue of Liberty and Staten Island on the other. One side represented the certainty of the past. The other side the uncertainty of the future. She felt suddenly nervous. All she had was an address. And a letter. And a promise.

Related Characters: Sister Gee, Potts Mullen
Page Number: 367
Explanation and Analysis:

Then he patted me on the back and said, “Look after them moonflowers behind the church for my Hettie.” Then he walked into the water. Walked right into the harbor holding that bottle of King Kong. I said, “Wait a minute, Sport, that water’s cold.” But he went on ahead.

First it come up to his hips, then to his waist, then to the top of his arms, then to his neck. When it got to his neck he turned around to me and said, “Sausage, the water is so warm! It’s beautiful.”

Related Characters: Hot Sausage (speaker), Sportcoat (speaker), Hettie, Sister Gee
Related Symbols: Flowers
Page Number: 370
Explanation and Analysis: