Deacon King Kong


James McBride

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Parental Figures and Masculinity 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.
Parental Figures and Masculinity  Theme Icon

Parental relationships are a core feature of Deacon King Kong, and the novel highlights two such relationships in particular. The first is between Sportcoat and Deems. Sportcoat and Deems have a somewhat unconventional relationship because Deems is not Sportcoat’s son. Deems grew up without a father figure in his life, and so Sportcoat stepped in to fill that role. Sportcoat was Deems’s Sunday school teacher in church, and he taught Deems everything he knows about baseball. However, their relationship becomes strained once Deems gives up baseball to start selling drugs. Not wanting Deems to continue down this destructive path, Sportcoat shoots Deems, though Deems ultimately survives the attack. At the end of the novel, Sportcoat explains to Deems that he shot him because he didn’t want Deems to end up like him—old, alone, and destroyed by drugs. Although Sportcoat’s extreme, Sportcoat’s actions are motivated by his desire for Deems to have a better life. This is why he repeatedly comes to Deems and asks him to return to baseball, no matter how many times Deems rejects him and treats him poorly. 

Meanwhile, the relationship between Elefante and his deceased father (Mr. Elefante) more closely resembles a typical father-son relationship . Although Elefante’s father was rather stoic and quiet, he always tried his best to show Elefante that he cares for him, and he always acted in the best interest of his family. Through his father, Elefante learns a moral code, not unlike the one the Five Ends Church preaches, that he uses to navigate the troubled world that is late-1960s Brooklyn. Like Sportcoat, Elefante’s father makes sure his son is taken care of. Before he dies, he leaves the Venus statue—a valuable artifact that will ensure his family is financially stable for life—hidden in the Five Ends Church, knowing his son will find it one day, which will in turn allow Elefante to have a better life than he did. Ultimately, although these relationships are far from perfect, they point to a model of masculinity and male relationships that seeks moral improvement and stability in a chaotic and immoral world.

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Parental Figures and Masculinity Quotes in Deacon King Kong

Below you will find the important quotes in Deacon King Kong related to the theme of Parental Figures and Masculinity .
Chapter 3: Jet Quotes

Rather it was the memory, not long ago, of Sportcoat shagging fly balls with him at the baseball field on warm spring afternoons; it was Sportcoat who taught him how to pivot and zing a throw to home plate from 350 feet out […] Sportcoat made him a star in baseball. He was the envy of the white boys on the John Jay High School baseball team, who marveled at the college scouts who risked life and limb to venture to the funky, dirty Cause Houses baseball field to watch him pitch. But that was another time, when he was a boy and his grandpa was living. He was a man now, nineteen, a man who needed money. And Sportcoat was a pain in the ass.

Related Characters: Sportcoat, Deems Clemens
Related Symbols: Baseball
Page Number: 28-29
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 22: 281 Delphi Quotes

They were horrible sons of bitches—men who set upon one another with welding torches, scorched each other with hot irons, and poured Clorox into one another’s eyes for the sake of dope; men who made their girlfriends do horrible things, servicing four or five or eight men a night, who made their women do push-ups over piles of dogshit for a hit of heroin until, exhausted, the girls dropped into the shit so the men could get a laugh. These were the men her mother allowed in her life.

Page Number: 309
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 23: Last Octobers Quotes

And from there, so close, he saw in the old man’s face what he had felt down in the darkness of the harbor when the old man had yanked him to safety: the strength, the love, the resilience, the peace, the patience, and this time, something new, something he’d never seen in all the years he’d known old Sportcoat, the happy-go-lucky drunk of the Cause Houses: absolute, indestructible rage.

Related Characters: Sportcoat, Deems Clemens
Page Number: 322
Explanation and Analysis: