Homegoing

by

Yaa Gyasi

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Esi Character Analysis

Esi is Maame and Big Man’s daughter and Effia’s half-sister. Esi grows up in an Asante village and sees how her village profits from capturing and selling slaves. She doesn’t think much about it until she is captured herself by warriors from the village of one of her slaves, Abronoma. Esi is then sent to the Cape Coast Castle and is packed into the castle’s dungeon with many other women, while her half-sister, Effia, lives a life of luxury upstairs. One day, Esi is raped by a British soldier and becomes pregnant. She is then shipped to America and sold to a plantation. She and her daughter, Ness, initially work on the same plantation but are separated when Ness is sold to a plantation she calls “Hell.” Esi’s descendants are irrevocably altered by the effects of slavery and institutionalized racism in America. Her final descendant in the novel is Marcus.

Esi Quotes in Homegoing

The Homegoing quotes below are all either spoken by Esi or refer to Esi. 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:
Heritage and Identity Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Vintage edition of Homegoing published in 2017.
Part 1: Esi Quotes

“Weakness is treating someone as though they belong to you. Strength is knowing that everyone belongs to themselves.”

Related Characters: Maame (speaker), Esi, Abronoma, Kwame Asare / Big Man
Page Number: 38
Explanation and Analysis:

When he had finished, he looked horrified, disgusted with her. As though he were the one who had had something taken from him. As though he were the one who had been violated.

Related Characters: Esi
Page Number: 48
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 1: Kojo Quotes

He would never truly know who his people were, and who their people were before them, and if there were stories to be heard about where he had come from, he would never hear them.

Related Characters: Esi, Ness, Kojo / Jo, Ma Aku, Sam, Anna
Page Number: 130
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 2: Akua Quotes

In her dreams the fire was shaped like a woman holding two babies to her heart. The firewoman would carry these two little girls with her all the way to the woods of the Inland and then the babies would vanish, and the firewoman’s sadness would send orange and red and hints of blue swarming every tree and every bush in sight.

Related Characters: Effia, Esi, Akua / Crazy Woman , Maame
Related Symbols: Fire
Page Number: 177
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 2: Yaw Quotes

“This is the problem of history. We cannot know that which we were not there to see and hear and experience for ourselves. We must rely upon the words of others […] We believe the one who has the power. He is the one who gets to write the story.”

Related Characters: Yaw (speaker), Esi, Ness
Page Number: 226
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 2: Marcus Quotes

How could he explain to Marjorie that he wasn’t supposed to be here? Alive. Free. That the fact that he had been born, that he wasn’t in a jail cell somewhere, was not by dint of his pulling himself up by the bootstraps, not by hard work or belief in the American Dream, but by mere chance.

Related Characters: Effia, Esi, Marjorie, Marcus
Page Number: 296
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Homegoing LitChart as a printable PDF.
Homegoing PDF

Esi Character Timeline in Homegoing

The timeline below shows where the character Esi appears in Homegoing. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1: Esi
Racism, Slavery, and Systemic Oppression Theme Icon
Esi describes how the smell around her is unbearable. In the corner, one woman is sobbing.... (full context)
Gender Stereotypes, Sexism, and Violence Theme Icon
One year prior, when Esi turned fourteen, she had been in Asanteland, in her father’s (Big Man’s) compound. He had... (full context)
Gender Stereotypes, Sexism, and Violence Theme Icon
Esi asks her friend Tansi why they are taking the baby. Tansi tells her they will... (full context)
Racism, Slavery, and Systemic Oppression Theme Icon
Esi asks Tansi to tell her a story, but the soldiers  interrupt them again. They bring... (full context)
Heritage and Identity Theme Icon
Tansi asks Esi if she knows the story of the kente cloth. Esi shakes her head, even though... (full context)
Racism, Slavery, and Systemic Oppression Theme Icon
Esi compliments Tansi on her storytelling. The previous story she had told Esi was of her... (full context)
Racism, Slavery, and Systemic Oppression Theme Icon
Family and Progress Theme Icon
...to the ground and piling more new women into the dungeon on top of them. Esi can feel the women on top of her peeing. (full context)
Gender Stereotypes, Sexism, and Violence Theme Icon
Esi had been born in a small village to Big Man (who at that time was... (full context)
Gender Stereotypes, Sexism, and Violence Theme Icon
When Esi is seven, her father wins the battle that earns him the title of Big Man.... (full context)
Heritage and Identity Theme Icon
Racism, Slavery, and Systemic Oppression Theme Icon
Esi hears the men’s rallying cries and spills a bit of hot oil on her mother,... (full context)
Gender Stereotypes, Sexism, and Violence Theme Icon
...Kwaku Agyei says that it takes a “big man” to admit his folly, and thus Esi’s father gains his new name: Big Man. By the time Esi turns twelve, the village... (full context)
Racism, Slavery, and Systemic Oppression Theme Icon
Gender Stereotypes, Sexism, and Violence Theme Icon
Esi is particularly fascinated by the prisoners captured in the wars, some of whom are then... (full context)
Racism, Slavery, and Systemic Oppression Theme Icon
Gender Stereotypes, Sexism, and Violence Theme Icon
...her with the cooking and cleaning. Maame agrees to choose a girl the next day. Esi knows that her mother would do anything for her father, because he had saved her... (full context)
Racism, Slavery, and Systemic Oppression Theme Icon
The next day, Esi and Maame choose a girl and name her Abronoma: “Little Dove.” However, they quickly discover... (full context)
Racism, Slavery, and Systemic Oppression Theme Icon
...her hut and pulls out her own switch, which she has never used. Maame asks Esi to leave and then she beats Abronoma as both women cry. (full context)
Racism, Slavery, and Systemic Oppression Theme Icon
The next day, Big Man gathers everyone to see Abronoma carry the water. Esi can see Abronoma shaking as she lifts the bucket onto her head. She steadies herself... (full context)
Racism, Slavery, and Systemic Oppression Theme Icon
Gender Stereotypes, Sexism, and Violence Theme Icon
Maame is very upset after the beating, and she watches Abronoma sleep. Esi tries to comfort her by saying that if Big Man had not beaten Abronoma, everyone... (full context)
Racism, Slavery, and Systemic Oppression Theme Icon
Abronoma wakes up. Esi fetches her water, and Abronoma asks her to leave. Esi starts to say that her... (full context)
Racism, Slavery, and Systemic Oppression Theme Icon
Esi thinks about Maame and starts to acknowledge some of the remnants of her former life:... (full context)
Racism, Slavery, and Systemic Oppression Theme Icon
In the following months, Esi tries to befriend Abronoma and find out more. Abronoma says she doesn’t know anything, and... (full context)
Heritage and Identity Theme Icon
Racism, Slavery, and Systemic Oppression Theme Icon
The next morning, Esi sends a messenger man very early to Abronoma’s father. When she tells Abronoma she has... (full context)
Gender Stereotypes, Sexism, and Violence Theme Icon
...But other than that, everyone goes along as usual. Fighting continues away from home, as Esi’s village had never been challenged in her lifetime. (full context)
Gender Stereotypes, Sexism, and Violence Theme Icon
One night, it is Big Man’s night in the hut, and so Esi sleeps in the corner, facing away from her parents. Once she had watched them in... (full context)
Racism, Slavery, and Systemic Oppression Theme Icon
...village. Big Man jumps up and grabs his machete. He screams at Maame to take Esi into the woods. Esi grabs a small knife and places it in her skirt. She... (full context)
Heritage and Identity Theme Icon
...laughing and dancing at her father’s arrival. Outside, people are screaming and running. Maame gives Esi a black stone that she had been keeping for Esi’s wedding day, saying that she... (full context)
Family and Progress Theme Icon
Esi wants to ask more questions, but the noise outside grows louder, and Maame tells her... (full context)
Racism, Slavery, and Systemic Oppression Theme Icon
Time passes, and Esi’s arms start to burn as she hugs the tree. Soon a warrior appears at the... (full context)
Racism, Slavery, and Systemic Oppression Theme Icon
The woman behind Esi—Tansi—worries that the white men will eat them. Esi shudders, then introduces herself. In an instant,... (full context)
Heritage and Identity Theme Icon
Gender Stereotypes, Sexism, and Violence Theme Icon
...Collins and other British soldiers enter the compound. They are the first white men that Esi has seen. Abeeku shows off Esi and the others, explaining that the Asante are very... (full context)
Heritage and Identity Theme Icon
Back in the dungeon of the Castle, the waste is up to Esi’s ankles. She can hardly breathe. That day, she had found her mother’s stone in the... (full context)
Racism, Slavery, and Systemic Oppression Theme Icon
Gender Stereotypes, Sexism, and Violence Theme Icon
Another soldier walks around. When he sees Esi, he smiles. She is baffled because it had been so long since she had seen... (full context)
Racism, Slavery, and Systemic Oppression Theme Icon
Gender Stereotypes, Sexism, and Violence Theme Icon
The soldier places Esi on a folded tarp and begins to rape her. She screams, but he places his... (full context)
Heritage and Identity Theme Icon
Racism, Slavery, and Systemic Oppression Theme Icon
Gender Stereotypes, Sexism, and Violence Theme Icon
Days go on. Esi has not stopped bleeding since the soldier raped her. She doesn’t talk to Tansi and... (full context)
Heritage and Identity Theme Icon
Racism, Slavery, and Systemic Oppression Theme Icon
Gender Stereotypes, Sexism, and Violence Theme Icon
The dungeon door opens and reveals James Collins. He points to twenty women, including Esi. Another soldier grabs them by the wrists and drags them into a line. James checks... (full context)
Heritage and Identity Theme Icon
Racism, Slavery, and Systemic Oppression Theme Icon
Esi tries to dig for her stone, but she is lifted up by a soldier before... (full context)
Part 1: Ness
Heritage and Identity Theme Icon
Racism, Slavery, and Systemic Oppression Theme Icon
Family and Progress Theme Icon
...it feels like a lifetime since she had been sold and taken from her mother, Esi. Esi was a solid, stoic woman who never told a happy story. For this reason,... (full context)
Heritage and Identity Theme Icon
Racism, Slavery, and Systemic Oppression Theme Icon
...odd to hear black people speak English. When they were living on a plantation together, Esi had spoken to Ness in Twi for most of her life until their master caught... (full context)
Heritage and Identity Theme Icon
Family and Progress Theme Icon
...had come from Asanteland and had been kept in the Castle just like Ness’s mother, Esi. Aku told Ness that she had taken people north to freedom many times. (full context)