Homegoing

by

Yaa Gyasi

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James Character Analysis

The son of Quey and Nana Yaa, James grows disgusted by his family’s participation in the slave trade and resolves to escape the same life. He runs away from the wife who had been promised to him, Amma Atta, and instead goes to live with a poor Asante girl named Akosua, with whom he has a daughter named Abena. Though his crops fail to grow—earning him the nickname “Unlucky”—he is constantly thankful that he no longer has to participate in the slave trade.

James Quotes in Homegoing

The Homegoing quotes below are all either spoken by James or refer to James. 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: James Quotes

“There's more at stake here than just slavery, my brother. It's a question of who will own the land, the people, the power. You cannot stick a knife in a goat and then say, Now I will remove my knife slowly, so let things be easy and clean, let there be no mess. There will always be blood.”

Related Characters: Quey (speaker), James, Nana Yaa
Page Number: 93
Explanation and Analysis:

“That was my father and grandfather's work. It is not mine.” He didn’t add that because of their work, he didn’t have to work, but instead could live off the family name and power.

Related Characters: James (speaker), Quey, James Collins, Akosua, Amma Atta
Page Number: 103
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 1: Abena Quotes

An unmarried twenty-five-year-old woman was unheard of, in her village or any other on this continent or the next. But there were only a few men in her village, and none of them wanted to take a chance with Unlucky's daughter.

Related Characters: James, Abena
Page Number: 133
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Homegoing LitChart as a printable PDF.
Homegoing PDF

James Character Timeline in Homegoing

The timeline below shows where the character James appears in Homegoing. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1: Effia
Gender Stereotypes, Sexism, and Violence Theme Icon
One of the soldiers, James Collins, says hello to each woman in bad Fante. When he reaches Effia, she giggles.... (full context)
Family and Progress Theme Icon
James Collins is the newly appointed governor of the Cape Coast Castle. Within a week, he... (full context)
Colonization Theme Icon
...they must make Abeeku think that it is his own idea for Effia to marry James Collins. To do so, Baaba tells Abeeku that there is evil in Effia’s spirit and... (full context)
Heritage and Identity Theme Icon
...Effia into the room, and tells Baaba and Cobbe that they are right—Effia should marry James Collins. Cobbe weeps openly, but Baaba is happy. When Abeeku leaves, Baaba gives Effia a... (full context)
Colonization Theme Icon
James Collins tries to make Effia comfortable, learning more and more Fante words so that he... (full context)
Racism, Slavery, and Systemic Oppression Theme Icon
Colonization Theme Icon
Gender Stereotypes, Sexism, and Violence Theme Icon
...notices a breeze coming up from holes in the floor. She asks what’s below, and James Collins says “cargo.” She hears a faint crying sound. She asks if there are people... (full context)
Racism, Slavery, and Systemic Oppression Theme Icon
Colonization Theme Icon
James Collins leads Effia up to his quarters on the top floor. She can see out... (full context)
Racism, Slavery, and Systemic Oppression Theme Icon
James Collins leads her to the bed, and he and Effia consummate their marriage. Baaba had... (full context)
Family and Progress Theme Icon
...few weeks, Effia feels very comfortable in her new routine. She likes the attention that James Collins pays to her and the fact that she doesn’t have to compete with any... (full context)
Racism, Slavery, and Systemic Oppression Theme Icon
...of wives, in order to keep their conscience clean with their god. However, Effia and James Collins continue to be more and more affectionate: they teach each other their language, and... (full context)
Colonization Theme Icon
One day, Effia asks about James Collins’s British wife. He explains that her name is Anne. They married ten years ago,... (full context)
Heritage and Identity Theme Icon
Family and Progress Theme Icon
Gender Stereotypes, Sexism, and Violence Theme Icon
On this night, however, James Collins tells Effia that he wants children with her. Effia cringes in worry. First, she... (full context)
Colonization Theme Icon
When James Collins arrives home that evening, Effia pounces on him. He grows excited by her seduction,... (full context)
Heritage and Identity Theme Icon
Racism, Slavery, and Systemic Oppression Theme Icon
Colonization Theme Icon
...are slaves in the dungeon, she had never thought that they would look like her—that James Collins would return in the evening haunted by seeing women who reminded him of her. (full context)
Heritage and Identity Theme Icon
Family and Progress Theme Icon
In the spring, Effia realizes she is pregnant. James Collins is thrilled at the news. But soon after, they receive word from Effia’s village... (full context)
Part 1: James
Colonization Theme Icon
James hears word that the Asantes have Governor Charles MacCarthy’s head. The children outside start to... (full context)
Colonization Theme Icon
James’s father, Quey, returns from the Castle with a white man. He motions to James to... (full context)
Colonization Theme Icon
...to go because the Fantes have been allied to the British for so many years. James and Quey resolve to go anyway. (full context)
Heritage and Identity Theme Icon
Family and Progress Theme Icon
James holds a gun as he, Quey, and Nana Yaa ride through the forest in a... (full context)
Heritage and Identity Theme Icon
Colonization Theme Icon
Gender Stereotypes, Sexism, and Violence Theme Icon
...from his time in England. When they arrive, Nana Yaa goes immediately to bed, but James, Quey, and David sit and talk. Quey complains about Nana Yaa, and David states that... (full context)
Heritage and Identity Theme Icon
Family and Progress Theme Icon
David asks if James is going to marry soon, and Quey explains that he has chosen a wife for... (full context)
Family and Progress Theme Icon
James had known Amma all his life, and the older they got, the more she started... (full context)
Colonization Theme Icon
...that the British are going to abolish slavery. Quey shrugs and says that the year James was born, they told everyone in the Castle that the slave trade was abolished, but... (full context)
Colonization Theme Icon
The next morning, James, Nana Yaa, and Quey set out once again. They pass little towns and villages, where... (full context)
Racism, Slavery, and Systemic Oppression Theme Icon
Colonization Theme Icon
One girl (later revealed as Akosua) offers James her condolences, but does not shake his hand, saying that she will not shake the... (full context)
Family and Progress Theme Icon
Gender Stereotypes, Sexism, and Violence Theme Icon
The family lays Osei Bonsu to rest. James is supposed to leave in the next few days, but he is intent on finding... (full context)
Heritage and Identity Theme Icon
Racism, Slavery, and Systemic Oppression Theme Icon
Colonization Theme Icon
Family and Progress Theme Icon
James again asks Akosua why she would not shake his hand. She explains that when she... (full context)
Family and Progress Theme Icon
As James listens to Akosua speak, he finds himself incredibly attracted to her. He asks if she... (full context)
Heritage and Identity Theme Icon
Family and Progress Theme Icon
Thinking this, James remembers the phrase “nothing from nowhere,” and how Effia used to say it on nights... (full context)
Heritage and Identity Theme Icon
Gender Stereotypes, Sexism, and Violence Theme Icon
James grabs Akosua’s hand and says that he wants to marry her. She asks how she... (full context)
Gender Stereotypes, Sexism, and Violence Theme Icon
Three months after James’s wedding to Amma, they have still not consummated their marriage. James always makes up some... (full context)
Racism, Slavery, and Systemic Oppression Theme Icon
Amma tells James he should go to Mampanyin, the apothecary. He agrees to go the next day. His... (full context)
Heritage and Identity Theme Icon
Family and Progress Theme Icon
Mampanyin looks James over, saying that he cannot have a child because he does not want a child.... (full context)
Heritage and Identity Theme Icon
Colonization Theme Icon
Family and Progress Theme Icon
Back at home, Amma is waiting for James. He tells her that Mampanyin said she must be patient. For a week, James starts... (full context)
Heritage and Identity Theme Icon
Family and Progress Theme Icon
Gender Stereotypes, Sexism, and Violence Theme Icon
One night at dinner, Effia asks James what’s wrong. He tells her quietly that he wants to leave the village. She smiles... (full context)
Family and Progress Theme Icon
James helps a Scottish doctor treat soldiers in Efutu. One night, James hears the call of... (full context)
Heritage and Identity Theme Icon
Family and Progress Theme Icon
James wakes up in the bush of an unknown forest. His body aches. An Asante warrior... (full context)
Part 1: Abena
Family and Progress Theme Icon
Gender Stereotypes, Sexism, and Violence Theme Icon
...But none of the men in her village want to take a chance with “Unlucky’s” (James’s) daughter. Her father’s crops had never grown, and even her childhood best friend, Ohene Nyarko,... (full context)
Heritage and Identity Theme Icon
Racism, Slavery, and Systemic Oppression Theme Icon
Colonization Theme Icon
Abena brings the seeds to James, and announces that she would like to visit Kumasi. She says that she wants to... (full context)
Heritage and Identity Theme Icon
Family and Progress Theme Icon
...that they are not welcome in Kumasi because she had defied her parents to marry James, who had wanted to live a life for himself instead of a life chosen for... (full context)
Heritage and Identity Theme Icon
Family and Progress Theme Icon
...white man. Ohene spits, saying that they should stay out of Asante. Abena thinks about James, who had explained to the men in their village where the captured prisoners of war... (full context)
Family and Progress Theme Icon
As they rest, Abena thinks about when she was five and had been watering James’s farm. When the plants had died despite her best efforts, she had begun to cry... (full context)
Family and Progress Theme Icon
...The two make love quickly that day, and then Ohene leaves. Abena returns home, where James and Akosua barely talk to her. Abena knows she has shamed them, and their only... (full context)
Heritage and Identity Theme Icon
Abena resolves to leave. Before she goes, James gives her Effia’s black stone necklace. He tells her that his father had been a... (full context)