Homegoing

by

Yaa Gyasi

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Water and Boats Symbol Analysis

Water and Boats Symbol Icon

In Homegoing, water symbolizes the pain and suffering of slavery and racism, and specifically how slavery violently uproots people from their homes. This association begins when Esi is sent from the Gold Coast (modern-day Ghana) on a ship to America, and many people on the boats throw themselves into the water rather than submit to slavery. Ma Aku, Kojo, and other characters in America, water and ships become associated with the slave trade and the systems that brought them to America in the first place. At the end of the novel, Marcus is terrified of the water and refuses to learn to swim, causing him to forgo many pool parties with friends. Thus, this fear of water, passed down from generation to generation, represents how institutional racism can affect people even several generations later. In the final pages, however, there is hope for progress, as Marjorie and Marcus travel back to Ghana together. She invites him to swim in the ocean with her and welcomes him home to Ghana, helping Marcus to overcome his fear and simultaneously attempting to bridge the gap between their two families and make amends for the injustice that his family had faced.

Water and Boats Quotes in Homegoing

The Homegoing quotes below all refer to the symbol of Water and Boats. 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: Kojo Quotes

He loved the look of those boats, loved that his hands helped build and maintain them, but Ma Aku always said it was bad juju, him and all the other freed Negroes working on ships. She said there was something evil about them building up the things that had brought them to America in the first place, the very things that had tried to drag them under.

Related Characters: Kojo / Jo, Ma Aku, Anna
Related Symbols: Water and Boats
Page Number: 111
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 2: Marjorie Quotes

Her father had told her that the necklace was a part of their family history and she was to never take it off, never give it away. Now it reflected the ocean water before them, gold waves shimmering in the black stone.

Related Characters: Effia, Akua / Crazy Woman , Yaw, Marjorie, Maame
Related Symbols: Black Stones, Water and Boats
Page Number: 267
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 2: Marcus Quotes

“Here,” Marjorie said. “Have it.” She lifted the stone from her neck, and placed it around Marcus’s. “Welcome home.”

Related Characters: Marjorie (speaker), Marcus
Related Symbols: Black Stones, Water and Boats
Page Number: 300
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Homegoing LitChart as a printable PDF.
Homegoing PDF

Water and Boats Symbol Timeline in Homegoing

The timeline below shows where the symbol Water and Boats appears in Homegoing. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1: Quey
Gender Stereotypes, Sexism, and Violence Theme Icon
...Cudjo to go home. The next month, just before Quey’s fourteenth birthday, Quey boards a ship to England for school. (full context)
Part 1: Kojo
Heritage and Identity Theme Icon
Racism, Slavery, and Systemic Oppression Theme Icon
Someone has robbed the boat that Jo is working on, which means that the police will come searching the boat... (full context)
Heritage and Identity Theme Icon
Racism, Slavery, and Systemic Oppression Theme Icon
Jo asks his friend, Poot, to cover for him, and Jo jumps off the boat. As he looks at the Chesapeake Bay, he’s reminded how much he loves the boats,... (full context)
Gender Stereotypes, Sexism, and Violence Theme Icon
...to sleep. As Anna undresses, Jo tells her that the police had come by the boat that day. Anna asks if it scared him; he tells her nothing scares him. They... (full context)
Heritage and Identity Theme Icon
Racism, Slavery, and Systemic Oppression Theme Icon
...police asked the usual questions, but they think they found the man who robbed the boat. Poot had been born free, and had worked on ships his whole life. Jo had... (full context)
Racism, Slavery, and Systemic Oppression Theme Icon
Family and Progress Theme Icon
...still depressed, seeing Anna everywhere. He goes to New York, unable to look at a boat. One December day, he goes to his usual bar. A man next to him says... (full context)
Part 2: Akua
Colonization Theme Icon
...Missionary went on to say that after Akua was born, he took Abena to the water to be baptized. She thrashed in the water as he lowered her down, until she... (full context)
Heritage and Identity Theme Icon
Racism, Slavery, and Systemic Oppression Theme Icon
Colonization Theme Icon
...visited a beach once, but she had been mesmerized by it. In her dream, the ocean catches fire, and the firewoman beckons her into the ocean, holding the two fire children.... (full context)
Part 2: Yaw
Heritage and Identity Theme Icon
...to explain that the dreams had not stopped: the firewoman would take her to the ocean on Cape Coast, or to a cocoa farm, or to Kumasi. When she had gone... (full context)