The connective tissue of Homegoing’s fourteen chapters lies in a single family tree, starting with Maame and her two daughters, Effia and Esi. Structuring the story in this way reveals the importance of family, especially the relationship between parents and children. Children in the novel allow families to continue and progress, and so for many families and parents, children provide hope for a future and a better life.
Throughout the novel, parents work so that their children might have a better life, either emotionally or in having freedoms that their parents were not afforded. Effia tries to make sure that she has a better emotional relationship with her son, Quey, because Effia’s own biological mother had abandoned her, and her adoptive mother had emotionally abused her. Akua, H, and Sonny also yearn to have better emotional relationships with their children, because their parents had either died before they were born, or they remember very little of them. For H’s daughter, Willie, and Sonny’s son, Marcus, the strength of these relationships and the support from their parents allows them to move to better places and get better educations. Ness shows a similar resolve to give her son, Kojo, a better life, even though the both of them are enslaved. As soon as Kojo is born, she works to makes sure that they can survive and tries to escape slavery. Even though Ness does not manage to escape, Kojo is able to continue on to freedom with another woman carrying him. Thus, even if she has to make sacrifices like losing touch with her son, Ness gains hope in knowing that Kojo will grow up as a free man.
Marriage also serves as a way for families to progress and gain a better standing in society, and so many of the parents try to orchestrate marriages for political gain. At the start of the novel, Baaba uses Effia as a way of strengthening the Fante village’s relationship with the British by marrying her to a British officer. Similarly, Quey marrying Nana Yaa, the daughter of an Asante king, becomes a way to ensure that the Fante village will not be attacked. Quey’s son James’s rebellion, then, becomes particularly upsetting because he both abandons his family and marries someone who does not, in his parents’ eyes, add anything to their political power.
Though the characters who live in America don’t have a comparable means of using marriage for political gain, marriage still represents a means of improving their position. Willie marries Robert Clifton, a very light-skinned man who is often mistaken for white. Willie benefits from Robert’s ability to get jobs that would never be open to him and from his ability to earn more money than if people thought he was black. When they eventually separate, Robert then marries a blonde white woman in order to shore up his own standing in the society, and thus marriage continues to be a means of gaining status.
Family is crucial to the characters in Homegoing. Because the book is filled with so much brutality and abuse, as well as many large sociopolitical concepts, family becomes instrumental in the book in demonstrating how the characters are affected on an individual and personal level. Readers can trace family connections and empathize with the sacrifices that characters make for each other, as they continue to hope that their children will live in a world filled with less injustice. For many of the characters, family becomes the only means of achieving a better life.
Family and Progress ThemeTracker
Family and Progress Quotes in Homegoing
This was how they lived there, in the bush: Eat or be eaten. Capture or be captured. Marry for protection. Quey would never go to Cudjo's village. He would not be weak. He was in the business of slavery, and sacrifices had to be made.
“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.
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.
“What I know now my son: Evil begets evil. It grows. It transmutes, so that sometimes you cannot see that the evil in the world began as the evil in your own home. I'm sorry you have suffered.”
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.
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.