Transcendent Kingdom

by

Yaa Gyasi

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Transcendent Kingdom: Chapter 51 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
After many requests, Gifty allows Katherine to visit her home. She knows that she’ll have to ask for and accept help eventually, but still clings to a pattern of trying to fix her mother independently. She successfully keeps herself from tears when Katherine asks how she is doing. She learned this skill from her mother, and it makes her think of all their other similarities. She finds it hard not to imagine herself in her mother’s place in bed someday.
The dam of Gifty’s solitude is slowly being worn away by Han’s overtures and by Katherine’s consistent kindness and attention. Gifty realizes this but continues to resist it, because she hasn’t yet been faced with something that is beyond her ability to handle on her own. Her perverse pride in being able to keep herself from honestly sharing her feelings with Katherine is another similarity between her and her mother, and points to the ways in which she still overidentifies with her parent.
Themes
Self-Discovery, Identity, and Individuality Theme Icon
Trauma, Caretaking, and Intimacy  Theme Icon
To change the subject, Gifty mentions her journal and shamefacedly confesses that she grew up evangelical. Although Katherine says it’s important and beautiful to believe in something, Gifty disagrees. She thinks that faith requires a person to submit to and believe in something specific. If she can’t believe in her childhood God, she can’t replace him with a vague “something.” But she doesn’t know how to say this aloud. She hasn’t been able to give a straight answer to anyone about her belief in God since Nana’s death.
In contrast to Gifty’s college classmates and the church members of her youth, both of whom wanted solid walls between science and faith, Katherine has a more mature and comprehensive perspective. She thinks that belief not only isn’t opposed to science, but that it’s important for people to have something to believe in. Her willingness to keep an open mind and think flexibly is initially challenging for Gifty, who hasn’t been so openly accepted since her relationship with Anne. Nevertheless, Gifty demonstrates another point of continuity between her childhood and adult selves when she resists the idea that a person can believe in a fuzzy “something.” For her, it’s a black and white choice between believing in God and having no faith. This is yet another marker of her inability to fully separate herself from her mother and her mother’s beliefs—which include her faith. Gifty doesn’t believe in God the same way her mother does anymore, but she can’t yet imagine belief outside of the way her mother believes.
Themes
Science and Religion Theme Icon
Self-Discovery, Identity, and Individuality Theme Icon
The day that her teacher said she believed that people are stardust from divinely created stars, Gifty laughed aloud. She told the teacher that this compromise belief system seemed too convenient. The teacher didn’t respond, denying Gifty the fight she wanted. Gifty knew she wouldn’t find answers for hard questions in her hometown. And now she realizes that she will likely never find answers that satisfy her.
Coming to her own definition of faith has always been a struggle for Gifty. Her attempt to bait her science teacher into a debate about it recalls her attempts to bait her mother into a debate or argument about the merits of her scientific career versus her faith. But where Gifty sees opposition, others don’t, and slowly she comes to realize that the answers are not and never will be as clear-cut as she wants them to be. Any system of belief, whether it’s science or religion, requires a certain amount of faith from its followers.
Themes
Science and Religion Theme Icon
Self-Discovery, Identity, and Individuality Theme Icon
As Katherine leaves, she encourages Gifty to keep writing in her journal.
The journal has provided Gifty with insights into her past and has demonstrated the continuity between her childhood and adult selves. When Katherine encourages her to keep up the practice, she is also encouraging her to continue the self-exploration that is necessary for the next step of her maturity—understanding and accepting her identity on its own, without reference to her mother or her mother’s beliefs.
Themes
Self-Discovery, Identity, and Individuality Theme Icon
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