“… An Unforgiving Place”

Throughout the novel I began to dislike Elias Cole more and more. Because of this I thought it was actually comical how his role in the death of Julius paralleled his own slow death at the end of the novel. When Elias is in his cell he hears Julius struggling to breathe because he is having an asthma attack and does not have his inhaler. Instead of telling anyone about it, he just leaves Julius there to die, even handing over his notebooks which he knows will prove Johnson’s case against Julius. This is ironic because once Elias is older and is in the hospital where Adrian works, he is dying from respiratory problems, but does not have much access to the breathing machine he needs to keep him alive longer.

One line from the paragraph in which Elias is describing how he let Julius to die alone is the sentence, “We were in an unforgiving place” (409). I found this line to be both ironic and foreshadowing Elias’s own death. This sets up the fact that he dies from respiratory problems because he let Julius die from an asthma attack (a respiratory condition). What I do not find clear is if Elias realizes this connection himself and that is why Aminatta Forna has him say it as some hidden self-realization, or she was just trying to emphasize the idea that in Sierra Leone at that time whatever a person did or said always came back to haunt him or her, as did Elias’s actions. Another aspect that is ironic about how this statement relates to the situations in the novel is that Elias says this to help him make his case as to why he did not get help for Julius, but in the end the sentence gives reason to why he later suffers from respiratory problems himself; he was never forgiven for allowing Julius’s death to happen, therefore his actions came back to haunt him. The ironies in the deaths of Elias and Julius add to the idea of The Memory of Love as a melodrama.


Posted on October 23, 2014, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. This is a really interesting connection, I hadn’t thought about the similarities between their deaths before. I also think it is significant that they were both alone. While Julius died alone because of the circumstantial evidence that was against him, paired with Elias’ inaction, Elias died alone simply because of his own actions. His daughter despised him, and the only person who stuck around was the one who was being paid to. The sameness of Elias and Julius’ death–suffocating and alone–makes me think of the sameness of the “Adams” in All Our Names. Forna could be showing how we’re all very similar–helpless– when it comes to death.

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