Jennifer Lee '99, English 27 (1997)

At Sunday School one day, the teacher, searching for the appropriate comparison, chooses Woleís personal rock to illustrate the sheer size of the whale that swallowed Jonah in the bible. Wole is distraught. His sacred, solitary place has been painfully and irreversibly violated. But it is not the casual mention of the rock in class that upsets him, because it has always been a common clay-modelling spot; rather, the problem is the rockís new intimacy with the name and idea of Jonah which is a most public image. The connection has become immediately locked into Wole's brain, a permanent reminder of intrusion.

Wole's attachment to this private space and his indignation when it is disregarded is an indication of his young age and his crowded household. Like Wole, many children, especially when they are surrounded by many others, stake out territories that are exclusively their own and defend them as such. Indeed, when the other children go home after school, they disappear for Wole, but a name is a thought which pervades the solitary hours as well, and so, the rock as a refuge comes to an end. But to Wole, Jonah is much more than a name which evokes the Sunday School classroom, and much more than a mere violation of privacy: "[The rock's] mystery became complicated in a world of biblical tall tales whereas before it had remained unaffected by the weekday activity of mixing clay on is vast body." (64)

Earlier Wole had said that "it was at the Sunday School that the real stories were told" (3) and with Jonah the rock, that idea is reaffirmed. For him, biblical stories have a certain gravity that only Christianity can posess. In this case, a teacherís word has turned Wole's rock into a religious myth, and with that comes a certain respect and obligation that is, for Wole, inherent in all things religious. As a young child, Wole has yet to accept the all-consuming Christianity that his parents practice, but, as a result of repeated canings, he has learned that Christianity is not something to be taken lightly. At this point it is likely that the Wole has not attached deep religious meaning to the story of Jonah and the whale because to him, they are still primarily stories, "tall tales"; however, his upbringing has taught him that anything coming from the bible must be viewed in a religious context. Therefore, while Wole is able to disregard images of other children making clay on his rock, he is not able to put biblical images so easily out of his mind.