Themes and Meanings

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Global politics are satirized in The Coup. Ellelloû vaguely hopes for some kind of uniqueness or purity for Kush but is confronted by the encroachment of international sameness. The main transgressors are the Americans, who wander “everywhere like children, absurdly confident of being loved.” The American diplomat whose execution Ellelloû orders explains his country’s point of view: “There cats are starving. The whole world knows it, you can see ’em starve on the six o’clock news every night. The American people want to help”—and help they will, regardless of whether their aid is wanted or will truly be beneficial. The absurdity of the colonel’s efforts at isolationism is underscored when the logical Ezana masterfully explains how the American physical-fitness craze could lead to even greater poverty in Kush, whose major export is peanuts.

Ezana even sees Ellelloû as American. The leader of Kush considers himself above the corrupting influences of the West, but Candace tries to bring him back to earth: “Don’t give me any of this Kismet crap. I knew you when you couldn’t tell the Koran from the Sears Roebuck catalogue.” Ellelloû accepts this reality during his McCarthy period when he explains to Mr. Cunningham, Candace’s father, “In the less developed quarters of the world, the power politics of the West can be brushed aside, but its culture is pernicious.” On Edumu’s walls are posters of Elvis...

(The entire section is 444 words.)