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Two Sides of the Same Coin: An Analysis of Alexandria of Africa and Its Connections Between American and African Culture

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In Eric Walters' Alexandria of Africa, the author makes many connections between Alexandria's rich, modernized culture and the poor, simplistic culture of Africa. He relates America's value of physical items to the physical values of the Maasai. He also elaborates on the familial values of the Maasai, and how they closely relate to Alexandria's familial values. Finally, Walters highlights the similar moral values between the two cultures. Ultimately, Walters makes many distinct connections between Western and African culture, and proves that despite the vast external differences, the implicit values of property, community and morality within the two cultures are similar.

The author begins by introducing Alexandria, who is a spoiled, wealthy child from Malibu, California. Having physical wealth is a large part of who she is. Money partially defines her personality, and because of that, she judges others based on their wealth and personal possessions. She scoffs at a friend of hers and her "cheesy little Mustang", asking "who [drives] anything that [is] American-made?" (34). To Alexandria, her status is everything.

Comparably, the Maasai also exhibit these habits of judging individuals based on physical wealth. The Maasai have strong religious connections to cattle. The more cattle a family owns, the wealthier they are. Ruth, an adolescent Maasai girl from a nearby village and daughter of a Maasai chief, is the first local individual to question Alexandria's prosperity. "How many cows does your family have?" Ruth asks Alexandria shortly after meeting her (157). When Alexandria replies that she does not have any cows, Ruth replies with genuine remorse. Alex explains that "[she is] not Maasai [and she does not] keep cows. [She] keep[s] cars and money," which seems to make sense to Ruth (157). Ruth immediately connects Alexandria's personal wealth with the amount of cows she owns, which reflects the Maasai community's values of property. When informed that Maasai will go so far as to murder people over cattle disputes, Alexandria "[shakes her] head. Killed for a bunch of cows? But [she] sort of [understands]. Cows, money, jewellery, gold, oil - what [is] the difference?" (88). Alexandria connects her culture to that of the Maasai, registering that despite the poverty in Africa, and the vast wealth in her own community, both cultures have strong values in what they do own, and pride themselves in their physical property.

In addition, both Alexandria and the Maasai find a sense of strength within their families and surrounding community, although their definitions of strength are different. Alexandria's parents are divorced; at 15 years of age, she remembers "the yelling and screaming, the threats [and] the household objects chucked at each other" previous to the divorce, and admits to using these broken ties to her advantage (2). Alexandria uses guilt to gain power over her family, resulting in independent strength. Despite this, she relies heavily on her parents, receiving a two-hundred dollar allowance every week, which allows her to freely indulge in her wealthy culture and surrounding community (19).

The Maasai, on the other hand, rely on each other for strength. Alexandria says that she feels neglected by her family, complaining that '[t]here [are] times...when [she gets] the feeling that [she is] more like [an accessory] than [a child]" (155). With the Maasai, this is not the case. The families within the Maasai villages are quite large, with multiple children in each household. Ruth herself has eleven siblings, and is baffled by the fact that Alexandria is an only child (121). Alexandria though, who is used to being independent, finds the large Maasai community somewhat pleasant. "All around us other families [are] having supper together...", she observes as she dines with Ruth; "[it is] as though we [are] separate but together" (155). This closeness within the Maasai community is very similar to how an idealistic American family is portrayed today. Alexandria craves this familial intimacy, recounting a "few memories of smiles around [her] own dining room table", which is also shown to be valued by the Maasai (155). This highlights Walters' message that despite the size or wealth of

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