What is the What

What is the What Literary Elements


Historical Fiction

Setting and Context

Atlanta, Sudan, Ethiopia, and Kenya

Narrator and Point of View

Valentino is the narrator, and the story is told from his first person point of view. The feelings and experiences are all his own.

Tone and Mood

The tone of the story is reverent. The descriptions of Valentino's experiences are held in high esteem. They are not construed or warped in any way. Instead, Eggers was very careful to give the reader an honest retelling of Deng's story.

The mood of the story is thoughtful. Valentino is reminiscent about his childhood, and he constantly tries to break down what happened. He tries to be objective, and that requires a clear head and a detachment to his emotions, but he still has to evaluate his emotions to come to terms with his experiences.

Protagonist and Antagonist

Valentino is the protagonist, and Tonya and Powder are the antagonists.

Major Conflict

Valentino has to overcome being robbed in America, and then he has to find a way to have safety and shelter in Africa.


Valentino finding out that he gets to come to America.


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The novel alludes to the Dinka creation story.


Michael dropping the book on Valentino's head, Ethiopia, SPLA propaganda, and the lions eating the boys


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Metonymy and Synecdoche

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"I wanted to be alone with my stupidity, which I cursed in three languages and with all my spleen."