In “Children of the Sea,” the names of the two lovers are never revealed to the reader. Why do you think this is?
Danticat’s refusal to tell us the names of “Children of the Sea’s” main characters is a purposeful and calculated move. At first, the missing names confuse the reader and make it difficult to conceptualize the characters. As the tale progresses, however, the plot of the story and the suffering of the characters take center stage, rendering the absent names a minor issue. What matters isn’t who the characters are, but what they endure. Their identities aren’t as important as the trials and tribulations they face.
In addition, by not assigning the tragic, star-crossed lovers of “Children of the Sea” names, Danticat gives their story a sense of universality. They could be any number of Haitian couples torn apart by the corrupt Duvalier government. Even more broadly, they could be any couple that has ever been torn apart by war and/or an unstable government.
Compare and contrast Grace’s relationship with Hermine and Caroline’s relationship with Hermine.
Grace is nicknamed her mother and father’s “misery baby” while Caroline is their “child of the promised land.” This is because Grace was their offspring from their lean, struggling days in Haiti, while Caroline was born in America during their more financially secure days. These distinctions between the girls definitely impact their respective relationships to their mother. Until she gets her citizenship and American passport, Grace feels as if she’s not a real member of her family. As such, she’s less likely to challenge her mother or go against her wishes, because she fears being abandoned. While Caroline refuses to take part in certain “Haitian” customs, like going to Mass to mourn Haitian refugees who are strangers to her, Grace always accompanies her mother to these events. Because her citizenship was never in question, Caroline doesn’t feel the same pressures as Grace. She feels secure in her place in their family, and so she doesn’t harbor the same fear of abandonment that her older sister does. That is why she feels more comfortable forging her own path against her mother’s wishes.
Analyze the role of national and international politics in the stories presented in Krik? Krak!
The impact of domestic and international politics on the Krik? Krak! stories cannot be overstated. The corrupt regimes of Haiti's many presidents, most notably the Duvaliers, clearly play an influential role in the lives and decisions of the characters. In “Children of the Sea,” one of the main characters attempts to flee those regimes and loses his life in the process. In “A Wall of Fire Rising,” the lives of Guy, Little Guy, and Lili are unequivocally changed because of Haiti’s lack of economic opportunities for its citizens. And despite their love for their mother country, Suzette’s mother and Hermine (from “New York Day Women” and “Caroline’s Wedding” respectively) decide to leave their beloved Haiti, because its tumultuous politics make it difficult to raise their daughters there.
International politics also play a commanding role in the Krik? Krak! collection. The most notable example is the 1937 massacre of Haitians living in the Dominican Republic. This genocidal event, ordered by the Dominican president at the time Rafael Trujillo, is the inspiration for the story “Nineteen Thirty-Seven.” This horrific event left scars on Josephine and her mother, and helped forge strong matrilineal bonds in their family for generations to come. And as the most common destination for emigrating Haitians, the United States is also an important country in Krik? Krak! The nearness of the United States and its history of intervention in Haiti and its affairs make it a logical choice for Haitians seeking economic opportunities and political freedom.
Discuss gender vis-à-vis personal and political power in Haiti as they are presented in Krik? Krak!
There are few instances in Krik? Krak! where it is obvious that a character’s gender impacts their power in a situation. The first of these involves the parent’s of the female letter writer from “Children of the Sea.” When the macoutes are beating Madan Roger, the letter writer’s mother wants to run to her aid, but her husband physically stops her. He decides for the whole family that they will not intervene in the situation, because he is afraid of putting a target on their backs. In this scenario, a man usurps and undermines a women’s personal power and autonomy over her own actions.
Another example of the discrepancies between male and female power in Haiti comes from “Between the Pool and the Gardenias.” The Dominican man is able to get the gendarmes to investigate Marie on his word alone. Though he is a foreigner, in the game of he-said/she-said, he wins. While Rose’s dead body does not help the situation, Marie will most likely not be given a chance to explain herself. The tendency in Haiti to automatically condemn any woman accused of being a witch seals her fate.
Analyze this quote from “Night Women.” What literary elements does Danticat use in the quote? Which themes or motifs does the quote draw upon, and how are they used?
Shadows shrink and spread over the lace curtain as my son slips into bed. I watch as he stretches from a little boy into the broom-size of a man, his height mounting the innocent fabric that splits our one-room house into two spaces, two mats, two worlds (Danticat 81).
Rich in imagery, this excerpt from “Night Women” includes examples of metaphors and anthropomorphism. The son of the night woman is compared to a broom, while his shadow is anthropomorphized and changes shape like a contorting body. The son’s transformation from a boy to a man evokes the loss-of-innocence motif, and the “innocent fabric” that splits the night woman’s house into “two spaces, two mats, two worlds,” adds a sense of the mystic to the quote.