"White sheets with bright red spots float as our sail. When I got on board I thought I could still smell the semen and the innocence lost to those sheets." (Danticat 2)
The male letter writer from “Children of the Sea” attempts to flee Haiti via a little passenger boat. The sails of the boat are white bed sheets with red stains. Importance is placed on the color of the stains because they suggest the end of someone’s virginity. The soiled bed sheets used as sails are an explicit illustration of the loss-of-innocence motif.
The Inmates of Port-au-Prince Prison
Josephine’s mother is incarcerated at a prison in Haiti’s capital. The living conditions of the prison are dehumanizing. The women prisoners live amongst their waste and are given just enough food to survive. As she paints a desolate picture of prison life, Danticat focuses not on the treatment the women receive, but rather on the effect this treatment has on their bodies. Once robust and voluptuous women have been reduced to “bone-thin women with shorn heads” who carry “clumps of their hair in their bare hands.” (Danticat 35) Josephine’s mother in particular is a victim of the prison’s starvation tactics. So rapid was her weight loss that her extra skin clings “to her bones, falling in layers, flaps, on her face and neck” (Danticat 36).
In addition to starvation, the inmates are also viciously beaten. Again, the reader is not given details of these attacks, but is instead left to read about their aftermath. For example, the teeth of Josephine’s mother are stained dark red, “as though caked with blood from the initial beating during her arrest” (Danticat 36). The focus on the result of the maltreatment the prison inmates suffer, rather than on the treatment itself, channels attention to the victims rather than to the victimizers.
The Decomposition of Rose’s Body
A few days after Marie “rescues” Rose from the streets of Pétion-Ville, Rose’s body begins to decompose rapidly. Danticat describes this process through the use of similes and sensory details. For example, the smell of Rose’s body is compared to week-old pig intestines. After four days pass and Rose’s skin begins to crack, sink in, and dry up, Marie compares the baby’s body to the bodies of her aunts and grandmothers, who have been dead for years. Finally, little details like the flies Rose’s body attracts, the number of times Marie must bathe Rose to keep down the smell of her decaying body, and the way Marie chokes on her breath when she tries to kiss the baby, further help describe how Rose’s body decomposes.
Princesse’s Imaginary Paintings
After working so closely with Catherine, Princesse longs to create her own paintings. Unlike Catherine’s figure-focused works, Princesse’s imagined paintings are of somewhat intangible and ephemeral things. Her works depict sounds, textures, and split-second sensations. Princesse’s descriptions of her imagined paintings inundate the reader with sensory details and similes. For example, one painting is of “the sound that came out of [a small conch] shell, a moan like a call to a distant ship, an SOS with a dissonant melody” (Danticat 135). Another depicts “the feel of the sand beneath her toes”, and another the feeling of cracking empty crab shells between her palms (Danticat 135). By evoking the senses in her descriptions of Princesse’s paintings, Danticat allows the reader to visualize those imagined pieces of art.
Krik? Krak! Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Krik? Krak! is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.