Krik? Krak!

Krik? Krak! Literary Elements


Short Story; Realistic Fiction; Historical Fiction; Coming of Age

Setting and Context

The stories of Krik? Krak! are set in New York City and in various locations around Haiti, a island nation in the Caribbean. The context is the totalitarian regimes of the Duvaliers.

Narrator and Point of View

Some stories in Krik? Krak! are told in the first person while others are told in the third person omniscient narrative perspective.

Tone and Mood

Slice of Life; Mystical; Tragic; Revolutionary

Protagonist and Antagonist

The protagonists of Krik? Krak! are predominately the female main characters in each story. The lone exceptions are the male letter writer in “Children of the Sea” and Guy in “A Wall of Fire Rising.” The minor antagonists change with each story, but the overarching villain is the corrupt Duvalier government that oppresses the Haitian people.

Major Conflict

The major conflict of each story is different. A description of each is below:

“Children of the Sea”—The male letter writer must flee Haiti to save his life while his lover remains behind and tries to carve out an existence under an oppressive government.

“Nineteen Thirty-Seven”—Jacqueline struggles to come to terms with her mother’s imprisonment and probable death.

“A Wall of Fire Rising”—Guy tries to carve out a livelihood for his wife and son in spite of the lack of economic opportunities and his own crushing depression.

“Night Women”—The night woman tries to provide a living for her son while maintaining his innocence.

“Between the Pool and the Gardenias”—Marie, after suffering several miscarriages, rescues a dead baby from the city streets and struggles to keep it a secret.

“The Missing Peace”—Lamort is drafted to help Emilie uncover the truth of her mother’s death, while dodging the violence of the macoutes.

“Seeing Things Simply”—Princesse models for a French painter and in the process must discover her own sense of self.

“New York Day Women”—Suzette follows her mother around New York City and struggles to reconcile this version of her mother with the version she has always known.

“Caroline’s Wedding”—Caroline is getting married and her sister and mother need to find a new equilibrium for their lives.


The climax of each story is different. A description of each is below:

“Children of the Sea”—The male letter writer throws overboard the journal he using to pen his letters to his lover.

“Nineteen Thirty-Seven”—Josephine’s mother dies.

“A Wall of Fire Rising”—Guy steals the hot air balloon and commits suicide.

“Night Women”—The night woman sleeps with Emmanuel.

“Between the Pool and the Gardenias”—The Dominican gardener catches Marie with Rose and reports her to the gendarmes.

“The Missing Peace”— Toto almost shoots Emilie.

“Seeing Things Simply”—Catherine disappears.

“New York Day Women”—Suzette’s mother meets with the little boy she babysits and his mother.

“Caroline’s Wedding”—The day of Caroline’s wedding.


When the female letter writer thanks her father for saving her life, he waves his hand back and forth to signify that he doesn’t need her gratitude. In this moment, his rapidly moving hand resembles a black butterfly. Black butterflies symbolize death, and this one foreshadows the male letter writer’s passing. The female letter writer tries to run away from the bad omen, but it is too late. Her lover has already drowned in the sea.




In Krik? Krak! there are numerous historical references to Haiti’s political turmoil. The dictatorships of François Duvalier and his son are the backdrop for the stories in the collection. They have an indelible impact on characters and events of the stories. Other historical allusions include a reference to Haiti’s rocky relationship with the Dominican Republic and the United States’ nineteen-year occupation of Haiti.

In addition to historical references there are also a plethora of religious allusions to Voudou and Christianity. These allusions are sprinkled throughout the collection but are concentrated in “Nineteen Thirty-Seven.” Finally, in “Caroline’s Wedding,” Hermine references Pelé, the famous Brazilian soccer player.


See “Imagery” section of the guide.


The letter writers in “Children of the Sea” have very distinct styles. The male letter writer has perfect grammar and writes in a somewhat formal, gentile style. The female letter writer cares significantly less about grammatical correctness and eschews the rules of capitalization. This is a bit paradoxical, considering that the male letter writer is of a lower socioeconomic background than the woman and presumably had less of an education.


In “Nineteen Thirty-Seven,” Jacqueline wears a piece of black cloth around her stomach to mourn Défilé. This parallels what Hermine does in “Caroline’s Wedding” to grieve for Célianne, the pregnant woman in “Children of the Sea.”

Metonymy and Synecdoche



“There was a point in the far distance where the sky almost seemed to blend with the sea, stroking the surface the way two people’s lips would touch each other’s” (Danticat 133).

In this excerpt, the sky and sea are given the characteristics of two lovers.