Edwidge Danticat

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Krik? Krak! is a collection of short stories that were authored and published in 1995 by a Haitian writer called Edwidge Danticat. The short stories have an epilogue and nine stories in total. All the stories are linked with plots of survival and struggle in the Haitian populace. The stories told are on behalf of women trying to trace their roots in Haiti and how they are related to their families. From the Women Like Us epilogue, it is noteworthy that these women are related to one another. The narrator’s mother is against her writing. This attitude from her mother is understandable since more often than not a writer is silenced for expressing his or her views. Among the nine stories, this essay will consider how the general themes and styles of Danticat’s Krik? Krak! are explored in the stories Seeing Things Simply and Caroline’s Wedding.

Seeing Things Simply is a story of a native girl known as Princess, and Catherine who is a painter hailing from Guadeloupe. In the plot of this story, Princess, a young student interested in fine art and endowed with beauty, goes to visit Catherine in order to be painted in her nudity. When Catherine’s mentor dies, she goes to Paris and later returns with a nude painting of Princess from the ocean

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Caroline’s Wedding is a last story in this collection of Danticat’s stories. The plot of the story that it has is that Grace’s sister, Caroline, wants to marry Eric, a Bahamian-American, but Grace’s mother (Ma) is against this engagement. To thwart this arrangement, Ma prepares bone soup each day. When Grace’s father died due to cancer, she had dreams about him. These dreams come back to haunt her again. They reside in America because their father married a Native American widow with an aim of obtaining a visa and later divorced with her so as to be with his real family in America. However, before the wedding, Caroline is exited though it turns out that this is Ma who gives her some reassurance. A dark cloud hangs over the family as they are aware that the close relationship they had with Caroline will cease henceforth. Later, Grace pays a visit to her Dad’s grave to inform him about her American citizenship and the wedding.

Throughout the story Krik? Krak! , several themes can be identified. Family as a source of posterity is one of the notable themes. Posterity involves passing down of intangible and physical heritage to the upcoming generations. In Caroline’s Wedding, the inheritance of memories is displayed when Grace recalls the stories and political jokes that her deceased father narrated to her and Caroline. A good example is that concerning Papa Doc Duvalier being at Heaven’s Gate. Grace says, “These were our bedtime stories. Tales that haunted our parents and made them laugh at the same time. We never understood them until we were fully grown and they became out sole inheritance.” (Danticat 180). In order to remind them of their late father, they would draw from these stories which were now like mementos of their father.

Moreover, the diversity of suffering does not escape a notice in this wonderful yet melancholic masterpiece. The various stories reveal that everyone suffers in his or her own peculiar way. This desperation is evidenced by the visit of Grace in Caroline’s Wedding that she makes to a mass for refugees who died at sea.

The dangerous power of hope is yet another theme evoked in Danticat’s thrilling stories. Hope is paradoxical since it can strengthen one during suffering and blind one to the realities of the day. In Seeing Things Simply, Princess dreams of becoming an artist in order to forget the world around her by putting herself in the shoes of a foreign painter. This is dangerous since it puts one into a state of denial instead of taking the bull by its hones.

Moreover, the past is alive is another theme that can be noticed in Krik? Krak! As shown in the epilogue, the past is vital in influencing on the present. Danticat says in the epilogue that she embodies the spirit of Haititan women who preceded her and are numbering in hundreds. She has to write so as to bring back to life a forgotten history of Haiti, especially of the women. Danticat resurrects the practice of spiritualism by imbuing most of the characters with a spiritual life. For instance, in Caroline’s Wedding, Grace keeps on dreaming about her deceased father who seems elusive in her dream. The game of question and answer they were playing enables Grace to communicate with him.

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Further, the relationship between the daughter and the mother’ is a striking theme that does not escape the consideration. In Caroline’s Wedding, the relationship between the mother and the daughter revolves around Caroline’s youngest daughter on the controversial marriage. Grace, who is the oldest daughter and the narrator, happens to be the centre of the standoff between her sister and her mother. In this story, the parents, the mother of Caroline and Grace included, have narrated the stories of conditions that made them leave Haiti. Grace reports, “These were our bedtime stories. Tales that haunted our parents and made them laugh at the same time. We never understood them until we were fully grown and they became our sole inheritance” (Danticat 180). Mothers like Grace’s were especially instrumental in storytelling which ensured that their daughters would never forget their native Haiti.

The mother in Caroline’s Wedding is a key in passing down the Haitian values to her daughters. In this story, this connection is seen with Grace, who has an interest in the Haitian culture. Mothers play a huge role in their lives and in growth of their daughters as they are the cultural transmitters. This is evident when Ma sees it fit to take her daughters for a Mass, and when Grace asks her if she can add another bone into the bone soup, and Ma responds, “It’s your soup too” (Danticat 215).

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Ma realizes that the role of mother in America varies from that in Haiti. In Caroline’s Wedding, Ma is upbeat since the approach given to Caroline’s wedding is not in tandem with the Haitian traditions. She feels she ought to have been consulted before everything went further. Ma realizes that her motherhood role has changed as can be deduced in her reflection, “In Haiti, you own your children and they find it natural. They know their duties to the family and they act accordingly. In America, no one owns anything and certainly not another person” (Danticat 215). Ma is not entirely against the marriage of Caroline to a Bahamian man since she does not stop it. However, she wants to be involved in the marriage arrangements as she would have been consulted in Haiti, “Ma wanted Eric to officially come and ask her permission to marry her daughter. She wanted him to bring his family to our house and have his father ask her blessing. She wanted him to kiss up to her, escort her around, buy her gifts, and shower her with compliments. Ma wanted a full-blown church wedding. She wanted Eric to be Haitian.” (Danticat 169).

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Storytelling, another theme, has sprung as a role played by parents in passing on traditions to their children in Caroline’s Wedding. It plays the several functions like healing from the past painful experiences and instilling the knowledge of Haiti into daughters. The title of the book Krik? Krak! is appropriate since it is how the Haitians commence their stories. The narrator would ask Krik? While the audience would answer Krak! In the stories, the parents tried to be very honest with their daughters concerning the status quo in Haiti.

Further, Danticat uses another style of writing in her Krik? Krak!, a masterpiece, the motif. Motifs that are utilized in this piece of literary work include religious iconography and imagined dialogue. Religious iconography comes into play when Christianity is forced in the Haitians conflicts with the traditional Haitian voodoo religion. In as much as they don’t like it, most characters have welcomed Christianity as they stick to their practice of voodoo. This is depicted in Caroline’s Wedding where Grace’s mother regularly attends Christian masses on the one hand but believes in the ability of bone soup to separate lovers like Caroline her daughter and Eric a Bahamian-American.

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In order to paint the reality of the Haitian world, Danticat uses a variety of symbols in her book. Braiding is a symbol that can be seen in the epilogue, and it represents the linkage and interwoven nature of the nine stories. The narrator elucidates that Danticat’s work merges separate stories to come up with a unified meaning. This ability to braid is natural for the narrator since it has been passed down from her ancestors and her mother. The narrator’s mother was not for the idea that that she becomes a writer but she was instrumental in her writing prowess through the stories she narrated to her as a child.

Water, another symbol, stands for the natural water that surrounds the island of Haiti which provides a leeway out of the limitations imposed by the Haitian poverty and politics. Since it surrounds most of Haiti, water seems to have symbolically contained the woes of Haiti as a country. Princess, in Seeing Things Simply, perceives the oceanic beauty, sees possibilities and hope in this vast pool of water.

In addition, crying symbolizes the painful life in Haiti. To express their suffering, the Haitians do this by shedding tears. In Children of the Sea, the death of Celianne’s baby is known because it did not cry. In Nineteen Thirty-Seven, Josephine mitigates her suffering and that of her mother by not crying but her mother expresses her pain by making Madonna statuette to cry. Last but not least, the narrator’s mother in Women Like Us speaks of her writing in comparison to crying which the narrator seconds. Her writing is a memorabilia that inscribes painful stories and suffering that she and her ancestors experienced.

Another symbol employed by Danticat is the use of butterflies which stand for the tough realities experienced by Haitians. In Night Women, the narrator compares her son to a butterfly in her imagination. This is because he is too far away for her to accord him protection. Just like the butterfly which blossoms from a small caterpillar, the sorrows and pains of the characters becomes greater with each passing day. According to the female narrator in Children of the Sea, almost all messages are bad even though different butterflies depict different messages. A black butterfly at the climax of this story communicates a message of the demise of the male narrator.

In conclusion, the general message in Danticat’s Krik? Krak! is the difference between the American and Haitian culture which the author believes can be maintained through storytelling.


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