English 124 Section 13
The Many Faces of Posterity
The Webster's New World Dictionary definition of posterity is 1. All of a person's descendents and 2. All future generations (353). This is a pretty vague definition and doesn't come close to covering the multitude of ways in which people deal with posterity. Posterity has a different meaning for different people and can change over time. When people have material possessions, they tend to pass material things to the future generations but when people are deprived of these material things, they have to come up with other ways of fulfilling this desire. When people are faced with these difficulties, kinship ties tend to become stronger. Through Edwidge Danticat's compilation of short stories, Krik? Krak!, forms of posterity are always changing among the people who are the focus of these stories, the black Haitians. In this land where everything is taken from the people, one's posterity becomes highly dependent upon one's kinship ties and, as the circumstances change, so do the ways that people choose to keep things for further generations.
Posterity, like most things in life, is continuously changing. One of the major themes in Danticat's stories is change. The very first story, 'Children of the Sea,' is a very depressing tale of two lovers who are separated by the horrible circumstances of a war torn country. They attempt to keep records of their lives so that one-day their loved ones might be able to read them. In the end though, neither of them get to read what the other had written for them. They didn't have anything to give each other or to give to their family, so they made up something. They kept track of what they were feeling and how their lives had changed. Maybe deep down inside they weren't writing it for each other, but for the hope that other people outside of Haiti might read it and know what they went through. By the end of the collection of short stories, things have changed considerably. Instead of the ever present feelings of despair and sadness, 'Caroline's Wedding' is filled with hope and of people overcoming obstacles, such as Caroline's missing arm, instead of it being a lifelong crisis as it would have been if they had still been in Haiti. The stories made a circle from complete despair to joy and hope. By the time these people were in America, they were able to change the ways they passed on things to their families.
In the beginning if these tales, everything was taken from these people. They were deprived of the material and finer things of life that people usually choose to pass down or keep for the future generations. Their identity had been brutally torn away from them by the military leaders of the island. They had to think of new ways to keep their family customs, and the things that made them unique, alive. They did this by relying heavily on kinship ties and by telling stories that reminded them of where they came from and who came before them. In the second story, '1937', stories of family and the past are noticed. These stories helped to shape the future generations by reminding them of the past. This form of posterity becomes very evident in the last few stories when the people of the stories are now in America. The way they are able to remember the past is by stories. These wonderful little stories help them to remember who their people were and where they came form. It gives them a look into the lives of the ones that came before them. You can learn a lot about a people by listening to the stories by which they are remembered.
Danticat doesn't just bring out the kinship ties among these people, but she focuses on the female family ties in the Haitian communities. At first the women seem to be the silent members of the stories, but in reality they were the ones that held everything together. The female kinships ties were what kept the future mothers and wives together and gave them hope for the future. Even in the sad story of 'Between the Pool and the Gardenias,' the woman finds hope in her family history. She figured since it had been so bad for them, it must be better for her. Hope can be a wonderful thing, even if it doesn't produce the desired outcome. When remembering her female relatives, the woman recalls,
Mama had to introduce me to them, because they had all died before I was born. There was my great grandmother Eveline who was killed by Dominican soldiers at the Massacre River. My grandmother Defile who died with a bald head in a prison, because God had given her wings. My godmother Lili who killed herself in old age because her husband had jumped out of a flying balloon and her grown son left her to go to Miami (94).
When people live in different social and political areas, they tend to have different perceptions or ways of showing posterity. Danticat's 'The Missing Peace' is a great example of this. When asked what the she did for posterity's sake, the young girl Lamort told that Haitian-American journalist "We were babies and we grew old" (120). The journalist had a more materialistic approach to the whole posterity issue. She had gathered many different pieces of material that had been important to her mother and was making it into a quilt so that she could always remember her mother. Since she had been so far removed from her mother and her mother's land, it seemed like even though she had these material things that represented her mother, she lacked the other, more personal things about her such as stories about her that was locked back in Haiti. That was the one thing that the people of Haiti could still claim as their own stories. If you are still alive, no one is able to take away your memory and ability to pass that memory on to future generations. So, in gaining the material things that her mother had possessed, she had lost the other very important aspects of posterity.
One of the most important ways for the Haitians to pass things to through the generations is by telling stories. Even if they are just little stories that don't seem to tell much about anything, they usually have hidden meanings that only the people that are telling them know about- that is what makes them special. Danticat has reverted back to the old Haitian way of remembering people and things when she writes this collection of short stories. Even though she now lives in the materialistic world of America, she finds her missing peace in the writing of these stories. They are able to bring her closer to where she came from and remind her of the people that had to suffer for her to be where she is today. Posterity has may faces; it is constantly changing and taking new forms. In Edwidge Danticat's Krik? Krak!, posterity is shown in the form of stories which have strong family ties.
Back to my homepage
Back to english essays
“Krik? Krak!” is a collection of nine interconnected short stories namely; “Children of the Sea”, “Nineteen Thirty-Seven”, “A Wall of Fire Rising”, “Night Women”, “Between the Pool and the Gardenias”, “Seeing Things Simply”, “New York Day Women”, and “Caroline’s Wedding”. All the stories talk about Haitian women who are trying to understand how they relate with their families and Haiti. As suggested in “Women Like Us”, all these women are related. The unnamed narrator in the epilogue, possibly Danticat, realizes that she shares similarities with her mother, as well as female ancestors. As a tradition, the women cook to express their sorrow, but the narrator decides to write instead (Danticat 23). Because Haitian writers are regularly killed, the narrator’s mother disapproves of her writing. The female ancestors of the narrator are unified in death, and she uses posterity to keep their history alive.
Several different themes are discussed in “Krik? Krak!”. However for this analysis, I will focus on the diversity of suffering. In one way or another, the characters in this novel have experienced suffering. Though they emanate from diverse backgrounds and have different experiences, to some extent, all of them share similar pain. For instance, the despair of Célianne in “Children of the Sea” pushes her into throwing herself into the ocean. She is living under extreme conditions of hunger, violence, thirst, lack of hygiene etc. She “stares into space all the time and rubs her stomach” (Danticat 10). Grace’s mother in “Caroline’s Wedding”, also undergoes similar pain when she attends a mass for refugees who died in the sea, just like Célianne. These diverse sufferings experienced by the different characters, draw various reactions. For example, in “New York Day Women”, the mother finds a new life in the United States, but still she cannot seem to forget the suffering that she left behind. Danticat explains that the Haitian experience is not universal since those who suffer are individuals.
In all the nine stories, Danticat uses various characters to convey her message to the reader. From the stories, we see the various characters evolving from poor, naive, reserved, uneducated people to courageous and strong-willed people with hope to have better lives for themselves and their families. We will look at the way two characters change in the book.
Lamort in “The Missing Peace”
Lamort, is a teenage young woman who disobeys her grandmother, and sneaks out to take journalist to the cemetery. She is uneducated and naive, and has low self-esteem, making her to worry less about herself. Though she hates her grandmother for blaming her for the death of her mother, she desperately seeks for her approval. She tries to live to her grandmother’s decency standards and yearns for intelligence in order to be approved. Lamort admires Emilie, a woman she considers independent, and feels important when she lends a helping hand to her. Despite the violent, risky state of her world, we see Lamort, developing courage to defend Emilie from Toto, the soldier who prevents them from going to the churchyard. Emilie’s complements, encourages Lamort, to be brave in her personal life.
Princesse, “Seeing Things Simply”
Princesse is a young female student who poses naked to a foreign photographer. Though she is reserved, Princesse is very confident in herself. She knows that Catherine paints her because of her willingness to be naked, and not because of her beauty, but it does not bother her. Just like Lamort, Princesse also admires Catherine because she is sophisticated. Her standard of living is no different from other characters in the novel, but she is fascinated by the beauty around her, and is excited to learn more about the world. Her willingness to pursue art is evident when she draws on her shirt using her blood (Danticat 78). Catherine’s painting of her inspired her, and made her feel special.
The cultural aspect presented in the book
“Krik? Krak!” the title of the book, depicts the Haitian tradition and culture of the narrator calling out ‘Krik?’, and the gathered listeners answering, ‘Krak’. “Krik? Krak!” provides an interesting approach to the Haitian culture and tradition of telling stories. All the stories in the novel present interesting aspects of the culture in Haiti, but for this analysis, I will focus on cultural identity in “Caroline’s Wedding”. Grace feels neither fully Haitian nor American. Though she lives in the United States, she still has a strong connection to Haiti. Her adoption of the American culture makes her feel guilty; since it’s the reason she defied her mother’s superstition. When she finally gets her American passport, she cannot hide her excitement and sense of belonging, she says, “For the first time in my life, I feel truly secure living in America. It was like being in a war zone and finally receiving a weapon of my own, like standing on the firing line and finally getting a bullet-proof vest” (Danticat 213). As an American citizen, she feels safe enough to embrace the Haitian customs that she once defied by assisting her mother to prepare bone soup.
The use of figurative language
The use of analogy in the book is seen in Caroline’ Wedding in the statement, “You remember while braiding your hair that you look a lot like your mother; your mother who looked like your grandmother and her grandmother before” (Danticat 219). This is a depiction of the significance of sisterhood in the Haitian culture, where traditions are passed from grandmother to mother, and daughter, and the lineage continues.
The use of metaphor in the book is evident in “Women Like Us,” where the narrator compares the sound of her writing to that of the crying. The narrator uses writing to express her suffering and pain, and that of her ancestors. To her, writing is a form of crying.
Crying is used in the book to symbolize life, which is marked by pain and suffering in Haiti. As long as the Haitians are alive, they experience suffering and therefore they cry to express their sorrow. In “Children of the Sea”, Célianne’s baby does not cry because it is dead. Also, Josephine’s mother makes the statuette cry to symbolize that her anguish is not dead yet; she needs to show it in one way or the other. The narrator compares the sound of her writing to that of the sound of crying. According to the writer, writing is a way of crying; through her writing she expresses her suffering and that of her ancestors, in order to keep the memory of their painful stories alive.
In the epilogue, the author says, “When you write, it is like braiding your hair; taking a handful, coarse, and unruly strands, and attempting to bring them to unity” ( Danticat 220). She uses braiding to symbolize writing. The narrator explains that writing is like braiding since it uses separate elements to make one unified meaning. Though Danticat acknowledges that braiding can be a challenge especially when the hair is not cooperative, she says that there is something comforting about the process; that is the regular performance of the skill that is both a routine and a challenge (Danticat 100). Though the narrator’s mother does not agree with her writing, it is the tradition of storytelling that she passed down to her, that has formed the foundation of her writing. She maintains her Haitian tradition by writing, or braiding in her own way.
The use of visuals in the book helps to remind the reader of his or her underdeveloped potential for humane existence. It helps us to connect with the suffering of the Haitian people, and feel their suffering, which in turn provides an in-depth understanding of the author’s message to the reader. The author’s picture on the cover page of the book is also very beautiful and arresting; seeing it makes one feel like knowing more about her and her story.
- As Nature Made Him the Boy Who Was Raised as a Girl
- Auden the Unknown Citizen
- The Education of Little Tree Forrest Carter
- Havana Real by Yoani Sanchez