“A Wall of Fire Rising” by Edwidge Danticat Essay

July 16, 2021 by Essay Writer

Updated: Mar 26th, 2020


A wall of fire rising is a masterpiece short story by Edwidge Danticat. This story explores the life of a poor man trying to provide for his family. However, the reader can sense a deep longing for something better, which appears elusive to the man. Guy is longing for freedom, but he cannot achieve it no matter how hard he tries. In a bid to explore this issue, the author uses a hot balloon as a symbol of freedom for Guy. This paper explores symbolism in the short story, A wall of fire rising.

Symbolism in the Story

The hot balloon is a symbol of freedom for Guy. First, the author notes that the balloon has been imported from the United States of America.

Conventionally, the United States is dubbed as the land of freedom. In addition, the country is supposedly full of opportunities, and thus the origin of the balloon symbolizes freedom from poverty and other misgivings that bedevil third world countries like Haiti where Guy lives. Most specifically, Guy wants freedom from poverty, which can easily be found in the United States, where the balloon has come from.

Every time Guy nears the balloon, he is lost in a world of thoughtfulness perhaps thinking of how he can achieve his freedom. His wife is quick to note this behavior for as Guy tries to get the balloon via the barbed wire, she can almost tell the bliss that he imagined to achieve once he gets into it. The wife knows the problems that Guy has gone through in the poverty-stricken country, and thus she can relate with the freedom that he is chasing.

In addition, the barbed wire that separates Guy and the balloon symbolizes the challenges that he faces as he struggles to make ends meet. The act of trying to steal the balloon also symbolizes the bizarre methods that individuals use to fight poverty. Poverty in the third world countries is common, and thus theft and other criminal activities are rampant.

When Guy fails to reach the balloon, he pulls a penknife from his pocket in a bid to reinforce his efforts. This move symbolizes the extent that poverty-stricken individuals can go in a bid to get what they want. At times thieves kill in the process of robbing their victims and Guy is trying to do the same thing with his penknife.


Unfortunately, the kind of freedom sought through crude means like stealing and killing does not last. True freedom can only come via legitimate ways. The story underscores this principle when Guy commits suicide. After managing to steal the balloon, Guy puts his family on board before committing suicide by jumping out of it. This act symbolizes the fact the kind of freedom that most people seek is delusional. Guy thinks that by getting into the balloon, he will rise above his problems, but he is mistaken.

Once he gets into the balloon, he realizes that nothing has changed, and thus in a final act of achieving real freedom, he jumps out of it. Guy’s death is also symbolic as it underscores the ultimate freedom for humanity. As long as one is living, s/he will have one problem or another. The United States, which symbolizes freedom for Guy, has its problems. People might be financially free, but they are fighting the ghost of racism and terrorism amongst others. Therefore, death is the only ultimate freedom that human beings can experience.

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