Edwidge Dadicant’s Depiction of the Struggles of Poverty in a Family as Illustrated in His Book, A Wall of Fire Rising

November 8, 2021 by Essay Writer

In the story “Wall of Fire Rising,” Edwidge Danticat tells the story of the endeavors a poor family living in Haiti must go through to make ends meet. Due to the story being told in third person, the reader gets an outside view of each characters life. The father, Guy, struggles to find a stable job to provide for his wife, Lili, and his son, Little Guy. When he finally gets a job at the sugar mill, his pre-established fascination of flying the sugar mill’s hot air balloon increases. Towards the end of the story, he finally fulfills his dream of flying the hot air balloon, while also taking his own life. Through actions and dialogue between the characters, the author foreshadows Guy’s death, which the reader may interpret as an act of freedom for himself or an act of abandonment towards his family.

In the story, even though in third person, the audience can see Lili’s perspective of Guy’s situation. Since she focuses most of her time with their son, Lili and Guy aren’t able to get much alone time, which could attribute to Guy’s feelings of neglect. This is exemplified when Lili says, “I wish I had paid more attention when you came in with the news”(152). This is a sign of how she feels guilty for neglecting her own husband. Danticat uses the literary device of foreshadowing in the story by sharing Lili’s superstitions that are common in the Haitian culture. For instance, he states, “She nearly didn’t marry him because it was said that people with angular hairlines often have very troubled lives” (152). By utilizing this technique of foreshadowing, he is able to hint at Guy’s troubled life. Lili may not have wanted to believe this superstition at first, but in the end, she wouldn’t have been able to predict just how troubled he really was. The first sign of her noticing Guy’s troubles was when he was acting distant as they went to the Sugar mill: “For the last few weeks, she had been feeling as though Guy was lost to her each time he reached this point, twelve feet away from the balloon” (151). She takes notice of his interest towards the balloon and feels as if she’s losing him. She knows that the balloon is drawing him in but she doesn’t find out until later the reason why. At the end of the story, she did not seem as shocked as her son when Guy jumped out of the balloon. She may have foreseen this coming through his actions and dialogue.

Danticat uses the literary tool of foreshadowing by describing how Guy’s actions correlate with his interest towards the hot air balloon. In the beginning of the story, Guy’s fascination with the balloon is introduced: “During the day, when the field was open, Guy would walk up to the basket, staring at it with the same kind of longing that most men display when they admire very pretty girls “(151). This quote initially shows that he takes a certain interest with the basket. He sees it with an alternative motive in mind that the reader wants to find out. He even disregards his own family whenever he is there at the sugar mill. This neglect can be exemplified through the quote, “As they approached the fence surrounding the field where the large wicker basket and deflated balloon rested on the ground, Guy let go of the hands of both his wife and the boy” (151). Guy shows this act of disengagement towards his own family due to this odd fascination he carries for the balloon. The reader could interpret this as him being more interested in whatever opportunities the balloon carry symbolically compared to that of his own family.

Through Guy’s dialogue regarding the balloon, the reader gets a sense of his longing for freedom. His choice of diction, especially while conversing with his wife, leads the reader to believe that he isn’t fully satisfied with his life, but does see an opportunity for change. While talking to Lili, he mentions, “I was born in the shadow of that sugar mill… If anyone deserves to work there, I should” (152). It is apparent that Guy sees himself as deserving for a job at the sugar mill. However, by reading between the lines, it can be interpreted by the reader that this job opportunity is seen to be his route to freedom. As the story progresses, Lili and Guy have an in depth conversation about Guy’s ability to fly the balloon. When Lili questions Guy’s intentions, he responds “Can’t you see yourself up there? Up in the clouds somewhere like some kind of bird”(153). While asking his wife this question, the reader can almost hear his voice light up talking about this dream of his. He plans on going somewhere else as an escape from his life in poverty. Later on in the story, Lili finds her husband sitting behind the sugar mill. As their son runs around them playing, he suddenly becomes the topic of conversation. Guy mentions, “You’re really good with that boy…You will make a performer of him. I know you will.” (154). When he says this, it appears as if Lili is the only one taking care of him because he does not mention any indication of himself. The way he words that quote makes the audience question where he will be in the course of his son’s life. This reveals that his idea of freedom is not only an escape from poverty, but possibly his family as well.

In the story, “Wall of Fire Rising”, Edwidge Danticat utilizes the element of foreshadowing through dialogue and actions of Guy and Lili in the story. Also, by writing in third person, the reader is able to get an outside perspective of each character’s viewpoint. This allows the reader to gather information from each character to analyze Guy’s reason behind his suicide, which can be interpreted as an act of freedom for himself or an act of abandonment towards his family.

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