The Thorns of Change: The Role of Ville Rose in Krik? Krak!
Krik? Krak! by Edwidge Danticat is a collection of short stories about Haitians in various circumstances, from being miserable due to extreme poverty to being forced into exile by a dictatorship. The fictional town of Ville Rose is the location of most of the stories, connecting stories that have almost no relation to each other except the occasional mention of characters. Danticat uses Ville Rose to represent the idea of change. Through this symbolism, Danticat shows that pain is a necessary part of change, but will lead to improvement.
In the first story, “Children of the Sea,” the female narrator undergoes significant change, not only emotionally, but also physically escaping to Ville Rose with her family. They plan to run away from the capital city of Port-au-Prince, where bands of macoutes do whatever they want to people, like raping and killing. The female narrator and her parents hear the macoutes beat her neighbor Madan Roger to death: you can hear madan roger screaming. they are beating her, pounding on her until you don’t hear anything else. manman tells papa, you cannot let them kill somebody just because you are afraid. papa says oh, yes, you can let them kill somebody because you are afraid. they are the law. it is their right. (17)Madan Roger’s beating causes significant anguish for the narrator’s mother, who wants to go somehow stop the macoutes from killing their neighbor. Her father has to justify to her mother in a twisted way that since the macoutes have the power, they have to allow them to do whatever they want or they will be hurt too. The narrator describes more dystopian descriptions of brutality in Port-au-Prince like forcing parents and their children to commit incest (12), dogs licking two dead bodies (19), and a soldier accusing a woman of being a witch. However, once the family gets to Ville Rose, the narrator does not experience these scenes anymore. Danticat uses imagery like comparing hail to “angry tears from heaven” (22) and at the end of the story, “behind these mountains are more mountains and more black butterflies still and a sea that is endless like my love for you” (29). This is very different the harsh, violent tone that the story has while still in Port-au-Prince, like when the narrator expresses how she hates her father and how she wishes “he would catch a bullet so we could see how scared he really is” (11). After moving to Ville Rose, the story becomes calmer and focuses on the characters’ relationships and how they have a new start instead of mainly being about the struggle for survival and how it affects people. By providing two contrasting settings in conjunction with a mood shift in the first story of the book, Danticat establishes Ville Rose as a symbol for change early on, leaving a first impression that the reader will think about throughout the book.
In addition to establishing the idea that Ville Rose represents change, “Children of the Sea” elaborates on this, with Danticat having the characters go through difficult transitions that eventually help them become better people and understand each other. The narrator does not have a good relationship with her father in the beginning of the story: “i shouted that i wasn’t a whore. he had no business calling me that. he pushed me against the wall for disrespecting him. he spat in my face” (11). At this point, the narrator and her father don’t really understand each other’s motives. The father is desperately trying to get his family out of Port-au-Prince and sees his daughter keeping the tapes as dangerous and would most likely lead to their family being tortured by the macoutes. Frustration and the need to force his family to do what it takes to survive, even if they don’t want to, makes him seem evil and abusive to his daughter. On the other hand, the female narrator is deeply in love with the male narrator and keeps the tapes to hear his voice, and when her father yells at her, she defends her love. Right before the drive to Ville Rose, the father apologizes for his actions, saying that “father should be able to speak to his children like a civilized man. all the craziness here has made him feel like he cannot do that anymore. all he wants to do is live” (19). Danticat humanizes the father and reveals him not to be a heartless abuser, but rather a man who just wants the best for his family and is willing to do whatever it takes to accomplish that. The narrator understands this too, and forgives her father, knowing that he does not hate his family. In Ville Rose, the narrator’s mother reveals to her that her father bribed the macoutes in order to save his daughter: they were going to peg me as a member of the youth federation and then take me away. papa heard about it. he went to the post and paid them money, all the money he had. our house in port-au-prince and all the land his father had left him, he gave it all away to save my life. this is why he was so mad. (24)The narrator is deeply grateful for the sacrifice her father made, saying that he is more than a father to her now that she knows what he sacrificed for her. Although the family was starting to fall apart due to the stress of living in such a dangerous place, the process of getting through to Ville Rose strengthened the bonds between them and taught the female narrator to be grateful for everything her father has done for her, even if it doesn’t seem like he cares for her.
The next story, “Nineteen Thirty-Seven,” further supports the idea that change is painful but will lead to improvement. The main character, Josephine, was born during the massacre of Haitians by Dios Trujillo, the leader of the Dominican Republic. Her mother escaped across the Massacre River, where “she could still see the soldiers chopping up her mother’s body and throwing it into the river along with many others” (40). This event would have been extremely bloody and traumatic for survivors like Manman, and the terror of narrowly escaping the Dominican soldiers and stress of giving birth right after deeply affected her. However, this allowed Manman to start a new life in a country that had similar people to her, and form relationships with fellow women who lost their mothers in the massacre. She also gave Josephine a chance to live, which would not have been possible if the Dominican soldiers caught and butchered her. After Manman dies in prison, a woman named Jacqueline, who went to the Massacre River with Josephine and Manman, comes to Josephine’s home in Ville Rose and notifies her that her mother is dead. They go to the prison in Port-au-Prince, where a guard tells them, “She will be ready for burning this afternoon” (46). Before this, Josephine did not have a very strong reaction to Manman’s death, but this assertion that her mother is truly dead shocks her: “My blood froze inside me. I lowered my head as the news sank in” (46). She is deeply affected by this because of her strong relationship with her mother, which was strengthened by going on trips to the Massacre River and giving thanks to the river for saving them. Josephine collects her mother’s pillow, which was filled with her hair, showing that she accepts the heritage that Manman has passed down to her. She comes out of this tragic event more aware of her own identity, and viewing her mother as the woman who flew out of the river instead of the sickly prisoner at death’s door.
In many of Krik? Krak!’s stories, the setting is Ville Rose. Each time a story takes place there, the main characters go through some kind of change that hurts them at first, but eventually helps them become a better person. The female narrator’s chance at a regime-free life and Josephine’s better understanding of her culture and mother, which both came at a sacrifice, provides insight into Danticat’s view of Haiti: although Haiti has been subject to numerous coups, periods of tyrannical rule, and natural disasters, it still maintains its unique blend of French and African culture, which has only gotten richer over time.
In the essay Mr. Bennet and Mrs. Brown, Virginia Woolf proclaims that human character changed around the year 1910, a statement that serves as the jumping off point for her […]
As a Caribbean author, Jamaica Kincaid submerges Annie John, the novel, in rich sea symbolism. Living on the island of Antigua, and with Dominican parentage, the novel Annie John is […]
Rick, a kindhearted man with a strong moral compass, is far from the most detestable of the characters in Casablanca. While he demonstrates some qualities and actions that could lead […]
The proviso scenes in Restoration dramas depict a legal negotiation or “bargain” that takes place between the hero and the heroine of the play. In William Congreve’s comedy, The Way […]
In a Prayer for Owen Meany the relationship between religion and faith is often contradictory to societal beliefs causing confusion. Johnny’s questioning of organized religion and his growing faith creates […]
In the works of Virginia Woolf freedom is an often unattainable ideal. Woolf discusses freedom at great length in her texts, ranging from the broader freedom of the individual to […]
“What he cannot help in his Nature, you/account a Vice in him.” 1. This is the reason it is so difficult, and yet so necessary, to sympathise with Coriolanus. His […]
In Ian McEwan’s Saturday, the protagonist Henry Perowne is given the task of representing the trials of being a contemporary man. However, he seems to be more than just an […]
Charles Dicken’s Hard Times is a novel depicting the destructive forces of utilitarianism on the modern world following the Industrial Revolution. Through the vivid characters interwoven throughout the text, Dickens […]
Krik? Krak! by Edwidge Danticat is a collection of short stories about Haitians in various circumstances, from being miserable due to extreme poverty to being forced into exile by a […]