Ties Between Womanhood and Motherhood
In Krik? Krak! Edwidge Danticat expands on the difficult role women must fulfill in a corrupted Haitian society. She portrays some of these requirements through the various transformations in the story, “The Missing Peace”. With this important text, Danticat indicates that maturity and sexuality are not identical, and that personal development is bound up with learning to deal with loss and learning to put society, and one’s own place in it, in perspective.
Emilie comes as a tourist to Ville Rose in search for her lost mother. Her search mainly acts, however, to confirm her mother’s death, take a step into reality, and begin the process of grieving. She feels disconnected from her mother and doesn’t want her to go as she tells Lamort, “‘I see my mother sinking into a river, and she keeps calling my name”’ (116). Emilie can’t save her mother even though she’s calling Emilie for help, and Emilie feels useless. In an attempt to reach her mother and try to save her, Emilie goes to the graveyard. Although she already knows the outcome, she can’t fully accept it. That night, after painfully witnessing soldiers pulling a dead man on the ground, she knows that she can’t physically reach her mother. Instead, Emilie works on her mother’s quilt, which helps her internally with her mom, and she says, “‘I lost my mother and all my other dreams”’ (121). Although this saddens Emilie, as she knows that she will never find her mom, she also accepts her mother’s death.
Lamort helps Emilie overcome her grief by acting as a temporary mother to her. When they first converse, Lamort repeats to Emilie some wise comments that her grandmother told Lamort earlier. In addition, Emilie feels an instant connection as she tells Lamort that she sounds like a journalist. Later, Emilie mentions that her mother was a journalist as well. This connection strengthens between them, and later Emilie asks Lamort to stay with her during the night. Lamort agrees, “‘because I know you are afraid”’ (121). Lamort knows Emilie feels scared of sleeping without her mother in her dreams, so she replaces Emilie’s mother to help her with the transition of losing her mother.
Although Lamort transforms into a mother, she doesn’t completely feel like one until she changes her name. Literally, Lamort means “the dead” in French. Her grandmother doesn’t give Lamort her mother’s name, Marie Magdalène, because she blames Lamort for the death. Lamort doesn’t immensely care about her name because she thinks that her grandmother makes all the decisions. Once she acts as a mother to Emilie, and transitions her into accepting the death, she feels ready to live with that name. Thus, she approaches her grandmother after returning home, “‘I want you to call me by Marie Magdalène.’ I liked the sound of that” (122). She’s happy with her name and feels more connected to her mother as well. Her grandmother looks “pained” to call Lamort by her precious daughter’s name, yet she also knows that she must let go and satisfy Lamort (122). In this way, Lamort helps her grandmother, similarly to Emilie, with accepting her daughter’s death.
Lamort changes her name and acts like a mother mainly because she truly transforms into a woman. In the beginning of the story, Raymond tells Lamort, “‘I know I can make you feel like a woman”’ (103). He, like other men in the book, wrongly believes that a girl becomes a woman when she has sex. He pressures Lamort further and asks, “’so why don’t you let me?”’ (103). He still doesn’t understand how a girl truly becomes a woman. Instead, he tries to persuade her to have sex with him because he knows that she wants to feel like a woman. Furthermore, her grandmother says to Lamort, “‘See, you can be a pretty girl” (108). The grandmother hints that Lamort wasn’t pretty before, and she also stresses the fact that Lamort’s a girl. The American tourist is the only person who views Lamort as mature, helpful, and motherly. Emilie explains to her, “‘They say a girl becomes a woman when she loses her mother,’ she said. ‘You, child, were born a woman’” (116). Emilie lives in America, where girls who are Lamort’s age don’t act like a woman. She’s pleasantly surprised and acknowledges that Lamort is young, and yet, she still acts like a woman.
Similarly to Lamort, Emilie transforms into a woman through acceptance and motherhood. Although Emilie loses her mother, she doesn’t accept it at first, and thus withholds from becoming a women. Like a child, she also relies on Lamort to comfort and protect her in the night. In addition, she sews a quilt that her mother left unfinished. Through this process, she connects with her mother and replaces her, just like Lamort adopts her mother’s name. Furthermore, Emilie cares for Lamort like a mother and explains, “‘I didn’t get in a fight with them because I did not want them to hurt you”’ (121). She purposefully protected Lamort instead of choosing her natural instinct to fight. Once Emilie begins to act motherly, accepts her mother’s death, and connects with her mother, she realizes, “‘I became a woman last night”’ (121).
During all these personal transformations, the town’s moral changes as well. In the beginning of the story, Raymond tells Lamort to never forget the password when she’s in trouble. The password essentially serves as a common goal or moral: “peace”. This peace has no effect on Toto when he confronts Lamort and Emilie outside the graveyard. And Raymond explains to Lamort, “‘The password has changed,’ he said. ‘Stop saying ‘peace’”’ (119). The password that served as the main goal and holding everyone together turns nonexistent. There is no peace. Despite the missing peace around them, Lamort and Emilie feel calm inside. They are women, and don’t act anxious during hectic times.
Emilie and Lamort transform in different ways to ultimately become women. Because they both lost their mothers, they find unity and strength. They help each other in the process of becoming women. Both act motherly, overcome their immature weaknesses, and take on the role of their own mothers. They realize that becoming a woman is difficult and painful. Acting as a woman requires many responsibilities as well, including keeping posterity. The grandmother points out that keeping posterity is how a woman lives her life. Emilie wants to learn more about her mother for posterity. Yet, she doesn’t find any posterity except for herself. She realizes that she will have posterity from just living her life as a woman.
The ideas of becoming and acting as a woman from “The Missing Peace” echo throughout the whole book. Raymond, like other Haitian men, tried to turn Lamort into a woman by having sex. However, performing sex does not make a woman. Women comfort others in a time of need, live independently, and care for their children. Even if the world and their surroundings are violent, frightening, and chaotic, women remain peaceful and constant. Above all, they form an inseparable bond that can never be broken. They are the strength, peace, and comfort when all else fails.
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In Krik? Krak! Edwidge Danticat expands on the difficult role women must fulfill in a corrupted Haitian society. She portrays some of these requirements through the various transformations in the […]