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Edwidge Danticat’s The Dew Breaker
In Danticat’s ‘The Dew Breaker,’ the bitter history of corruption, violence and vengeance in Haiti stalks almost all of the characters in the novel. The dark history leads to their dreams being infected and their expectations to be circumscribed. Most of the characters are trying without much success to remember their history and to ultimately erase it from their minds. The author chooses her characters, words, and events wisely for a specific function: to show the long-time suffering of the Haitian people under the regime of the Duvaliers who were exceedingly corrupt. The wise choices arouse readers and enable them to get a glimpse of the suffering of the Haitian people. Several aspects of theology and philosophy are visible in this book.
The title of the book, Dew Breaker, refers to a major character in the book. The author aptly names him so because of his terrible activities during the regime of Francois Duvalier in the 1960’s. He and his henchmen would usually arrive at the victim’s homes before dawn, as the dew was settling on the leaves. They would then abduct them, torture them, and ultimately kill them for reasons such as speaking against a brutal government. From this acts, it is clear that Duvalier’s governance did not value the sacredness of human life. It disregarded the theological teaching that human life is sacred and sanctified and should be preserved.
The Haitian government had engaged in devastating corruption, and this caused the characters in the book to be preoccupied with issues of death, suffering, and recovering from numerous traumatic events. People of this country were denied justice. Their right to life was ignored, and their government subjected them to death and suffering. It was their right to lead decent lives, but public facilities necessary to better their lives was stolen from them. Evidently, there was no justice in this country, and public property benefited the few. The wanton plundering of the citizen was in violation of the philosophical tenets of justice.
One of the stories is aptly named ‘The Funeral Singer’ to indicate the numerous deaths experienced during the brutal regimes. In this story, Freda provides an explanation that they exist three types of death: “The one when our breath leaves our bodies to rejoin the air, the one when we are put back in the earth, and the one that will erase us completely and no one will remember us at all” (Danticat, 177). Freda’s statement is in agreement with theological teachings about death; when we die we breathe our last, we are buried, and finally no one knows what happens to us after that.
Additionally, the dew breaker, who is Ka’s father, suffers from frequent and persistent nightmares. The dreams consist ‘of what Iyour father, did to others,’ he tells Ka (Danticat, 23). This statement is used specifically to show that people do not get dissociated from their earlier brutal activities just because time has passed; their past misdeeds haunt them, traumatizing the. In addition, as he prepares to tell her daughter the truth, he throws the statue she made of him into the lake to symbolize a renewal. The sculpture depicted him as a victim, and he was keen to stop being a living lie and let the truth be known by his daughter. The actions of the dew breaker demonstrate the theological teaching that if you bad things to other people, the same bad things are bound to happen to you. It is impossible to go scot free. A lot of guilt hounds the dew breaker, and he can no longer live with it. It is consuming him from within. To free himself from it, he decides to share the truth with his daughter. Throwing of the sculpture also demonstrates the philosophical belief of detaching ourselves from unwanted side or things that paint us in bad light.
Elsewhere, the dew breaker had a physical scar on his face that was caused by his last prisoner; the preacher. The author chooses this scar as a permanent reminder for the dew breaker not to forget his own trauma. Every time the dew breaker will look in the mirror, he will be disturbed by this scar, and he will ultimately remember the preacher, and be reminded of the truth that he cannot run away from. The scar is used specifically to send a message to the reader that we cannot hide from the truth. Hiding away from the truth is philosophically impossible. Being ready to face the truth is the sure way to gain our freedom. It noted that we lie most when we lie to ourselves.
The ‘Dew Breaker’ by Danticat uses specific symbols, fascinating wording, and various characters to pass important messages to readers while at the same time communicating fluently about the agonies suffered by the Haitian people during the brutal regimes. The symbols are specifically chosen, and characters are allocated roles which they play exceedingly well to bring out the issues of justice, bad leadership, and disregard for the sanctity of human life.
Danticat, Edwidge. "The Dew Breaker. 2004." New York: Vintage (2005).
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