Tuesday, November 18, 2008

One theme that is prevalent in Danticat’s novel is the idea of connectedness. She slowly and deliberately reveals the generational connections between her characters. Actions of one generation have real, concrete effects on future generations. Like They Who Do Not Grieve, there is a line of tragedy that connects the various narrators in the first half of the novel, from 1937 onward to the war-torn Haiti of the 1980’s and 90’s.

Furthermore, it seems that the experiences a person goes through, be they good or bad, make that person who they are. Take for example Little Guy. As a youth, he is cast as a Haitian freedom fighter in the school play. It might seem like a small part of his life, but it resonates. The effect of this is not lost on Guy. His tears after hearing his small son recite the play lines are truly moving. Little Guy, despite the fact that, “It was obvious that this was a speech written by a European man, who gave to the slave revolutionary Boukman the kind of European phrasing that might have sent the real Boukman turning in his grave” (56) comes to identify with his role. It seems that Danticat is implying this part of his life inspired him to be the freedom-fighting radio operator he eventually becomes. He himself seems of conscious of this when he writes, “You probably do not know much about this because you have always been so closely watched by your father … If anything I am jealous. If I was a girl, maybe I would have been at home and not out politicking” (9).

The other element that contributed to Little Guy’s desire to effect positive change is his father’s grisly suicide. Guy was a man that toiled in demeaning labor, cleaning latrines for pennies. Then, a life of menial labor ends tragically and bizarrely. When Little Guy recites his lines over his father’s corpse, it is as if he is declaring, “I will fight so that people like my father are not driven to such extreme ends.”

With the idea of connectedness in mind, it is fitting that this class performed the Examen before delving into Krik Krak. Despite going to a Jesuit high school, I had never been challenged with the Examen and the experience was interesting and rewarding. It seems that the class agreed on the connectedness of the world. In other words, like the world of Krik Krak, our actions in either the context of the Loyola community or the world at large affect other people’s lives. The example used in class of someone holding a door or slamming it in your face fits in with this line of thinking. It might seem like a trivial point, but either event could influence a person’s day positively or negatively.

More broadly though, it was said at the beginning of the semester that our values and past experiences will prejudice our travel experience. We take those past events with us, especially when traveling. It is those events that define how we view new places. Just as the events of Little Guy’s life shaped his personality, so too do the experiences of our lives affect the way we behave. Our past is connected to our future. .

But the beauty of traveling is that sometimes we take away new or at least altered lenses, which allow us see the world in different ways. We might see things we never saw before.

Those new lenses, in a sense, are the ultimate souvenirs, like tattoos. And like tattoos, they can be altered or changed depending on experience. We can’t actively remove our lenses, otherwise they would not be lenses, like we can remove or change a tattoo. But by experiencing foreign cultures, peoples, values, and religions, as well as dozens of other institutions, our prejudices can be altered.

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