Children of the Sea

Survival in
the Reign of Terror
Edwidge Dandicat
“The Children of the Sea”
General Themes
The author Edwidge Dandicat and Krik?Krak, the
tradition and the collection of short stories.
“Children of the Sea” –”survival” of humanity
the woman’s experience
The man’s
Humanity at times of trial
Ironies (1): Nature
Ironies (2): Letter Writing
For your reference & Reference
General Theme: Edwidge Dandicat
and Fugees
One kind of diaspora: refugees –do they reject
their past or can they?
The lives of Haitians and Haitian immigrants.
"new folk ethos“:
the definitive cultural forms produced by Africans, or
those of African descent, since the Atlantic Passage.
five elements: 1. Music and dance, 2. Drums and
rhythms, 3. Rhetorical and polemical speech (e.g.
rap and dub poetry), 4. Art as education and
entertainment, and 5. Humor and absurdity.
(Ref. Martha Cobb Harlem, Haiti, and Havana )
Author~Edwidge Danticat
Born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti
January 19, 1969, starting writing
at 9
grew up in Haiti under the
dictatorship of "Baby Doc"
Emigrated to Brooklyn, New York
1981, (age 12) spoke little English
then, yet published her first
writings in English only two years
Studied in Barnard College for
French Literature 1990, Brown
College for Fine Art 1993
Beginning, 1978
Breath, Eyes,
Memory, 1994 (the
rural practice of
testing a girl’s
Kric? Krac! 1995
Farming of the
Bones, 1998
Kric? Krac!
“Kric” and “Krac”
A weaver of tales
a Haitian storytelling
tradition in which the
"young ones will know
what came before
them. They ask Krik?
We say Krak! Our
stories are kept in our
Dandicat’s use of Krik? Krak!
While that [“krik krak”] is the standard ending
(sometimes opening) for a Caribbean story,
the stories are usually anancy stories and
folktales with moral lessons.
Danticat’s nightmarish tales are a far cry from
those, but her tales do carry a moral lesson –
about the powerful and the powerless, about
the failure of food to triumph over evil.”
(Carribean Women Writers ERIKA J.
Kric? Krac!: Stories of Common
She tells us of "kitchen poets," women
who "slip phrases into their stew and
wrap meaning around their pork before
frying it." (note)
“. . .poor people who had extraordinary
dreams but also very amazing
obstacles." (source: )
Krik?Krak! (3): on Women
Collective Biography of Haitian women.
“In many ways, each of these 10 stories (in Krik?
Krak!) is part of the same tale. Women lose who
and what they love to poverty, to violence, to
politics, to ideals. The author’s deceptively
artless stories are not of heroes but of survivors,
of the impulse toward life and death and the urge
to write and to tell in order not to forgot.” (ELLEN
e.g. Celianne –a woman with a still-born; in
"Caroline's Wedding," there is a scene were a
congregation prays for her and her child during
Haiti: in the Greater Antilles
1. the Bahamas to
the North East of Cuba
the Greater Antilles
Haiti: a Country with many
The name of Haiti means mountainous
country, which was given by the former
Taino-Arawak people.
Columbus discovered Haiti.
Spanish conquered
Spanish ceded the
domination of Haiti to
1697~1791 The richest colony in the
Haiti: 2 Independence
1791 the first major black rebellion
took place.
1796 the former slaves prevailed
under the leadership of
Toussaint L’Ouverture
1804 the Republic of Haiti
The first independent black nation.
Recent Haiti: Political Upheaval
The failed dictatorship
1915~1934 The US invaded Haiti
for 19 years
Francois Duvalier
“Papa Doc” became
the president, ensuring his
power through his private militia, the
tontons macoutes (which means in kreyol,
“uncle boogeyman“ 惡魔).
Recent Haiti: Refugees
1971 Duvalier died and his son
Jean- Claud “Baby Doc”
succeed. By this time Haiti is the poorest
country in the western hemisphere (and remains so
to this day).
1972 Arrival of
“boat people”
in Florida.
Haitian Race and Culture
-Divisions of race and class between
blacks(about 95% of population)
and mulattos(about 5%)
-Nearly all blacks speak Creole
-French is spoken mainly by the
mulatto elite, and is the official
Haitian Race and culture(2)
-An animistic African religion that has
been melded with Catholicism
-80% people believe in Catholicism
and 5% people are
Protestant;Voodoo is popular among
the farming society
Voodoo Festival
Survival in “Chidren of the Sea”
Starting Questions
Love & Gender:
How are the two lovers related to each other?
Why do they not havenames? (Kompe should be a
term of address.)
Survival and Deaths:
What different stories of survival & death do they
each tell? (e.g. Madan Roger; Celianne; Lionel;
Swiss; Justin Moise Andre Nozius Joseph Frank
Osnac Maxilmilen)
What are the minor characters’(e.g. Madame Roger,
Celianne, an old man) ways of surviving or resisting
the dictatorship? Why did the baby of Celianne,
Swiss,not cry at all on the boat?
What do you think about the ending of the story
Survival in “Chidren of the Sea”
Starting Questions
Style & Theme:
In this ‘human’ tragedy, what roles does
nature play? e.g. butterflies (5, 25, 28-29);
banyan tree, children of the sea, etc.
Why do we have two narrators?
What is the overall tone of the story? Sad,
ironic, or keeping some sense of hope?
The Girl
Though remembered as one protected by her
‘genteel’ mother and watched by her father (p.
9), she gets violent (4, 7) and rebellious (11).
Witnesses cruelties of the macoutes
Madame Roger’s son;
forcing incest;
Dogs licking dead faces, soldiers molesting
Communication with her mother p. 13 and
with her father p. 28
The man
※ dignity:avoid crying(p9), bathroom(p15)
※ his sense of identity:
Haitian – the song p. 9;
finally an African 11;
loses his sense of location on the boundless
sea (11)
Dream of ‘heaven’ 12
a sense of community: singing, sharing
food and story-telling 14
His Dream –of destruction and
I dream that we are caught in one hurricane
after another. I dream that winds come of
the sky and claim us for the sea. We go
under and no one hears from us again. (p.6)
ii. The other night I dream that I died and went
to heaven. This heaven was nothing like I
expected. It was at the bottom of the sea. (p.
11-12)  starfish and the mermaid having
Catholic Mass under the sea  Children of
the Sea
Humanity at times of trial
the boat people
Vulture 18; gossiping,
and fighting 20-21
an old man like a
painting, the boat like a
museum 21
The man --cannot
throw out the baby
between the old man
and the man: name
and message. 27
Under dictatorship
whether to rescue
Madame Roger.
hope used as a
weapon. 18
Humanity at times of trial (3)
Family -- Papa and Mamma: differences
Their different views of the two
protagonists’s love p. 13; --mama: ambition;
papa – not do her ‘good’
Their different social status: “he was a
gardener from Ville rose and her family was
from the city and some of them had even
gone to university” (p. 22);
Their responses to Madame Roger’s
disaster and death—rescue or not; selfdenial and mourning 17; 19
Manman speaks for Papa. Regrets being
mean to you(p. 5); how he saves her 24
Humanity at times of trial (3) –Love
The man –
The woman –
Sex as a way of intimacy. --loves some one in her
life. 22
Tried to win the father
Listen to the exam
Don’t marry a soldier
Writing under the
Remember their “silly
banyan tree
dreams”: “Passing the
university exams and
then studying hard to go
until the end, the farthest
of all we can go in school.
Notebook as his will
Ironies in
Symbols associated with nature
Love and red ants p. 3;
Mountains and endless sea as obstacles
endless mountains – p.3; p. 26 –signs of power?
–boundless and unpredictable p. 6;
sea – endless as love, too. The sea that is
“endless like my love for you” pp. 15; 29
the sun  associated with Africa pp. 11; 14; 2728 (going to Africa—losing their direction)
Butterfly – superstition, her father’s hand;
Banyan tree p. 26 --a spiritual support, most trusted friend,
holiness; can gods hear them?
Irony(2): the Letters will never
reach each other
Motivation: keeping their connection with a
faith in their reunion. “I will keep writing like we
promise to do. When we see each other again, it will
seem like we lost no time” (p. 8)
Awareness of not meeting again. “It was nice
imagining that I had you here to talk to.”  A
poignant revision of the Krik, Krak tradition. (p. 27)
His love will live when he becomes a child of the sea.
Conclusion: Despite all the weaknesses, evils,
deaths and ironies they witness and/or experience,
love and human connections are confirmed in their
For your reference
"Epilogue: Women Like Us."
Writers don't leave any mark in the world. Not the
world were we are from. [In Haiti, only politicians
You remember thinking while braiding your hair
that you look a lot like your mother and her mother
before her. It was their whispers that pushed you,
their murmurs over pots sizzling in your head. a
thousand women urging you to speak through the
blunt tip of your pencil. Kitchen poets, you call
them. Ghosts like burnished branches of a flame
tree. These women, they asked for your voice so
that they could tell your mother in your place that
yes, women like you do speak, even if they speak
in tongues that are hard to understand.
Caribbean Women Writers