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Survival in the Reign of Terror. Edwidge Dandicat “The Children of the Sea”. Outline. General Themes The author Edwidge Dandicat and Krik?Krak , the tradition and the collection of short stories. Haiti “Children of the Sea” –”survival” of humanity Questions the woman’s experience

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Survival in the Reign of Terror

Edwidge Dandicat

“The Children of the Sea”

Outline l.jpg

  • General Themes

  • The author Edwidge Dandicat and Krik?Krak, the tradition and the collection of short stories.

  • Haiti

  • “Children of the Sea” –”survival” of humanity

    • Questions

    • the woman’s experience

    • The man’s

    • Humanity at times of trial

    • Ironies (1): Nature

    • Ironies (2): Letter Writing

  • For your reference & Reference

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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 )

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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" Duvalier

  • Emigrated to Brooklyn, New York 1981, (age 12) spoke little English then, yet published her first writings in English only two years later.

  • Studied in Barnard College for French Literature 1990, Brown College for Fine Art 1993

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  • Beginning, 1978

  • Breath, Eyes, Memory, 1994 (the rural practice of testing a girl’s virginity)

  • Kric? Krac! 1995

  • Farming of the Bones, 1998

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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 hearts".

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Dandicat’s use of Krik? Krak! tradition

  • 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. WATERS)

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Kric? Krac!: Stories of Common People

  • 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: )

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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 storiesarenot 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 KANNERCARRIBBEAN WOMEN WRITERS)

  • 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 mass.

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Haiti: in the Greater Antilles

1. the Bahamas to the North East of Cuba 

the Greater Antilles




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Haiti: a Country with many languages

  • The name of Haiti means mountainous country, which was given by the former Taino-Arawak people.

  • 1492 Columbus discovered Haiti.

  • ~1600 Spanish conquered


  • 1697 Spanish ceded the

    domination of Haiti to


  • 1697~1791 The richest colony in the


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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.

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Recent Haiti: Political Upheaval

  • ~1820 The failed dictatorship

  • 1915~1934 The US invaded Haiti

    for 19 years

  • 1957 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).

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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.

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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 language.

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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

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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

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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?

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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 women.

  • Communication with her mother p. 13 and with her father p. 28

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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

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    His Dream –of destruction and sublimation

    • 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)

    • 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

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    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 Swiss,

    Communication 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

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    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; self-denial and mourning 17; 19

    • Manman speaks for Papa. Regrets being mean to you(p. 5); how he saves her 24

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    The man –

    Sex as a way of intimacy.

    Tried to win the father over.

    Don’t marry a soldier

    Remember their “silly dreams”: “Passing the university exams and then studying hard to go until the end, the farthest of all we can go in school. (p.21)

    Notebook as his will

    The woman –

    --loves some one in her life. 22

    Listen to the exam result.

    Writing under the banyan tree

    Humanity at times of trial (3) –Love

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    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

    • sun

      • the sun  associated with Africa pp. 11; 14; 27-28 (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?

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    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 lives.

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    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 write.]

      • 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.

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    • Caribbean Women Writers