In the novel, "Turning the Pages on Disaster," Danticat writes from the perspective of a Haitian American. How does her voice shape the content of the essay? What does she reveal about herself and...

In the novel, "Turning the Pages on Disaster," Danticat writes from the perspective of a Haitian American. How does her voice shape the content of the essay? What does she reveal about herself and her environment? Explain the effect of her "I" or first-person point of view. 

1 Answer | Add Yours

akannan's profile pic

Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

Danticat writes from a first person perspective of a Haitian- American in her article regarding the Haitian Earthquake in 2010.  Danticat writes from the first person perspective for a couple of distinct reasons.  The first is that she wishes to give voice to those who might lack it.  One of the dominant themes in Danticat's writing is the idea that other histories have supplanted those which authentically reflect Haiti's.  Danticat strives to make "known the history of her nation while also diversifying conceptions of the country beyond those of victimization."  In being able to speak from a first person perspective, Danticat shapes the content of the essay in its insistence on voice.  She speaks with survivors and articulates the reality that is in front of her.  In relaying this in the first person, she is "telling a story."  Danticat is telling the story of Haiti, something that might have been lost in the media's retelling or the other metahistories that have developed a bias towards victimization in Haiti.

Danticat is open about the fact that the massive force of the earthquake has done much to relegate survivors into the realm of the voiceless:  "Many of those who survived moved into improvised displacement camps, some in public squares and other open spaces."   It is in this light where the use of the first person narrative tool illuminates a reality that might be silenced.  In using first person, Danticat's own voice allows their voices to emerge.  First person narrative shapes the content of the essay in making it an eyewitness account, something that must be acknowledged and validated in the reader's mind.

The eyewitness aspect of the first person narrative helps to reveal how Danticat is both author and active participant.  Danticat is concerned with how the earthquake might shape the narrative of the Haitian people if told from the point of view of a detached observer.  Danticat, who lost a cousin in the 2010 disaster, recognizes that it impacts her as both thinker and human being. When she writes that, "One year ago this month, the world turned upside down for Haiti," the first person effect shapes her writing as both active participant and thought- provoking artist.  This helps to provide a distinct sense of voice to the essay because it informs on both narrative and historical levels.  

The fact that Danticat is Haitian- American resonates with the reader because it speaks to how her own life was "turned upside down" as a result of what happened in Haiti.  It is here in which the first person narrative is effective in conveying how natural disasters create both sociological/ historical impacts as well as subjective ones.  Using the first person helps to enhance this dual level of impact on the reader, mirroring the reality created in Danticat's mind.  In writing in first person narrative, it is convincingly related to the reader.

Sources:

We’ve answered 318,930 questions. We can answer yours, too.

Ask a question