A Wall of Fire Rising Questions and Answers
by Edwidge Danticat

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In "A Wall of Fire Rising" by Edwidge Danticat, what do you think the hot-air balloon symbolizes to Assad, its owner? To Guy? To the implied author? The title of the story alludes to a speech that Litle Guy must memorize for a school play about Haiti's history. The lines of the speech are rich in figurative language, including metaphors: "A wall of fire is raising and in the ashes, I see the bones of my people." How do the title's allusion and other aspects of the story confirm that the speech's image of "a wall of fire" is symbolic?  What do you think happens at the end of "A Wall of Fire Rising"? Is Guy's plunge to the earth a deliberate suicide or an accident? What are some symbolic interpretations of both possibilities?

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What does the hot air balloon symbolize?

To the Assad son who buys the hot air balloon, it symbolizes a kind of whimsy that he can afford. Because the Assads are “eccentric Arabs” who also own the mill that provides desirable employment for men in the town, they are outsiders not only by ethnicity but also by class. The hot air balloon symbolizes this otherness.

To Guy, the hot air balloon symbolizes an ethereal hope. Guy shows his wife how the hot air balloon works by burning a piece of paper and watching the charred flakes float down to earth. The balloon symbolizes the “miracle” that he can escape from his life and find somewhere “with a nice plot of land where I could be something new.” It is telling that when Guy mentions his plans to his wife, he does not include her or their son.

To the narrator, the hot air balloon symbolizes danger, loneliness, and infidelity. We can see this in the way that Lili talks about her dislike of it: she is worried that Guy will hurt...

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