Introduction

(Masterpieces of American Literature)

It is not entirely accurate to call The Dew Breaker a novel. It is really a collection of interrelated stories. Each story has its own plot, setting, and group of characters. Each story also sheds light on the main character of the novel, a mild-mannered Haitian American barber and family man who had been a “dew breaker,” or torturer, during the dictatorship of François Duvalier during the 1960’s. (These torturers were known as “dew breakers” because they made their arrests very early in the morning, breaking the dew on the grass with their footsteps.)

The book opens with an encounter between Ka Bienaimé, a sculptor and teacher, and her father, the dew breaker. Ka has grown up believing that her father was once a prisoner in Haiti, and that his scarred face is a result of torture. She has created a sculpture of her father in which she has tried to capture his experience as a prisoner, and a famous Haitian American actress has expressed interest in purchasing the sculpture. However, just before Ka is to deliver the sculpture, her father suddenly disappears with it. He returns some hours later, saying that he has dumped the sculpture into a lake because he does not “deserve a statue” and confessing the truth to his daughter: He was never in prison. He was a torturer who killed and maimed people and rounded them up for prison. His scar is the result of a fight with a prisoner whom he murdered.

The chapters that follow let the reader glimpse the perspectives of...

(The entire section is 611 words.)