Last Reviewed on October 4, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 849
Like all parents, they were a society of two, sharing a series of private codes and associations, a past that even if I’d been born in the country of their birth, I still wouldn’t have known, couldn’t have known, thoroughly. I was a part of them. Some might say I belonged to them. But I wasn’t them.
The first story in Danticat’s The Dew Breaker is “The Book of the Dead.” The story is narrated by Ka, a sculptor who struggles to understand her parents, who are originally from Haiti. At some point in their conversation, after her mother reiterates her father’s words, Ka reflects on the absolute closeness her parents have with each other. Here, Danticat’s comparison—of marriage to one’s relationship to their country of birth—is essential to the overall themes of The Dew Breaker. Notions of love and longing are often explored throughout the book, and Danticat pointedly expresses that two people, by virtue of their union, can essentially form one country themselves. This is because, in The Dew Breaker, intimacy is the common ground of both romantic love and nationalism.
Nadine was tempted to warn Ms. Hinds that whatever form of relief she must be feeling now would only last for a while, the dread of being voiceless hitting her anew each day as though it had just happened, when she would awake from dreams in which she’d spoken to find that she had no voice, or when she would see something alarming and realize that she couldn’t scream for help, or even when she would realize that she herself was slowly forgetting, without the help of old audio or videocassettes or answering-machine greetings, what her own voice used to sound like.
In Danticat’s “The Water Child,” Nadine is a nurse who works in the Ear, Nose, and Throat wing of the hospital. One of her patients, Ms. Hinds, throws a panicked tantrum when she wakes up and realizes her voice box had been removed during surgery. Nadine is the only nurse who can successfully comfort her. The day she is discharged, Ms. Hinds calls for Nadine. As Nadine waves goodbye to Ms. Hinds, she thinks to herself the passage excerpted above—that to be voiceless is a terrible condition, one from which no one can ever fully recover. Similarly, throughout the story, we see Nadine metaphorically losing her voice. She refuses to talk to her colleagues, call her parents back, or engage in any social activities. She’s been through so many traumatic experiences that she now feels like a stranger to herself, as if she can’t even recognize her own voice.
We come every year, but it’s always the same thing. Same choir. Same songs. Same Mass. It was only a Mass. Nothing more. It’s never as fabulous as one of your miracles.
In “The Book of Miracles,” Anna, her husband, and her daughter are on their way to Christmas Mass. Anna, who is a devout Christian and believer in divine miracles, is the protagonist. In the first part of the story, she relates to her family tales of miracles from overseas. These stories, however, are met with skepticism, for her daughter and husband have very modern sensibilities. Throughout the story, it is clear that Anna is unsatisfied with her family’s faith, even as she struggles with faith herself. At the end of the story, Anna’s daughter tells her that Christmas Mass is always the same thing: devoid of miracles. Anna, however, considers forgiveness to be a small miracle—and it is something she consistently has to do.
They could have walked these foreign streets in them, performing their own carnival. Since she didn’t know the language, they wouldn’t have to speak or ask any questions of the stony-faced people around them. They could carry out their public wedding march in silence, a temporary silence, unlike the one that had come over them now.
These are the last lines of Danticat’s “Seven.” “Seven” relates the story of a man and his wife reuniting after seven years of having been apart. The couple endured separation as the man left to work abroad while his wife stayed back in their home country. After her visa is finally approved, the wife goes after her husband, and they are happily reunited. Throughout the story, however, we see—through their thoughts and reflections—how they each fared having been away from each other. We also see that they have been unfaithful to each other. The “carnival” of these lines is the one from their home country where they met and fell in love. In the carnival, there is a customary prank where a couple disguises themselves as each other and asks passers-by to marry them. The couple in “Seven” had participated in that custom, except they did not disguise themselves at all. This fact is referred to at the end of the story to convey the couple’s melancholy as they both realize the falsehoods of their marriage.
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