Nineteen Thirty-Seven in Krik Krak

Nineteen Thirty-Seven in Krik Krak

The short story “Nineteen Thirty Seven” is part of a collection of short stories titled Krik? Krak!.  The history of the writer’s traditions is well explored in the story with an emphasis on the Haitian culture from which the writer learned to tell stories. In fact, the title of the collection is derived from the Haitian culture of asking for a story by saying Krik the response of which is Krak. In this particular story, Danticat uses a female protagonist to delve back into history and explore the older generations’ way of doing things. The writer uses Josephine, the main character, to explore the history of the past through the stories that her mother and grandmother share with her. The story is a manifestation of the history of the Haitian people and particularly the capital where Danticat was brought up.

The history of the Haitian capital is well captured in the short story’s title, Nineteen Thirty Seven. In fact, the trouble that Haitians suffered under the Dominican soldiers that is documented in the short story occurred in the same year. The story is told through the characters of Josephine and her mother, both of who had a strong relationship to this massacre. In one instance, Josephine’s mother talks of how her mother had attempted to escape by the river but was eventually captured, killed and then dumped into the river. This is the same fate that had begotten the real people that had lived in the capital in those years. In fact, the writer goes on to show the strong connection that Haitian people have with the river by stating that Josephine and others visited the river annually in remembrance of their lost mothers. Essentially, and by extension, they were “all daughters of that river that had taken their mothers from them” (Danticat, p. 35).

The story further focuses on young women that are in a rush to understand their ancestry and the history that befell their people. At the centre of this theme is Josephine who is particularly obsessed and affected by her grandmother’s death at the hands of the Haitian soldiers. The younger generation is pitted as trying to understand and relate with their preceding generations. The story starts with Josephine carrying a statue on her way to visit her mother in prison. The reason for Josephine’s mother’s imprisonment is given as witchcraft which was well prevalent in the traditional times. By portraying one of the characters as having a trait that was prevalent in the past, the writer is able to capture the history of the people albeit not entirely.

The history of the country is also documented through the statue that Josephine carries on her way to visit her mother in prison. In fact the symbolism of the statue is quite important in showing the death of Josephine’s mother through the shedding of tears by the statue. In addition to this, the writer reveals that the statue has been in possession of the family for the longest time thus depicting the history of Josephine’s family. The value of the statue is further accentuated by the fact that majority of the women in the prison want to fondle it and have its possession. In addition, the history of the people of Haiti is portrayed through the many women that have been accused of witchcraft. In ancient Haitian times, witchcraft was widely practiced and was actually believed to be the cause of death among children. By showing the increased number of women accused of witchcraft, the writer depicts a history that was not only wrong but one that discriminated against women in society.

The theme of family closeness and togetherness is also explored in understanding the history of the people of Haiti. In particular, the family of Josephine is at the center of this understanding and the connection between the members is thoroughly explored. In so doing, the story underlines the importance of the Haitian people keeping records of their history and passing the same to new generations. This importance is depicted in the way in which Manman talked about her mother to Josephine thus passing on information that Josephine didn’t know about. The story underlies the importance of passing down information on history and heritage of a people. Josephine, for instance details the importance of remembering ancestors killed by the Dominican soldiers through rituals and respect. She states that their mothers ‘were the embers while we are the sparks’ (Danticat, p. 37). This is to mean that the values that the people currently have are as a result of the work of their mothers.

The importance of history is then portrayed in the fighting spirit that Manman relentlessly showed in a bid to save her daughter Josephine. The story records that Manman swarm across the river despite the Dominican soldiers chopping off her mother’s body. The scenario supports the value of maintaining a people’s history because even though her mother was killed, Manman was able to pass on the history to her child Josephine and to many others. Essentially, the story talks of Manman salvaging her daughter’s life through her action. Most importantly, her actions as recorded in the book are helpful in salvaging the history of the Haitian people.


Works cited

Danticat, Edwidge. Krik? Krak!, 2015. Print.
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