Currently at sea on a boat with 36 other people, he looks at the sky and relives memories from their childhood. Looking around the boat, he notes that its sails are white bed sheets spotted with blood. He tells her he was fine with her decision and that he just wanted to be close to her. Back in Haiti, the female letter writer despairs about her life. The sound of bullets floods the streets day and night. The schools have closed, the old president has fled, and the army has taken over.
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The story of a young couple separated by political strife in Haiti, it received positive attention from critics as did the book, and the author quickly gained a reputation as one of the most promising writers in the United States. The tragic story, which concerns a doomed fate of a young couple, concerns many of the issues Danticat addresses in her other stories and in her novel, Breath, Eyes, Memory, which was published in Author Biography Brought up in Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, Edwidge Danticat has had firsthand experience with many of the harrowing events she relates in her stories.
Four years later her parents immigrated to the United States, leaving their young daughter behind. She rejoined them in , and the family settled in Brooklyn, New York. She felt somewhat like an outsider at school, and she took refuge in her isolation by writing about her homeland.
As a teenager, she began writing the novel Breath, Eyes, Memory, which became her first published work in The collection was nominated for the National Book Award, and the author was named one of the best young American novelists by Granta magazine the following year. In her short career, Danticat has been praised for her lyrical prose and has been compared to Alice Walker , the author of The Color Purple.
It is a role that makes the young author uncomfortable. There are many. Plot Summary The story opens with an unnamed narrator, a young Haitian revolutionary, thinking of his girlfriend.
He is on a small boat that has set sail for Miami, Florida. He is going into exile because he is wanted by the Haitian government. These details are disclosed by the young woman, who is the second narrator of the story. While her lover has left the country, she remains behind with her mother and father. The man and woman tell their stories through a series of letters.
Though they cannot mail these letters, they are writing to appease their loneliness while they are away from one another. When they are reunited, they will feel as if they have not been apart.
In Haiti the young man, a university student, was a member of a youth federation that protested the dictator and called for a new government. He fled the country when the secret police , known as the Tonton Macoutes , cracked down on his group. The young man speaks of the difficulties of life aboard the ship: the vomiting, the temperature changes, the lack of privacy, the shortage of food. He dreams that he has died and gone to heaven, only heaven is at the bottom of the sea.
The young woman is also in heaven, but her father continues to keep them apart. But the father knows he can do nothing for his neighbor, and that it is impossible even to protect his own family. On board the ship a young teenager named Celianne gives birth to a dead baby. The passengers gossip about her, saying her parents kicked her out for having an affair, but the truth is much worse.
One night the secret police came to her house and forced her brother, a revolutionary, to have sex with their mother.
The soldiers then raped Celianne and arrested her brother. She cut her face with a razor so no one would know who she was, and then she escaped on the boat. The young woman tells her father of her love for the young man. Her mother tells her that the Tonton Macoutes had intended to arrest her because of her involvement with a member of the youth federation.
The young woman does not know how to thank her father. On the radio, she hears her lover passed his university exams. On board the ship everything is tossed overboard. Celianne throws her baby into the sea and then jumps in herself. The young man is forced to throw away his notebook. Before doing so, he writes the last page which contains his final thoughts.
He knows that even in death he will always remember his girlfriend. Right after the young woman thanks her father for saving her life, a black butterfly tells her the news about the boat. She hears on the radio that the soldiers are killing more people in Port-au-Prince, and she realizes that she cannot stay safely in Ville Rose forever. She sits under the banyan tree, which her mother tells her is holy, surrounded by black butterflies.
From where she sits the sea is hidden by the mountains, but she knows it will always be there, endless, like her love for him. Characters Celianne Celianne is a young woman of fifteen who is on the boat with the first narrator. During the voyage she gives birth to a girl who is stillborn. The reader never learns his name, but he reveals his circumstance to the reader through his writings. He is at sea after having fled his homeland, and he has left behind the woman he loves.
As the story unfolds, more is learned about the young man from the other narrator in the story. He spends the entire duration of the story on a leaky boat escaping from Haiti to Florida. The reader never learns his fate because he is forced to throw his diary, which contains his half of the story, overboard.
The second narrator, the woman he has left behind, learns that another boat of refugees has been lost at sea. This strongly suggests that he has drowned.
Female narrator The second narrator is a young woman who lives with her family in Haiti. She has been romantically involved with the young man on the boat, and as the story progresses she comes to understand how much she loves him. Her feelings are repressed because to love him would be dangerous and arouse the opposition of her father.
She reveals little else about herself, but her presence in Haiti allows the reader to witness the tragedy inflicted upon the Haitian people by the dictatorial government. Many of them have been numbed into submission. Near the end of the story, however, the narrator tells her father that she loves the young man, proof that the political situation has failed to suppress the human spirit completely.
At the end of the story, after fleeing the city for the relative safety of Ville Rose she realizes that the young man she loves has died at sea in his attempt to escape.
While the Tontons Macoutes threaten the neighbors and his wife urges him to intervene, he forces her to remain quiet. He leads his family to Ville Rose, where they are safer than in the city. The father represents the actions and beliefs of the majority of the Haitian people. He wants to cause no trouble, not because he supports or believes in the government, but because he is afraid his family may be tortured or killed by the regime.
Topics for Further Study Find some other examples of epistolary novels and stories. Do you think diaries fit into this category? Investigate the role that the United States has played in Haitian politics during the s and s.
Do you think the U. Research what happens to refugees from Haiti and other Caribbean countries when they come to the United States. Where do many of them decide to live? Why do you suppose they choose to settle where they do? A totalitarian dictator has made his country an unbearable place to live. People are killed for disagreeing, for speaking publicly, and for trying to protect their families. Even when the young man is forced to flee for his life on a boat, injustice prevails.
The harsh conditions on the boat seem no better than the world they had left behind. Injustice prevails back home for the female narrator as well. The soldiers of Haiti rampage through the country, taking revenge on all the people who had opposed their authority during the short-lived Aristide administration. What they perceive as justice, however, is violent revenge that is manifested in murder, rape, and incest.
Injustice is so pervasive and overwhelming in the society, that most have stopped assessing it and can do no more than try to save themselves. In this way, Danticat uses storytelling to protest the injustice of a totalitarian regime. She wants readers to identify with her characters and be urged to feel outrage for the injustice they suffer. The soldiers rape Celianne, a cruel act that begets more violence when Celianne disfigures herself, then again when she commits suicide.
On the boat, the cruelty that has forced the refugees to flee again manifests itself when they consider getting rid of the weaker people on the boat. Violence results in more violence, Danticat shows. By comparing the refugees, soon to drown, to the African slaves hundreds of years ago, themselves forced from their homeland through violence and cruelty, Danticat connects the horrific acts of the past to those of the present. Human Rights Related to the themes of violence and politics is the issue of human rights.
The Western concept of human rights includes the right to free speech, to organize, to believe in democracy and religion, and not to live in fear from the government, among other things. Less apparent in the story, but providing an ominous undertone, is the realization that had the boat actually reached Miami, the refugees most likely would not have been granted political asylum by the United States, an act that some would also consider a violation of human rights.
The first belongs to a young man who is fleeing Haiti on a leaky boat. To do so would jeopardize their lives even more. The man on the boat is primarily concerned with his current predicament and writes about the people around him and the experience of being at sea. The woman, conversely, remains in Port-au-Prince and tends to reminisce about the past more, since her situation is not as dire. Through her memories, the reader learns many of the background details of the story.
The difference in their personalities is shown by the way each of them discusses their relationship. The young man speaks naturally about their intimacy; the woman is more shy and hesitating. This difference may also represent the cultural attitudes of their country.
Setting The two settings in the story, the middle of the sea and the island of Haiti, underscore the conflict in the story—that a couple in love has been separated by political upheaval.
Across this distance there is no connection between the two main characters. Their separation has been absolute, though they try to bridge the gap with letters. But even these letters will never be read by the other person.
Introduction & Overview of Children of the Sea
Children Of The Sea By Edwidge Danticat Analysis
Children of the Sea