“A Wall of Fire Rising:” Despair, Freedom, and Symbolism

“A Wall of Fire Rising:” Despair, Freedom, and Symbolism

Edwidge Danticat utilizes her short story, “A Wall of Fire Rising,” to paint a picture of life in Haiti for the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. In particular, the elemental story, as well as a haunting tale, revolves around a father’s shame and feeling of guilt and a child’s innocence, in addition to a mother’s love. The narrative is centered on the various forms of difficulties that a poor family has to endure in a country remains characterized by political and economic oppression of people in the lower social class. The story’s protagonist, Guy, feels guilty because he has failed to provide a good life for his family (Chen 43). He is not only trapped but also desperate because they are least likely to leave the situation. Although Guy loves and cherishes his wife and child, their presence and inability to lead a fulfilling life is a reminder that he is a failure.

The theme of despair and hope dominates the story, with Guy and Lili and Little Guy representing the former and the latter, respectively. In particular, Guy spends considerable amount of time complaining and lamenting about his generation. He argues that his family tree can best be described as a cycle of despair. According to Guy, his own father lived not only as a struggling man with meagre income but also inherited his poverty from his grandfather. In Guy’s own words while speaking to his wife: “I remember him as a man I would never want to be” (Danticat 155). On the other hand, the story’s title, “A Wall of Fire Rising,” traces its roots from a play, Dutty Boukman, which Little Guy is busy acting. According to this play, Boukman is a celebrated Haitian revolutionary whose acts of valor led to the independence of Haiti from France. Danticat has used the play symbolically to represent hope in Little Guy. In essence, Boukman is a figure that goes a long way in resonating with the already-solidifying feelings and themes of hope and freedom in the story’s setting.

Danticat’s main characters, Guy’s family, hold different views about freedom. For Little Guy, freedom is one of the major concepts or subject matter in the play. This learns of this when he enjoys memorizing the play, especially lines about forthcoming freedom (Danticat 61). In other words, the 7-year-old boy has little to no idea about what constitutes leading a free and satisfying life. In contrast, Guy is convinced that freedom is impossible because his life has been shaped by struggles. He focuses on the high rates of unemployment in their towns and the lack of food, with his family members surviving some nights on flavored water, thoughts and events that led him to suicide (Danticat 80). Lili is partly optimistic because she believes the Assads are too powerful to overcome, while at the same time, hopeful and appreciate her husband’s efforts: “The boy never goes to bed hungry” (Danticat 74). Ultimately, Danticat’s thoroughly engrossing story in “A Wall of Fire Rising” is a depiction of difficulties faced by Haitians and their heroic acts towards achieving freedom.

Works Cited

Chen, Wilson. “Figures of Flight and Entrapment in Edwidge Danticat’s Krik? Krak!” Rocky Mountain Review, 2011, pp. 36-55.

 Danticat, Edwidge. “A Wall of Fire Rising.” Krik? Krak, 1996, pp. 51-80.

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