Thursday, November 18, 2010

Hopeful and Frightening Belief

Both “Children of the Sea” and “Nineteen Thirty-Seven” feature characters who hold beliefs in a mysticism which seems to subtly, and never unambiguously, affect reality. Kompé in “Children of the Sea” believes that the ocean is a gateway into a watery “heaven” where it is possible to live free from “the chains of slavery” which the political situation in Haiti has placed on him (12, 27). The reader is given the responsibility of reconciling this utopian view of the ocean with the “merc[iless]” body of water which Kompé and his fellow passengers are combating against to survive (26). One could be left with the impression that Kompé reinterprets and personifies the ocean as a way to cope with its apathy. If the reader accepts this premise, the character’s statement at the conclusion of the story that he “was chosen to live… with Agwé at the bottom of the sea” is not an example of catharsis but insanity (27, 28). However, considering that the other protagonist in the story, Kompé’s love interest, espouses a belief in the ability of butterflies to signify life and death that is seemingly confirmed when a black butterfly appears soon after her lover drowns, I would guess that Danticat intends for the reader to embrace Kompé’s trust in a similarly ethereal concept.

The narrator of “Nineteen Thirty-Seven” is surrounded by persons who claim to have an understanding of mysticism. The narrator’s mother views the Massacre River as possessing a holy quality which gives those who survived the genocide committed near it “wings of [flame],” and while the reader of “Children of the Sea” is left exclusively with the conundrum of whether the kingdom Kompé hopes for actually exists, in this story any confusion the reader has about the nature of the river’s power is matched by the narrator’s (41). I am reminded of my research on and our class’s discussion about The Voyage of the Dawn Treader earlier in the semester, and how one criticism of Aslan, which Laura Miller voiced in her book, was that his constant action in the plot made it easy to accept his status as a spiritual deity (Miller). The protagonist of “Nineteen Thirty-Seven,” in contrast, has no such clear example that would allow her to believe fully and happily in her mother’s powers. She is probably inclined to disagree with the people of Ville Rose’s claim that her mother is a “witch,” because they express their faith in the paranormal through fearful violence (39). To admit that her mother could perform magic would compel the protagonist to consider the possibility that the latter did “cause the death of a child,” or at least that the public’s fear might be valid (39). For the protagonist, the decision to believe in the spirituality which her mother associates with the river is not a choice between the barbaric temporal world and an idyllic unseen one, but one that requires trust in an incorporeal plane which could be as dangerous as the corporal one she lives in (OED).


Danticat, Edwidge. Krik? Krak! New York: Vintage Books, 1995.

Lewis, C.S. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.

Miller, Laura. The Magician’s Book: A Skeptic’s Adventures In Narnia.

Cassidy, Jessica. Johnson, Thomas. Bibliography for “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Part II” Presentation.

McCarthy, David Matzko. The Good Life: Genuine Christianity for the Middle Class. Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2004.

Oxford English Dictionary Online. Web.

Krik? Krak! is unlike any novel we have read thus far, as I find that Edwidge Danticat’s work has the heart-wrenching responsibility to expose to us readers that travel may not always be a leisurely activity. While we have seen characters traveling to foreign lands in hopes of a better life, like Ela in They Who Do Not Grieve, Danticat’s characters prove to us that traveling provides a much needed escape in separate life or death situations. The collection of short stories helped me realize that continuously moving may be the only way to ensure survival, as well as the fact that death can sometimes serve as a welcomed escape from the horrors of human existence. Krik? Krak! may not be my favorite piece thus far in the semester, as I feel is it geared towards a female audience; however, there are some crucial lessons to be learned throughout its pages. We’ve watched characters such as the nameless narrator, Josephine and Lili embody a sense of desperation and entrapment to their beloved Haiti, yet how is it possible to find beauty in a land run by absolute monsters? We’ve also seen the other narrator, Josephine’s mother, and Guy find freedom in the darkest depths of death. No matter our situation, whether static or on the run, our soul is on a constant journey towards a sense of understanding. The road to understanding hatred and evil will eternally lead to separate dead ends, yet the path to the acceptance of such is one that distinguish between those who travel to survive and those who travel to live. There is a drastic difference between living and surviving. Without taking the time for love and finding the beauty of life you are simply surviving. Yet, the persistence shown by the narrators of “Children of the Sea” shows a remarkable sign of life not everyone is lucky enough to embody.

As previously mentioned, there is a definite sense of external travel in Danticat’s Krik? Krak!. The male narrator escapes Haiti on a makeshift boat, Josephine’s mother fled the Dominican Republic a few precious hours away from labor, and Guy leaves his land with the help of a stolen hot air balloon. Although these characters embark on actual journeys, I’ve come to the conclusion that the travel crucial to these short stories is entirely internal. The journeys are incredibly challenging, and all involve the strides needed to overcome an internal struggle. After reading the first half of this book, terms like “we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it” or “that task is quite the climb” make much more sense. Internal struggles and outdoor excursions can be directly related. Before setting out on an expedition, one must prepare and assess all the possible diversions, setbacks, and challenges that await them. One must gather all the necessary equipment to ensure the completion of their experience, and once they are ready, they must set out without the turn of a head. Just as in the case of overcoming an internal struggle, it is required to muster up all courage possible and face the obstacle head on. If you set out on the path of life unprepared for its biggest hurdles, then there is no way you will make it as far as your potential would allow.

Kerouac Analysis

Part III: Brief Analysis

After leaving Bull Lee, Sal reflects, “What is that feeling when you’re driving away from people and they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing?—it’s the too-huge world vaulting us, and it’s good-by. But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies,” (156). This quote shows the way in which Sal’s feeling of insignificance in regards to the vastness of the world feeds his hunger for experience.

The image Sal uses here of people turning into specks on the horizon helps us to understand Sal’s idea of the relationship between the individual and the world. Particularly, he calls this world “too-huge,” suggesting that Sal’s perception of himself in regards to the world is as a very small and insignificant speck in comparison to the vastness of the world. This feeling of insignificance pervades Sal throughout the journey, and is partially the reason why he is attracted to Dean’s larger-than-life approach to life. Being a part of Dean’s journey gives him a sense of significance, for with Dean he enters into an adventure that is greater than simply himself.

This involvement with Dean and also his feeling of insignificance in the vastness of the world ignites an unquenchable thirst in Sal for more. In the quote above, Sal opens with the sorrow of saying goodbye, the inconsequentiality of the individual, and the overwhelming nature of the world. He seems to dismiss these ideas with his final sentence, “But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies.” Yet this is not a dismissal of his previous thoughts, it is precisely these thoughts and feelings that lead him to the “crazy venture,” they drive him to want experience and be significant. Hence, Sal “leans forward” into the experience, despite and also because of his insignificance. By traveling ”beneath the skies,” he realizes the vastness of the world, but does not get overwhelmed by it. He can focus on the present feeling, the present thrill, the present experience, rather than feeling smll and inconsequential. Hence, his fact-paced lifestyle has the power to conceal his true idea of insignificance.

In a way, the same thing happened when Dean first invited him to go across the country with him. At that point, Sal was living with his aunt in a sort of obscure and alone life, with a “feeling that everything was dead,” (1). Sal approaches travel from a place of insignificance, from a realization of the smallness of himself and the greatness of the world.

Journey with Love

The stories of the novel Krik? Krak? by Edwidge Danticat presents a journey that is forced on to the larger part of the characters of each story. This journey is one that others force onto them for they are persecuted by others and forced to leave their homelands for protection and their own safety. This journey is one of fleeing from a tyrannical harassment, never to return home, as opposed to that of a luxurious vacation trip. The forced journey of these characters particularly in the story “Children of the Sea” evokes simultaneous attitudes of love and hate in all characters affected. Hate stemming from the oppressive nature of the journey and love for those left behind or completing the journey; with the unknown nature of the journey ahead, there is not much more for the either sides to contemplate.

The story “Children of the Sea” depicts the love of a boy and girl through their compiled letters after they are separated by the boys forced journey. Having spoken out against the government who was after him, he is forced to flee Haiti to save his life. The focus of the story becomes that of the hateful persecution entwined with a story of love. “I cannot even see the sea. Behind these mountains are more mountains and more black butterflies still and a sea that is endless like my love for you,” (Danticat 29) expresses the girl in one of her letters. This passage presents a sweet morbidity, for she expresses her love for the boy all the while stating that this keeps him away and imply his death. She cannot see the sea and thus where he is but they are divided by mountains and black butterflies who speak of his death yet she still has love for him. It is an oppressive situation which begins the forced journey yet love which ends it.

The boy traveling expresses this love himself before the ship he is on sinks making him a child of the sea. He writes to the girl, “Maybe the sea is endless. Like my love for you,” (Danticat 15). Having been forced into this voyage beyond his homeland, the boy still expresses a love and hopefulness as he rights to the girl he loves. It is their love that becomes the focal point of the journey rather than the oppressive conditions they are subjected to as expressed in the letters. Love is simultaneously tied to the hate and abuse that is brought on by the government officers creating the need for the journey. Love is the connecting force that allows for redemption of the journey stemming from oppression. It is also love which allows for the outcome or end of the journey to be worthwhile, even if the characters are not able to be together, their love binds them with the possibility of being together beyond the journey that is life.

It appears that a journey forced out of hateful persecutions, produces a sort of love quality for those who have to take the journey or are affected by loved ones taking the journey. A journey forced under negative pretenses can be considered redeemable through the love involved between the people affected. Also love then transcends this sense of a hateful nature which becomes the force behind the journey. It is these contrasting ideas that arise in order to make a negative situation into a positive one and the idea that winning can be accomplished through love rather than hate.


“Now, Manman sat with the Madonna pressed against her chest, her eyes staring ahead, as though she was looking into the future. She had never talked very much about the future. She had always believed more in the past” (40).

Throughout her novel, Krik? Krak!, Edwidge Danticat allows her readers to become the travelers. As Kolvenbach encourages us to do in his speech, this novel permits readers to enter the gritty reality that the Haitian people have suffered for generations. Danticat’s use of story telling throughout the novel enables readers to learn about the lives of various individuals and the tragic stories that have passed on from one generation to the next. And as the reader dives into the gritty reality of various characters lives, the reader actual feels the pain.

However, Danitcat does not only want her readers to feel pain. Instead, she makes it a point to teach the reader through her stories that these tales of hardship are not something new or uncommon but rather they are stories that have existed for generations. These stories have defined the Haitian people for centuries. Like Manman in Nineteen Thirty-Seven, individuals find comfort in the shared pain of their people. Through characters such as Manman, the reader learns that looking to the future is no hope for these characters, so they find comfort in the past.

As Danticat’s characters share the stories of their grandmothers, mothers, and godmothers, the reader is left questioning: “When will this sadness end? When will the struggle stop?” Through Danticat’s use of imagery, the reader feels as though he or she is right there with Josephine as she watches her mother be burned, or sitting with Marie as she holds the dead baby Rose in her arms. However, stories are not the only way Danticat gets her readers to stop and think.

At one point in the novel, “Little Guy” writes “I also know there are timeless waters, endless seas, and lots of people in this world whose names don’t matter to anyone but themselves.” It is in this moment Danticat provides a direct dig at her readers. In this moment, Danticat emphasizes the selfish-ness of the individuals in this world and the lack of effort to help. Through Danticat’s stories of generational struggle, it becomes apparent to the reader that Haiti is not okay and has not been okay for generations. For this reason, Danticat writes Krik? Krak! In order for individuals to truly see what is going on in Haiti, they need to travel there and start caring about names other than their own. Once they read the descriptive tales, Danticat hopes that readers become inspired to help.

After reading the first half of the novel, I see the power travel literature can hold. Within her work Krik? Krak!, Danticat uses her novel as a wake up call for all individuals. Rather than being a novel read for entertainment, her novel is powerful. The stories of struggle that have been passed on throughout a single character’s life are meant to evoke emotion within the reader and inspire them to act. After traveling through generational struggle in Haiti, I want to learn more so that I can help. After entering the gritty reality, Danticat has inspired me to bring about change. Rather than questioning, “When will this sadness end? When will the struggle stop?” Instead, Danticat wants readers to do something about it. In other words, Krik? Krak! is not about reflection, it is about action.

Travel to Escape

One aspect of Krik? Krak! that I found interesting was that many of the characters seem to use travel, either internal or external, to escape their undesirable circumstances. In the “Children of the Sea” story the male character travels from Haiti towards America to escape punishment for being part of the youth federation while the female character is moved by her parents to another town to escape the same soldiers. However, their letters to one another also seem like a form of travel because by talking to one another and also expressing their love, they are able to escape the predicaments they are in and focus instead on another person and also mundane aspects of their lives like their university exams. Even though their letters never reach each other, they provide the characters with relief during the difficult external travel they are experiencing.

In “A Wall of Fire Rising” Guy seems trapped by his poor job prospects and his wife’s low expectations of him. He often can’t find work for days at a time and when he does get work, which he is excited about, his job is cleaning latrines at a sugarcane plantation. His wife, Lilli, seems proud enough of him despite this, but when he suggests putting their son on a list so he can hopefully have fulltime employment at the plantation Lilli protests saying that Little Guy is capable of other things. Guy is fascinated by the plantation’s hot air balloon and seems to find relief from the drudgery of everyday life in dreaming of it. Eventually he steals the balloon and travels externally up into the sky, escaping his life forever when he jumps from the balloon.

Similarly, “Between the Pool and the Gardenias” tells the story of Marie, a woman who is saddened by her husband’s infidelity as well as her inability to have a child while her husband has ten children with other women. To escape her life, Marie ran away from Ville Rose to Port-au-Prince. In the city, she finds a dead baby whom she names Rose and takes home with her. Marie pretends Rose is her child and will grow up and have all of the experiences the children Marie miscarried would have had; she talks to Rose as if she can listen and shares her life’s disappointments with her and keeps her long after Rose’s body has begun to decay. It seems that Marie uses her imagination to travel internally and escape the sad reality of her life.

The stories of Krik? Krak! seem to suggest that travel is one way of escaping a situation, either by physically traveling away from the situation or by placing oneself in a different mind set and using one’s imagination to travel away from it internally. This work suggests that travel can serve as a kind of escape, which is different from the way travel is typically thought of. Usually we view travel in terms of where we are going, traveling somewhere new to explore it, but in this case the travel is about what is being run away from as well, almost as if the starting point as opposed to the destination is the important aspect.

This escape aspect of travel seems to be relevant to the experience of service as well. One of the main goals of doing service is to leave behind misconceptions or close-minded views. We are trying to move beyond our narrow experience or view of the world to better understand it as a whole. Unlike the characters in this book, service doesn’t necessarily move you away from something dangerous or sad; often we are content with our understanding of the world even though we know it is based only on our limited experiences and specific circumstances. However, in my experience, once you have actively engaged yourself in service you inevitably alter the way you view the world and come to realize that your old conceptions may have been lacking in certain ways.

In addition, the purpose of a lot of service projects is to help another escape their poor or unfavorable circumstances. At Cristo Rey, the staff and volunteers are trying to help the students rise above the poor public education system of Baltimore. Many of the students I work with have parents and siblings who never graduated high school much less thought about college. However, in going to a new school and thinking about their futures and how education can improve them, they are escaping a cycle of poor education and often poverty. In this sense, service allows both the server and those who are served to escape a circumstance or mindset and move on to something that is better.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Self-Expression and Writing

One of the most important skills to learn is writing. No matter what type of writing one does, no matter how developed or undeveloped one’s writing skills are, and now matter who one writes to, writing is one of the most important forms of communication. Writing, like life, is an endless form of education, one that can continually be built upon or changed. One’s writing process follows one’s growth.

My service experiences at both the Esperanza Center and Cristo Rey Jesuit High School haven proven the power of writing. At both of these educational institutions, writing is highly encouraged as an important learning tool, as a necessary means to a complete understanding of different subjects.Writing helps the Cristo Rey high school students learn the Spanish language just as it helps the adult ESL students of the Esperanza Center appreciate and relate to the English language. Although many try to avoid writing and the written form of communication or try to avoid the process of writing one’s thoughts down, a process that can be both stressful and long, it is a process that leads to a deeper and clearer understanding of the writer as an individual and of the subject pursued. I completely understand where the Cristo Rey high school students are coming from when they are reluctant to jot down their ideas or express themselves on paper (especially in a language they are only learning) and I also see how difficult it is for the ESL adults to feel comfortable writing in a language that is not their own, in a language that does not readily express their true identities. Everyone at one point in his or her life struggles with writing, whether it be for educational reasons (such as not understanding the language) or emotional or developmental reasons, such as a reluctancy to express exactly what one thinks, feels, or comprehends. Some even struggle with situational reasons, such as not being able to write or being discouraged from expressing oneself.

Krik? Krak! by Edwidge Danticat presents a number of personal, life-changing experiences relayed by members of the Haitian community. Each story and each history is different yet all the stories provide a sense of sadness and nostalgia that is hard to capture in only words. Reading the stories is a journey in itself for the reader feels a number of emotions and pictures a range of unfamiliar images that invoke new understandings of the people telling each story. It is hard to imagine what the writers of each story must have felt or how they even went through with the process of writing down each memory, a process that must have been very difficult for the individual involved.

However, writing can provide a feeling of comfort. It is much easier to accept a part of the past when one can write it down, when one can completely express the emotions involved and the ideas that arose from these emotions. Writing for acceptance is therefore a form of a travel or a form of inner development, a process that allows the individual to connect with the images and the feelings that he or she remembers the most and to give these thoughts and memories a permanent form, a form that the individual is at liberty to reread or to completely toss aside. Writing, in this sense, becomes a process for one’s own benefit, a process that cannot be forced upon a person but is rather chosen and recognized as a step towards self-realization. The understanding that one gains from writing can be liberating for it is an understanding that one has the power and the ability to express his or her self, the power to make this form of expression private or public, and the power to learn and grow from the overall process. The characters of Krik? Krak! gain, through writing, the power over themselves that they have never had as well as a new perspective and appreciation for their horrible pasts.

Krik? Krak? Gotta say, I got it

I have to say that as I am reading “Krik? Krak!”, it reminds me much of my mother. My mom grew up in El Salvador. She was born in 1961 and went to the University of San Salvador. Now, I understand what is going on in your mind right now. What does this have to do with the book? As I began reading the novel and imagined the two speakers, it actually really touched me and hurt me. The man leaving his home is distraught and does not want to leave. The girl back at home sees nothing but terror and her home being destroyed by the pigs. My mother lived this. Her story strikes me as I read the opening chapter. In all the novels read thus far in this course, no book has grabbed me and jolted me from the opening as this book as. I read and I feel the pain that both characters feel because I have seen that pain. My mother had to leave her country, her home when the guerillas were over throwing the government. She saw the terrors and atrocities being done to her people. My grandfather took it upon himself to send my mom away to the United States. He gave her money, bought her a plane ticket towards New York and said never come back to El Salvador, that it was too dangerous. She had to leave her home when she did not want to, as the man must leave Haiti despite what he really wants. In many ways, both characters are images of my mother and her story. It does a tremendous job in capturing the pains of losing and leaving a home.

As I continued reading into 1937, the story continued to touch me with its vividness and clear image of the life in Haiti during this uprising. As a reader, it is hard even impossible to feel something for these characters and the pain they are going through. It also makes it very hard for a reader to deny feeling some sort of emotion from this story when they know someone who has experienced a similar trauma or ordeal. As the girl loses her mother to the prisons and the pigs arresting her, my mother had lost her two brothers to the guerillas. My Uncle Herman and Nelson were generals in the army for El Salvador. Both had attended West Point Academy in the U.S. They were top notch and decorated soldiers. When the civil war broke lose in El Salvador, my uncles were targeted, kidnapped, and never seen again. It can easily be assumed that both were killed under imprisonment. It saddens me to read this book because I know those feelings. There have been times when I walk into my parents’ room and I see that my mother had been crying because of the trauma she had went through. For me, it is a very touchy subject because since it is my mother’s history, it is also mine. It is part of what makes me, me.

When looking at the writing style of “Krik? Krak!”, the story is voiced through first person narration but what makes it different from the other novels read so far is that the voice is real and personal. As readers dive into the book, it is not impossible to envision that person right there with us at our common room table talking to us about their story. It is not impossible to share in the pain they have gone through. Edwidge Danticat has done a great job in capturing the voice of a people that have been placed through such a pain that is sometimes inexplicable. Sometimes it sparks so much hatred and pain that it is hard for some to ever really explain it to others without crying or choking up. When looking at the structure of the book, each story stands alone but makes the most of the overall tone and catharsis it gets out of audiences. In many ways, I can easily say that this has been my favorite book thus far.

Stand By Me

Jess Cassidy

Dr Ellis

Post Colonial Lit.

17 November 2010

Yes, I am determined to write some kind of comparison on Chris Chambers and Dean. Its just something I am able to connect, like the coordinates on a map. I have the song on my IPOD as I'm writing this. No not to get me in the mood; I just like the song. I know that its hard to connect this book to a coming of age story, but its interesting in its similarities to Stephen King's story.

I know what its like to have a larger-than-life character and make him extraordinary to the point that he is so big he pops like a balloon. It happens when you least expect it too. Unfortunately my horses are brought into the equation again, or is it fortunate? Just ask my long time manager/trainer Steve and he'd tell you. It scares me that every month I can remember a stop on tour and what show was what date, strange how that hasn't happened in six years; I guess its just habit.

I had Steve for two years that should have been ten. I had to write out specific horses names, and what Olympic rider they went with, my boots had to be polished, my shirt had to match my socks, I even had to remember not to chew gum after my lesson. These knit-pickey details became my world at (ironically) freshman year in high school. No experimenting for me. Jeans jackets were replaced with R.L Polos and then homework became a form of homeschooling (tutors while we were on the road and tutors for when I was home). Physically I had not traveled at all;same school same town, same friends, but psychologically I had traveled a galaxy.

I know how it feels to lose a "Dean". On October 4th, 2004 I felt like my heart was being ripped in two pieces. There was never a REAL reason why someone like Steve, who got a six figure salary doing what he loved would leave a twenty five year relationship. My mother (who functioned as my manager before 2002) had her theories and I was scared because they were probably right. The woman knows people, and she had his number from day one. I never got over it;I'll never get over it.

The last real conversation we had was in 2006. It was a very long conversation, and I think that's one of the things that killed me in the end, was that I was, at that point very turned off. And I don't know how that happened, eventually I had to push it away in order to stop the pain. October 4th I've dreaded since 2004. It just shocks me how the main character in On The Road leaves us with such a cliffhanger and I was also left with a cliffhanger in my personal life. I feel Dean was never reliable enough to sustain friendship or any relationship while I was reading it, and I didn't even realize i had the same thing in my life. I think, at times we tend to over-rely on people who we feel are reliable. Very often that comes crashing down because we are all human. If I had to count the times that happened to me and Steve it would be a few. I never had the brain chemistry at sixteen or seventeen to take him out of that God-like image, and that's where you get into trouble at times. He had something so intoxicating, that I just wanted to be immersed in that; I wanted to be around it 24/7.

As we've talked about in class, there are Deans. Where/when we meet them is questionable in our own journeys. The key, like many of us mentioned over the past week, is TO recognize it when its happening, which is the hard part.


"We spent most of yesterday telling stories. Someone says, Krik? You answer, Krak! And they say, I have many stories I could tell you, and then go on and tell these stories to you, but mostly to themselves" (14). Edwidge Danticat includes this title anecdote in her opening story, "Children of the Sea." This story is an excellent way to begin the collection, and this cultural anecdote is a very true way to explain the nature of story-telling for the Haitian people, what it means to them, and what it reveals to us.

"Children of the Sea" takes on an unusual format: it is a sort of alternating dialogue between young lovers who have recently been separated. The young man is on a boat heading toward America, while the girl remains in a hostile Haiti. Each relates their adventures to the other. At first, I was unsure of whether these were actual letters read by the recipients, or perhaps ismply diary-type wishing, particularly looking at passages like, "i will keep writing like we promised to do. i hate it, but i will keep writing. you keep writing too, okay? and when we see each other again, it will seem like we lost no time" (8). It quickly became clear that not only were these "letters" never recieved, but in fact the two people involved would never see each other again.

So then what was the purpose of writing in the first place? To keep memory alive perhaps, or maybe because that is what humans do, as Danticat previously stated, for themselves. The young man on the boat writes his notes to his love in a notebook, and at one point is asked, "Kompe, what are you writing?" He responds, "My will" (25). His imaginary correspondences for him are his last testimony to what he feels is important to his life. His writing is both for him as a personal life-ending exercise, but also for the rest of the world to know after he has gone down to the sea, to death. This speaks to the intimacy yet strongly community-oriented nature of story-telling.

Each of the stories in the first half of Krik? Krak! are those of uniquely individual characters. While all living in the similar context of the everyday tragedy and danger rampant in Haiti, each character stands in a story of their own. Then, suddenly, Danticat springs this paragraph on us about a hundred pages in:

"Mama had to introduce me to them, because they had all died before I was born. There was my great grandmother Eveline who was killed by Dominican soldiers at the Massacre River. My grandmother Defile who died with a bald head in prison, because God had given her wings. My godmother Lili who had killed herself in old age because her husband had jumped out of a flying balloon and her grown son left her to go to Miami" (94).

All the stories' protagonists are familially connected, and several of the previously nameless are given names. That is the power of a story. It unites while it individualizes; it brings attention to a community while perpetuating the legacy of one person.

At the end of "Children of the Sea," the young man must throw his notebook overboard to prevent the boat from sinking. He will follow his book, and those previously lost, into the sea. He quite philosophically writes his last letter, "I must throw my book out now. It goes down to them, Celianne and her daughter and all those children of the sea who might soon be claiming me. I go to them now as though it was always meant to be, as though the very day that my mother birthed me, she had chosen me to live life eternal, among the children of the deep blue sea, those who have escaped the chains of slavery to form a world beneath the heavens and the blood-drenched earth where you live" (27). His writing is for all those lost, and yet are not lost in their free underwater "heaven." He writes for his loved ones, for his memory to be preserved. And he writes for us, for our momentary travel into his life.

blog post

Emily Barbo

Blog Post: On the Road

Cross Roads

How Sal and Dean travel: Sal and especially Dean participate in subsistence traveling; they go wherever they want to go and only take with them the bare essentials. They make, beg, borrow, or steal enough money to get them to the next city. They follow no rules and when they have had enough, they move on. For Sal in Dean the actual act, or art, of traveling—of getting to the destination—is just as important as the destination. It makes sense to call the beatniks nomads. They don't really seem to mind that they don't have a home; at least Dean doesn't. It is almost like he finds home in the people he meets and the crazy moments he has with them. While reading this book I kept questioning what Dean was running away from; was it responsibility? Or maybe growing up? But it think now that he was running away from knowing himself. We have spent a lot of time in class discussing inner travel and how one can find out a lot about who they are and his/her identity through inner travel but it doesn't seem like Dean takes that time to reflect and actually think about how his movements affect him and the people around him. He just goes.

How Young Adults travel now: If young people travel, it is rarely alone. Often accompanied by parents and a strict itinerary, young adults experience a very different kind of travel than the "beatniks". Usually, young adults go with their families on habitual vacations to the same destination; beach house, favorite beach, or exotic location. It is rare for young adults to go out into the world spontaneously, without supervision, and spend their own money. It seems to me that young people have more and more responsibilities' tying them down. Dean too has responsibilities and he ignores. But I think that there is a balance. Sometimes everyone needs to vacate his/her life; it keeps us sane. Just like Dean doesn't reflect on his travel, I also think that people who habitually travel to the same places and go through the "routine" of vacation often don't really reflect on why they are traveling and what they experience. it is just something to be done, to be expected.

At my high school graduation, the Superintendent of Schools made a speech. In it he said, "Life is not about the journey, it's about the destination." At first we thought that he had just got the quote wrong, but as he continued to speak we realized that he meant what he said. He also gave a similar speech two weeks later at the 8th grade graduation. Was I witnessing a paradigm shift? Is life really about the destination now? When I thought about how I travel, I realized that I spend a lot of time, effort, and money on trying to make the actual travel portion of my trip as short and easy as possible. No one takes road trips anymore. No one wants to spend the time getting somewhere when they can just be there.

Travel with family: I personally think that there is a time and a place to travel with one's family based on the age and maturity of its members. I know from experience that there is nothing more frustrating than getting hit in the back of the legs with a stroller while walking through the Louvre or trying to learn about the Palace of Versailles while a toddler screams his/her head off in the back of the gilded room. Places like Disney Land and theme parks were made for families. I know that it can get tedious for parents to spend their vacation time with fictional characters, but how much more enjoyable is it to cart your 3 year old around France and having to pay more attention to them than appreciating the culture. I had the opportunity to do a lot of traveling with my parents this summer. Because I was able to really understand and impress myself in the culture and express myself I was able to get so much more out of the experience. I really enjoyed it! I learned so much about France (the Parisian culture in particular), my parents, and myself.

What is gained and lost in these different experiences? I think that because Dean and Sal had so little structure to their travel they learned significantly less than they could have (this applies much more for Dean than Sal). However, too much structure, as is the case with most modern travel, creates the same results. There needs to be a balance between the amount of risk/spontaneity and planning. A wise friend once told me, "Everyhting in moderation-- including moderation." I think the same applies to travel.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Traveling Reader

Throughout the first half of the novel On the Road, Jack Kerouac weaves his sentences in a way that they create a journey of their own. His sentences demonstrate a structure that weaves through the actions of the novel, creating streams of consciousness which propel the reader into the journey. The main use of sentence structure, being that of run on or continuing sentences, quickens the pace for the actions in the novel and allows the reader to travel along through the book with the main character, Sal.

Kerouac makes the actions of his novel more obtainable by mesmerizing the reader with his flowing sentences that create a daze of actions for the reader to fall into. He sets of Sal on his first trip out west stating, “[s]o, leaving my big half-manuscript sitting on top of my desk, and folding back my comfortable home sheets for the last time one morning, I left with my canvas bag in which a few fundamental things were packed and took off for the Pacific Ocean with the fifty dollars in my pocket.” (Kerouac 9). This sentence allows for the readers themselves to feel as if they have been brought into the scene and completed the tasks along with Sal before setting off for their own journey. The way Kerouac structures his sentences creates a sense that the reader their self is going through the motions that are being described.

He writes as if the main characters direct thoughts are pouring onto the page in a raw unprocessed form. It appears that Sal describes things as they are happening and he processes them through the actual writing of the book. He does not let the action occur and then reiterate it to the reader but rather makes his journey that of the readers as well. This stream of consciousness then could be that of the reader’s own thoughts as if they are the ones going through the journey that is described. Kerouac effectively works to make the journey the center of the novel by pulling the reader into the actions through his use of long, winding sentences that are a journey in themselves.

Part 3

Jess Cassidy

Dr Ellis

Post Colonial Lit.

9 November 2010

The people that exhibit tattoos in celebrity culture are a lot like the aristocrats in the earlier centuries. Both of them have a lot of privilege, and in a way the tattoos them show off are a reminder to the people that are not a part of that section in society. While the middle class is the majority within our time periods, we all to some degree have an infatuation with money and power. This is linked back to the tattoo because many people, if asked would not identify celebrities with tattoos if asked “Who do you think of when you think of tattoos today?” They would, instead identify it with people of a lower class, ghetto kids, or people within lower parts of society as opposed to people with money
People such as Elizabeth Wurtzel who did not grow up in today’s world with tattoos got one later in life, and has taken on a view that many who get them at a later age do; that they are signs of someone who is classless and comes from a bad home. The celebrities who have them tend to, in the research I have done get them to dignify something special. Aguilera with her husband and Jolie with her children are examples of special meanings to them alone. The irony of Aguilera’s divorce is that, I tend ot wonder if she will end up getting it totally removed like Jolie. The other aspect of Jolie’s tattoo removal is that many people within the middle class cannot afford to keep running to a doctor to get it removed because it is too expensive. I have known a few people that have gotten them ‘doctored’ or altered in some way, but never totally removed. This again signals a monetary division among people of immense wealth and people who do not have a money tree in the back yard. I also find it very ironic that the aristocracy started getting tattoos before the middle class to signify that they had wealth, and now they are a thing that everyone can have if they choose to. What is even more interesting is the change tattoos have taken within society as a negative thing in the US, as opposed to the people in Samoa who view it as something sacred and honorific to have.
Part III: Analysis
Jack Kerouac’s On the Road has proven to be the most personally inspiring text we have covered thus far in the course. Startling at the time of its publication, On the Road, along with the work of the emerging Beat Generation, brought about a sea change in society that can still be traced today. Readers were inspired to challenge the conventions of societal norms, as Kerouac, Burroughs and Ginsberg proved that no emotion was too obscene as long as it came from the deepest part of the being. The travel seen in Kerouac’s work is unlike any we have come across this semester, as the rich descriptions of life along the American highway prove that the possibilities of travel are essentially endless. Sal meets momentary friends that change his life forever, eats food he cannot find in New Jersey, and finds himself exposed to the brutal winds and beautiful stars atop the indescribable American expanse. He proves that the world offers too much for our human eyes to ever experience, yet there is no need to not make an attempt. Kerouac transcribed his own adventures into the travels of our beloved narrator, and inspired countless hoards of hipsters to document their lives for all those willing to hear their story.
What I found most interesting about the type of travel Sal embarks upon in On the Road is that it appears to serve as an escape from his problems rather than a route to solving them. Although his experiences bring about a new understanding of life, I feel his intentions are to avoid the real world for as long as possible, “‘Sure, baby, mañana.’ It was always mañana. For the next week that was all I heard – mañana, a lovely word and one that probably means heaven” (94). Although it seems he is running away, I do not see such travel in a negative light. I am inspired by his ambitions of youth to see all he can while the time permits. Once you accept an understanding of your life, you are no longer a youth. Everyone becomes an adult with age, but the zealousness of being young is an aspect of life that only those with an open mind are lucky enough to hold on to.

The Wandering Man


Christopher McCune                                                                                           November 11, 2010

Travel Literature                                                                                                  Blog: On the Road

The Wandering Man

            Jack Kerouac's novel On the Road tells the unique story of two young men, the narrator Sal and his crazed friend Dean, as they restlessly crisscross America in a desperate search for the "ragged promised land." Set in the 1950's, this novel epitomizes the beat generation, as Sal and Dean befriend, live with, and discard a rapidly revolving door of wives, buddies, and girlfriends. The only thing that these characters cannot seem to shake is their constant desire to be on the move, as Sal and Dean quickly and repeatedly grow bored, tired, and disillusioned with each new place they stay.

            Kerouac sums up the restless nature of Sal and his friends brilliantly in a brief conversation that Sal has with a local girl while he is hitchhiking through Colorado. Stopping in Cheyenne, a small town on the way to Denver, Sal feels that he has finally arrived "out West," and feels liberated and free from his life in New York City. However, the Western girl feels just the opposite, complaining that, "I want to go to New York. I'm sick and tired of this. Ain't no place to go but Cheyenne and ain't nothin in Cheyenne." Sadly, Sal replies, "Ain't nothin in New York," a statement which she angrily shoots back with, "Hell there ain't." This interaction perfectly illustrates the problem that plagues Sal and Dean throughout the novel. Every new state, city, or town that they trek to, always on little to no funds, offers only a temporary respite for their wandering souls. Once the characters are forced to struggle for money and the newness of the city wears off, the desire to hit the road, always in search of something better, immediately kicks in again in a vicious cycle.

            As they search for meaning on their aimless wanderings, Sal and Dean hook up with, have sex with, and struggle to establish relationships with girls in each and every town. The desire to keep moving is often in direct conflict with Sal's increasing wish to have a stable relationship in his life. He tries to settle down with Terry, a sweet, poor Mexican girl with a son, and also with Lucille, a girl in Virginia whom Sal thinks he may have strong feelings about, but in the end, with Dean and the road both calling, Sal chooses to leave both behind, favoring his transient, free lifestyle instead.

            This desire to travel, to experience the world, and the idea that the grass is always greener somewhere else, are concepts both familiar and alluring to young men and women of all generations. Kerouac, however, shows us that constant travel, while fun, eye-opening, and entertaining, does not hold all the answers we seek.

Relationships on the road

By coincidence, I happen to be reading about and discussing America’s “market economy” in my Ethics class this week in conjunction with my reading On the Road for Post-Colonial Literature (McCarthy 27). One of the main points my Ethics class has come back to about the United States’ tendencies, which David McCarthy makes in our assigned book, The Good Life, is that an economy which encourages “greed[iness]” also implicitly advocates entering into “contractual” relationships with people rather than emotionally probing friendships (McCarthy 71, 31). I found myself thinking about this argument of McCarthy’s throughout the beginning of On the Road because many of the protagonist’s relationships, at least initially, seem to be defined from his perspective by an academic intrigue rather than by a substantial concern for the people with whom he interacts. As the narrator says, he “[shambles] after… people who interest” him, like Dean – a figure who himself seems inconsistent in his approach to forming friendships, as he treats his marriage and its collapse casually while enthusiastically entering into a “fiendish” relationship with Carlo Marx that is dominated by an exchange of ideas (5, 6). However, knowing that Dean is a “con man,” one wonders if even that relationship is going to inevitably disintegrate (6). While the protagonist claims to understand that he himself is being manipulated by Dean, presumably any con man – Sawyer on Lost comes to mind for me – typically uses people who only later realize the nature of the relationship, and with that understanding angrily repel the deceiver, if they are still able to do so. Therefore, even if Dean does put on false social masks “to get involved with people who would otherwise pay no attention to him,” one must question if such a habit merely enables the emotionally distanced – “detatch[ed],” McCarthy would say -- examination the narrator prefers (4; McCarthy 31).

One of the conclusions McCarthy draws in his book, and which both he and my Ethics class discussed in relation to the real-life story on which the film Into the Wild was based, was that personal development cannot really commence while one is attempting to remain largely “separate from” other people and places, or “in flight from the world,” throughout one’s trek (McCarthy 71). This is a theme we talked about in relation to Black Rainbow, and it seemed especially relevant to the start of On the Road because the narrator seems particularly intent on remaining in this kind of “flight” while hitchhiking (McCarthy 71). He describes “innumerable people” with whom he catches rides with, and, at least at that early juncture, one partner disappears as quickly as the next (14). Rather than convey sadness at any of these partings, the narrator expresses an anxiety about being with and having to “entertain” such people (14). Like McCarthy, he seems to comprehend the theatricality of many modern relationships, or, like the main figure in Into the Wild, is annoyed by the “superficiality, greed, and selfishness of the world” (McCarthy 71). But rather than seek an emotional bond which would transcend that quality the protagonist would rather have brief exchanges, like those with the two truck drivers, which, while genuine, seem to be easily ended by both parties involved.

Thinking about it in detail, in relation to both On the Road and what McCarthy talks about, these ties remind me of the kind that probably exist between two Facebook friends. I find this especially interesting because I read an article last year in The Washington Post that criticized college students today for not reading thematically and philosophically dense material like On the Road and instead opting for books with “vampires.” While several pages of Internet comments following this article questioned the validity of the critic’s comparisons of one generation to the next – and even whether prominent books of last generation, like On the Road, qualify as seminal novels – the protagonist’s early adventures have made me question how different this generation and the last really are in terms of how we converse with others.


Kerouac, Jack. On the Road. New York: Penguin Putman, 1957.

McCarthy, David Matzko. The Good Life: Genuine Christianity for the Middle Class. Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2004.

Charles, Ron. “On Campus, Vampires Are Besting the Beats.” The Washington Post. 08/03/09. LexisNexis Academic. Web. 11/11/10.

Comments on “On Campus, Vampires Are Besting the Beats.” The Washington Post Online. Web.

MacIntyre, Alasdair. After Virtue: Third Edition. Indiana: University of Notre Dame Press, 2008.

Savage, Dan. “Your Cheatin’ Hearts.” Savage Love.

Hauerwas, Stanley. “Marriage as a Subversive Act.” After Christendom?: How the Church is to Behave If Freedom, Justice, and a Christian Nation Are Bad Ideas. Abingdon Press, Nashville.

Hibbs, Thomas S. Arts of Darkness: American Noir and the Quest for Redemption. Dallas: Spence Publishing Company, 2008.

Hibbs, Thomas S. "Hopeless Emptiness: Capitalist Suburbia in 'American Beauty', 'Revolutionary Road', and 'Mad Men.'" 10/03/2009. Lecture/Web. 21/10/2010.

Live Together, Read Alone: A LOST Book Blog. Web. 11/11/2010.

Dark UFO. Web.

Several blogs of reviews of books featured on Lost, such as On the Road.