Thursday, September 28, 2006

Injustice and Hope

I agree entirely with Lauren and her post. I think Danticat is painting a picture of the injustices of cities in Haiti, which do shine a very harsh light on cities, especially what the people from Haiti must think of a city. This is evident in Achebe's No Longer at Ease as well, when he describes parts of the city. There are the smells that Obi recalls, such as rotting flesh and the sights, the slums in particular. These all shine a negative light on Lagos and highlight the injustices and downfalls that cities face simply because of the fact that they are a city. Danticat weaves this same thread throughout all her stories. There is the city in "Children of the Sea" with it's political injustice that allows soldiers to randomly kill citizens and force them to perform perverse sexual acts. There is the description in "Nineteen Thirty Seven" that recalls many of the same words that Obi used to describe Lagos, such as rotting flesh. And finally, there is the city in "Wall of Rising Fire" where Guy has no hope left for a job or progress and therefore decides to kill himself, leaving his wife and child behind.

The cities in Danticat and Achebe's novels both show how desperate a city could make certain people, mostly those that are poverty stricken. The people in both the authors stories have almost nothing, live through injustice after injustice and at times there is always more that manages to be taken away from them. But, regardless of all the injustice and depression that is quite evident throughout these stories, there is still a sense of hope, albeit small and hard to see, it is there and is another characteristic and positive aspect of living in a city. As far as the hope in Achebe is concerned, education takes place in a city, technology is evident in a city, privilege and opportunity are all alive in a city. There is even hope evident in the people who bribe Obi, the hope that their children will have a chance to be educated and lead a better life. In Danticat, it is harder to see the hope, but it is there and it is alive mostly when a city is involved. In "Children of the Sea" the longing for education is in Port-au-Prince, if nothing else, and there are many ambitious young people in the city that took university exams to get out of the city and lead better lives. There is also the hope in "Wall of Rising Fire" when Lili won't allow her husband to put their young son on a working list because she wants him to have higher expectations than working in the fields. Because of their witness to such horrific events in the city, they have hope for a better future and even though the injustices are so bad, they continue to instill hope in the habitants for something better that they may not have had if they didn't witness these injustices.

I think this finally, all ties into the Kolvenbach Speech and what we as a university are responsible to do. We should be witnessing these injustices, discovering the roots of them and helping the suffering out of them, but mainly trying to end them altogether. We were given the opportunity to come to an amazing academic institution and to receive a top rate education, but also we were given the opportunity to see the injustices of the world and bring justice. The two novels we have read so far paint extremely vivid pictures of city life, the good and the bad, and it is only the tip of the iceberg, there are plenty more injustices that haven't been touched yet and many more reasons for hope in the dwellers in these cities. And as I think Kolvenbach was trying to say, we are supposed to foster these hopes and try to have these people see them through.