Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The Necessity of Justice in the City

I was particularly alarmed by the descriptive passages that Danticat uses to describe Haiti and the harsh conditions Haitians encounter in Krik? Krak! From the very beginning, the prevalence of injustice is blatent, when the Haitian narrator describes his passage over the sea. It almost seems as if a person on a slave trade ship is telling the story. I was shocked at the way the passengers of the boat had to defecate on the boat and how there was barely anything to eat or drink for days upon days. Celiene's jump into the water after the death of her baby shows the desperation that was ubiquitous on the boat. The fact that these narrators are unnamed allows for this story to apply to any Haitian, because a number of Haitians (or any other race, for that matter) went through similiar situations involving ill treatment.

In Port-au- Prince, rape and murder is an everyday occurance. Horrific instances, such as the soldiers forcing mothers and sons or daughters and fathers to sleep with eachother paint a picture of the injustice that occurs frequently throughout the novel. In "Children of the Sea", the tragic incident of the mother bringing home her son's head immediately calls attention to the overwhelming amount of violence in Port-au-Prince following the coup. In "Nineteen Thirty Seven", the prison in which Josephine's mother is held (for no legitimate reason) is described as a hellish place of torture. Josephine says "By the end of the 1915 occupation, the city really knew how to hold human beings trapped in cages" (Danticat 35). At the prison, Josephine's mother has her head shaved, is fed bread and water, and is doused with freezing water before bed so that she will not have the energy to escape, among many other forms of inhumane treatement. Ville Rose is also described as a place full of dejection and poverty, although violence seems to be far less prevalent there. In this city, some women are forced to be prostitutes, such as the woman in "Night Women", who has to sell her body in order to provide for her and her young son. In " Between the Pool and the Gardenia's", Marie finds a dead baby on the streets of Port- au-Prince tries to convince herself that is alive, due to her intense desire of child companionship. She says, " When I had just come to the city, I saw on Madame's television that a lot of poor city women throw out their babies because they can't afford to feed them" (Danticat 92). This particular description of the city is only one of the many examples that illustrates the prevalence of poverty and violence that is rampant throughout Port- au-Prince in the novel Krik? Krak!

Danticat allows us to enter into the chaos that is a part of cities such as Port-au- Prince and Ville Rose, so that we may understand the injustice that Haiti has had to overcome. Her descriptive passages and characters draw us into the story of Haiti's violent past. We are left wondering why anyone should have to undergo the severely violent treatment that these people have to experience. She gives us a close- up view of what it would be like to suffer through generations of injustice within various cities, and this ultimately made me appreciate my surroundings a bit more. In Kolvenbach's "The Service of Faith and the Promotion of Justice in American Jesuit Higher Education, he states that, " Only a substantive justice can bring about the kinds of structural and attitudinal changes that are needed to uproot those sinful oppresive injustices that are a scandal against humanity and God" (Kolvenbach 27). This quote applies perfectly to the call of those reading Krik? Krak! Danticat is calling the reader to be aware of the injustice that is a horrific reality on this earth. In my opinion, she is working towards creating an attitudinal change in her readers. Danticat uses the cities of Haiti as a lesson and a cry for change. Her powerful language can persuade almost any reader to awake from their apathy. Kolvenbach's speech on the power of justice in education helps to support the basis for Danticat's novel. They are both stressing the need for equality and dignity found through justice-virtues of which many cities are void.