Wednesday, September 27, 2006


In class, we spent a lot of time discussing cities but not as much time talking about what happens during the travel from one city to another. In both No Longer at Ease and Krik? Krak!, the boundaries between cities blur during travel scenes set in the middle of the ocean. Reading Achebe, I was really interested by chapter three, the scene during which Obi travels between London and Lagos on a boat. This scene plays a vital role in the novel because it addresses transition and change as much as it directly foreshadows Obi's future. It is on the boat that Obi first learns that Clara is returning with him to Lagos and when he first kisses her. When Obi leaves London, the ocean is still peaceful, but as he nears Lagos, he begins to feel seasick: "At first the Bay of Biscay was very calm and collected...Then as evening approached, the peace and smoothness vanished quite suddenly." (28).

In Krik? Krak!, the opening scene resembles chapter three in Achebe's novel. Though we don't encounter the character on the boat again in the first half of the novel, his documentation of the travel is poignant and relevant. The narrator is a refugee from Haiti, traveling to Miami and reflecting on his love for a young woman back home. He demonstrates both fear and anticipation at the thought of arriving (or not arriving) in Miami while maintaining close emotional and intellectual ties to his home city by writing to the young woman in his knowing, aware that she may never see his words. "I am trying to think, to see if I read anything more about Miami...I can't tell exactly how far we are from there. We might be barely out of our own shores." (6). There is a sense of confusion and uncertainty between cities.

Though we've been referring to cities as places of departure and arrival, it is during the travel that a person forms expectations while maintaining the clearest memories. I don't think that it is only by chance that both Danticat and Achebe included a scene in which a character has to travel over water, which represents seemingly endless uncertainty.