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Literature Study GuidesKrik KrakNineteen Thirty Seven Summary

Krik? Krak! | Study Guide

Edwidge Danticat

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Krik? Krak! | Nineteen Thirty-Seven | Summary



Josephine is the narrator of "Nineteen Thirty-Seven." She was born on the night of a historic massacre. Thousands of Haitians living near the border in the neighboring country of the Dominican Republic were massacred by the soldiers of Dominican Republic's dictator Rafael Trujillo (1891–1961). Josephine's mother used to take Josephine to the Massacre River to do rituals like putting their hands in the water and praying. In this way mother and daughter honor the remembrance of that day. During the massacre Josephine's mother had waded across a river full of blood to survive and protect her newborn baby. Over time Josephine feels repressed when she tries to speak to her mother. Their lack of communication means that Josephine does not understand the meaning of the rituals. Josephine's mother is later imprisoned for being a witch. Josephine visits her ailing mother in jail and she finally speaks with Josephine about what she has endured in her life. When Josephine's mother dies, Josephine reflects on her mother's history and pledges to continue the rituals honoring her mother's sacrifices.


The story's title is a year that for many Haitians represents a somber occasion. The massacre that took place in October 1937 was a significant event in Haitian and Dominican history. Up to 20,000 Haitian workers living in the Dominican republic were murdered. Josephine's mother honors the importance of the day and her role in it. Her perseverance and strength allowed her to escape the Dominican Republic and reach Haitian land before giving birth to Josephine. Josephine's mother performs rituals to honor the sacrifices and pain that represent the gigantic loss of life represented by the massacre's site. Both Josephine and her mother draw personal strength and resolve from the formative experience of Josephine's birth amidst incredibly challenging circumstances. After many years spent in limited communication with her mother, Josephine eventually opens up to her once she sees life through her mother's eyes. Josephine's connection to her mother and to her ancestors is strengthened as she learns about her mother's suffering and resilience. "Nineteen Thirty-Seven" shows that people who face great adversity can be affected throughout their entire lives by the experience. Massacres and other instances of political violence in Haiti left significant marks on the lives of people living there.

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