Krik? Krak! | Study Guide

Edwidge Danticat

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Krik? Krak! | Quotes

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1.

Whatever you do, please don't marry a soldier. They're almost not human.


The male narrator, Children of the Sea

The male narrator of "Children of the Sea" has escaped war-torn Haiti on a leaky boat filled with other passengers. The female narrator should at least avoid marrying one of the sadistic paramilitary soldiers terrorizing the Haitian population if she should someday marry, according to the male narrator. His anguish reflects that of many Haitians who escape the country's poverty and violence and long for the people they left behind in Haiti.

2.

We spent most of yesterday telling stories. Someone says, Krik? You answer, Krak!


The male narrator, Children of the Sea

The story "Children of the Sea" mentions the call-and-answer technique "Krik? Krak!" that gives the book Krik? Krak! its title. Storytellers and their audiences would call and respond with these terms to show engagement and involvement in the story. The male narrator listens as fellow passengers tell traditional stories to fight the boredom, fear, and hunger they feel while escaping Haiti on a tiny leaking boat. Their painful boat ride represents those of many Haitians who left the country in desperate circumstances to try to find safety.

3.

I had been born on the night ... Trujillo ... ordered the massacre of all Haitians living there.


Josephine, Nineteen Thirty-Seven

Josephine and her mother live under the shadow of the historic event that took place the night Josephine was born. The Dictator of the Dominican Republic Rafael Trujillo (1891–1961) led soldiers in killing as many as 20,000 people at the border of the Dominican Republic and Haiti. Josephine's mother crawls across a river known as the Massacre River which was full of blood on the night of the 1937 massacre. The massacre becomes the most influential aspect of her life as Josephine decides to continue the rituals to carry on her mother's legacy.

4.

The boy continued reciting his lines, his voice rising to a man's grieving roar.


The narrator of "A Wall of Fire Rising", A Wall of Fire Rising

Little Guy is a boy who practices his lines for a school play in which he has a major role as a fiery revolutionary. He recites his inspiring speech after his father Guy dies when he falls out of a stolen hot air balloon. Little Guy's grief represents the hopelessness felt by many Haitians after multiple failed attempts to gain freedom and stability.

5.

The way my son reacts to my lips stroking his cheeks decides for me if he's asleep.


The prostitute, Night Women

The prostitute tries to earn a living while taking care of her son. The prostitute's son generally stays asleep as his mother greets her male visitors. The prostitute's dilemma of having to earn money in a way that potentially endangers her son reflects the dilemmas faced by many women whose poverty forces them to use their bodies to survive.

6.

I pretended that it was all mine.


Marie, Between the Pool and the Gardenias

Marie is a maid who finds a dead baby and carries it around with her for days. She fantasizes about owning the plantation at which she works while she tells the dead baby about events in her life. Her experiences demonstrate a widespread feeling of desperation and isolation among many in Haiti's unstable and violent society. Marie is not alone in her resentment and jealousy toward the wealthy.

7.

Between the pool and the gardenias, waiting for the law.


Marie, Between the Pool and the Gardenias

Marie reflects while she and the Dominican pool cleaner look at the dead baby as they wait for the police to arrive. The Dominican has called the police on Marie, despite the fact that Marie reports that they slept together in the past. The conflict between the Dominican and Marie reflects the division and suspicion engendered among those struggling to survive in Haiti.

8.

Princesse felt like she had helped to give birth to something that would have never existed otherwise.


The narrator of "Seeing Things Simply", Seeing Things Simply

Catherine paints Princesse nude and later gives her one of the paintings. Princesse is inspired by her role in Catherine's creation and decides to become a painter herself. Princesse's transformation through the inspiration of a foreign artist connects to the possibility that Haiti might use its history of foreign imperialism to create a new and more authentically Haitian society.

9.

She is slowing her pace, and now I am too close.


Suzette, New York Day Women

Suzette does not expect to see her mother shopping in New York City when she is usually found only in Brooklyn. Suzette's mother spends her day shopping and interacting with people while Suzette secretly looks on. The fraught relationship between mother and daughter represents the gaps in understanding and experience between people of different generations within the same family.

10.

Many graves to kiss. Many graves to kiss.


Suzette's mother, New York Day Women

Suzette muses about her mother's sayings and experiences as she watches her go about her day in the city. She remembers her mother talking about visiting Haiti and paying respects to the many people she knows who have died there. Suzette's mother's grief reflects the many victims of political violence in Haiti. To Suzette these victims are only part of a story told by her mother. To Suzette's mother these victims are friends and family she lost.

11.

In the pot on the stove were scraps of cow bones stewing in hot bubbling broth.


Grace, Caroline's Wedding

Ma cooks a bone soup that is meant to influence her daughter Caroline and make her decide not to marry her non-Haitian fiance. The soup is hot and burns those who taste it, representing the tension and emotion apparent among family members.

12.

No one in our family has ever married outside.


Ma, Caroline's Wedding

Ma discusses her worries about her daughter Caroline with her other daughter Grace. Ma is angry at the start of the story and worried because her daughter Caroline plans to marry a non-Haitian man. The transformation of the bone soup from a negative to a positive family symbol represents the opportunity to build new and authentic lives as immigrants even when marrying outside of one's cultural group.

13.

What ... lullabies will I sing at night? What ... legends will my daughter be told?


Caroline, Caroline's Wedding

After the wedding Caroline, her sister Grace, and Ma cook bone soup together and talk about family traditions. Grace assures Ma that her future children will be raised with Haitian traditions and stories even though her husband is not Haitian. The importance of family and cultural rituals to bring people together is a central theme in many stories of Krik? Krak!

14.

Writing was as forbidden as dark rouge on the cheeks or a first date before eighteen.


The narrator of "Epilogue: Women Like Us", Epilogue: Women Like Us

The narrator of "Epilogue: Women Like Us" addresses a young woman writer. The young woman writer learns from her family and from society that writing is considered lazy because women should cook or dangerous because it is a political act. She changes the perspective and shows that writing is actually a way to honor one's ancestors' struggle.

15.

She would ask you to name each braid after those ... women ... boiling in your blood.


The narrator of "Epilogue: Women Like Us", Epilogue: Women Like Us

The narrator of "Epilogue: Women Like Us" addresses a young woman writer who finds her connection to her female ancestors through writing about them. The young woman writer's mother braids the young woman's hair and the narrator uses the intricate braids as a metaphor for the many women who have come before them. The braids represent the many struggles and life experiences of generations of women.

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