In Haiti to avail even the common means

In this award-winning novel Danticat constructs women’s social and national identity by valuing the memory of their experience and by giving them voice. The narrative of the novel presents an analytical reflection of Amabelle who experiences the attacks and devastating effects of massacre longing for her self and identity. At the border between Haiti and the Dominican Republic, Danticat invites her readers to explore the intersections of Ambelle’s trauma, who undergoes a lot of toils and turmoil to construct her identity. Danticat states: “I tried to reduce the massacre to one person, through whose eyes we can experience it” (78). The post-colonial condition is depicted in this novel by the means of the examination of issues raised by the characters’ crossing and re-crossing of national, geographical and linguistic borders and the forces that mould their personal, social and national identities.Though it was published nearly 20 years ago, Edwidge Danticat’s 1998 novel, The Farming of Bones, still speaks to the racial tensions that exist between Haiti and its neighbor, the Dominican Republic. The Farming of Bones is a historical fiction that explores the 1937 massacre ordered by Dominican Republic’s dictator at the time, Rafael Trujillo. In this novel, as in her other works, Danticat challenges readers to empathize with the characters in the novel through her mixture of history and fiction. The Farming of Bones, a historical novel which operates as a testimonial, to bring the complicated concerns surrounding Haitian culture and ethnicity, identity, and social factors out of the darkness.The Farming of Bones is based on the events surrounding the brutal slaughtering and massacre of Haitians in the Dominican Republic during the rule of Rafael Trujillo in 1937. Both Haiti and the Dominican Republic share the same island – Hispaniola. The novel tells the story of how Haitians migrate to the Dominican Republic to escape poverty and to work as laborer in the sugarcane fields, an experience which constructs their social identity. They are alienated and devalued in their native society because of their poor economic condition. They do not have enough opportunity in Haiti to avail even the common means of life. That is why they migrate to the Dominican Republic crossing the boundary that symbolically makes them nothing but ‘other’ and ‘inferior’.The narrative of the novel presents an analytical reflection of Amabelle who experiences the attacks and devastating effects of massacre longing for her self and identity.The political tensions of this period had their roots in centuries of conflicts between the two nations. They are confounded by the dissimilarity of the two cultures residing in close proximity to one another: the Dominicans a predominantly Spanish speaking, Catholic population, and the Haitians largely black and Creole speaking. Being poverty stricken they cross the border. It is also known by history that, in the nineteenth century, Haiti invaded the Spanish side of the Alegria Island twice, and the unpleasant experience of Haitian occupation has become fixed in the Dominican national memory. So when Haitian workers start migrating to the Dominican Republic, Trujillo takes it as an opportunity to take revenge. The Dominican ruler imagines Haitians as a threat to his economy and national sovereignty. He attacks the Haitians as if the people of the Dominican Republic have been threatened by Haitians. The Generalissimo treats them as: “the enemy of work and prosperity” (Danticat), which is based on nothing but mere prejudice. Dominicans think that their national identity and individuality are being hampered by Haitian immigrants and Haitians feel like: “They say some people don’t belong anywhere and that’s us” (Danticat 56). So Trujillo declares to terminate all Haitians on his land. Indeed, he constructs a Dominican national identity and individuality by applying the policy of exclusion. Richard F Patterson states, “Like Hitler, he thought he could purify his race” (225). It is known from history that Trujillo’s mother was Haitian. Therefore, his idea of purification makes little sense in light of the mixed racial composition of the Dominicans themselves. Yet he wanted to form a totalitarian state. To him, the fantasy of elimination is an important base in the establishment of his absolute control of the country. This idea of exclusion is a normal picture of every colonial society.Language becomes an issue of life and death for Haitians. Martin Munro states, “It was in language that slave was perhaps most successfully imprisoned by his master” (210). We can see the reflection of this idea when Haitians are being killed in the night “because they could not manage to trill their ‘r’ and utter a throaty ‘j’ to ask for parsley, to say perejill”. The utterance of pewejil rather than perejil would reveal a kreyol accent and thus proves that individual as a Haitian national. Amabelle refuses to pronounce the word, as parsley is forced into her mouth, literally taking away her ability to speak. And yet she says she could have said the word “properly, calmly and slowly” (Danticat 193) as she had learnt it from Alegria. But, she does not bother about it. She realizes the absurdity of how mere pronunciation can divide an island into two opposing sides. In other words, she could have saved herself from violence, but instead she remains silent. So a state of voicelessness that the entire narration seeks to negotiate is that Haitians’ inability to utter the word is a sign of exclusion and an excuse for violence. When Amabelle’s companion Odette is subjected to the test, she shows pride in her national identity and challenges Trujillo’s linguistic cleansing: Whatever Trujillo has done and no matter for what purpose, in Danticat’s narrative his identity is to be taken as a dictator and a psychopath who has turned his country into a wasteland of the spirit. His inability to control his bladder serves to reinforce the notion of a pervasive corruption that has emerged from the country itself. He has degraded the image of his land to the world and has achieved nothing but a bad impression worldwide. 

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