A “Wall of Fire Rising,” “I to sing America,” and “Harlem” describes dramatic times in the United States and Haiti, while stressing their views in ways that shout at you with emotions. Each work has a general point to be made yet amazingly all three are linked in many ways. The authors all describe the challenges that minorities faced while being submersed in the cultural of the majority. Amazingly the authors completely accomplish their goals of visually captivating us with their words and getting the messages unambiguously to us.
“A Wall of Fire Rising” a short story by Edwidge Danticat which catalogs a series of events about a father’s struggling to make ends meet for his family in Haiti while searching for some sort of meaning to his life amidst economic turmoil of Haiti. During this tale we are introduced to three main characters Guy the father aforementioned, Lili who is Guys wife, and Little Guy who is the son of guy. An interesting item to note about this tale is that only the mother of Little Guy is every given a true name. This shows us that in this current state of a Haiti man’s worth is being lessened. This idea is also strengthened later on in the story with men having to be put on a waiting list to work for many years. This story truly touches on the value of a man in a less developed country like Haiti; it also shows us the intricacies of the family relationship of someone from that back ground. The author writes about the dreams and aspirations of the Guy family each have different takes on the so call dream of what it would be to be happy.
Guy the fathers view on what is happiness was shrouded in depression and his distaste for his current life. He dreams of making it to America where he imagines the world to be better. He thinks of starting his life over, having land and a garden to grow his own food. He dreams of being free from his life in Haiti. He seldom showed any regard to his family general his dreams were solely for himself. Guy despises his son’s aspirations at time possible due to him not wanting his son to fail as he did. Guy’s situation shows a man who has been devalued not just in the family but in the world. He couldn’t provide for his family and this in turn lead to what could only be described as a manic depressive.
Lili on the other hand was a strong woman who only cared for her family. She stuck with her husband even though he had shown utter distaste for her physical appearance. She was also the majority provider for her family. Showing a difference compared to what she knew to be the reality for the majority of the world, where she was supposed to be the care taker for the house hold and the man being the provider. Her dreams differed from Guys hers were for her son Little Guy, she saw him as a very intelligent bright young man with the potential to make something for himself by climbing out of the ghetto he had been born into. Her only request this entire story was only for her son. She wanted to make sure Guy didn’t sign him up to the labor force, which was how most people who wanted a decent job had to do. This was her only wish to see her child given the chance to succeed, beyond the slums.
Little Guy is a young man who has just recently stared in a school play taking the leading role of a revolutionary who is an immense importance to the people of Haiti. Little Guy is absolutely thrilled to be playing this role, but, when he informs his father of the role he was met with a lackluster response from him. Showing that possible his father was jealous of his sons however limited success. Now Little Guys only dream in life was to grow up and be an important person for the people of Haiti. During the entirety of this story Little Guy never really thinks of himself. He loves his mother and his father. Little Guy works diligently at school so he can be successful as an adult. He knows that the only way to succeed is to be educated.
The story progress through the daily life of the Guy family the author introduces us to what is like to be in Haiti in the nineteen fifties, showing us the poverty the emotions that go along with the state in which people have to live. The author touches on racism as well with Guy’s dislike for one of Little Guys “White” teachers as he puts it showing that there is still a hint of underling emotions in regard to race disparity in Haiti at the time of the story. The author shows skill in giving visual cues so we can imagine the world in which he is writing about.
With the story progressing to a close, the author weaves a series of events that lead to the ultimate conclusion of Guy committing suicide, the striking point to be made is the reactions of the Guy family. Little Guy begins to quote lines from his play over the top of his father’s corpse this is so significant because it shows a realization of not sadness but one that this little child knows he and his mother are and will be in a better place now. It also gives the impression that they know this is where he wants to be. Lili on the other had simply given up on Guy and his issues and to was relieved to be over with him and able to move on without him was evident by her lack of emotion towards his death.
“I, Too, Sing America” written by Langston Hughes talks about a servant who is treated not as an equal and is sent to the back when company arrives. This shows us the devaluing of the African American person. Yet Langston Hughes shows that this man will not be held down by racial stereo types and will bide his time until he will be treated equally. This is reflective of the era in time where people were in the midst of the Harlem renaissance. During that era there was a impression that equality would be gained though accomplishments. Until that time the author writes “I will eat well and grow strong.”
“Harlem” by Langston Hughes involves a saddening revelation concerning the ideas of equality. While he has freedom, he feels his dreams that he once thought to have been destined to pass fail to come to fruition. The descriptive nature of this poem is evident throughout the entirety describing the dream as festering rotting. His description do more than describe it, it allows us to feel his remorse, pain and desperation. When he concludes the poem he asks “does it explode?” Now to me that shows the racial turmoil that the United States was involved in at this time. This poem on so many levels touches on every feeling many people were having at the close of the Harlem renaissance.
When discussing these three works you see a very obvious similarity. Oppression of one sort, in “A wall of Fire Rising” you saw a man who was economically oppressed he had no way of bettering his situation; he had a family to support. Yet there was no answer that he saw other than wishing for a better future, which inevitably never occurred. In the end instead of wishing anymore he chose suicide as his course of escape. In “I, Too, Sing America” you have a man who is both social and racial oppressed describing a daily event of having to be sent away out of racial reasons. Unlike Guy in the first work instead of meeting his oppression with suicide he meets it with determination that one day he will be at the table not as a servant but as an equal that he will be welcomed there. In “Harlem” like the first two we have someone oppressed yet it is not directly identifiable as the other two, yet we are faced with someone who has obviously failed to see their dream come true so the author writes it more as a question as if what is going to happen now. Where do we go will this ever change and the author also speculate what will occur will it explode. So all three touch on social issues concerning them and dreams that they have to better themselves. Yet in each we are left wondering did they succeed? In Guys case did he find happiness in death? With America a man waits patiently for his chance to prove his worth, did he? In Harlem a man is defeated and striving for understanding will he find it? These questions are not for us to answer but for us to look into ourselves and see that our dreams are real and we need to strive to accomplish them and not end up like Guy.
In Edwidge Danticat’s work “A Wall of Fire Rising” Danticat wrote in suburb detail in describing many of the economic feelings and social stigmas that go with being a male in the mid 1950′s in the Haitian slums of Shantytown. Danticat wrote about things that are so outside of what we we know here in the United States concerning things like being put on a work list as a child or you will not be able to get a job in time to support your self.
Overall I felt this writing allowed us an inside very of a family structure in another country that at times mirrors our own, with feelings of inadequacies, lose of love, depression, failure, and joy. Yet while showing similarities it also showed a stark contrast to what many of us know. It definitely gave me a new appreciation for what others have to struggle with.