Traumatic Pasts and Identity Development in Edwidge Danticat's "The Dew Breaker"

Open Access
Author:
Molitoris, Justin Todd
Area of Honors:
English
Degree:
Bachelor of Arts
Document Type:
Thesis
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Linda Furgerson Selzer, Thesis Supervisor
  • Janet Wynne Lyon, Honors Advisor
Keywords:
  • trauma literature
  • Caribbean
  • Hatian-American literature
  • identity development
  • Danticat
Abstract:
The goal of this thesis is to provide in-depth analysis of The Dew Breaker, a work of Edwidge Danticat’s that has remained relatively unexplored since its publication. The thesis explores five of the core stories included in the short story selection: “The Bridal Seamstress,” “The Funeral Singer,” “Night Talkers,” “The Book of the Dead,” and the title story, “The Dew Breaker.” Each of these stories deals with a character who has been traumatized at some point in his or her life by the corrupt Duvalier regime in Haiti. Each narrative describes a part of a character’s journey in dealing with trauma. Whether it is through work, art, or family, the characters attempt to free themselves from the nightmarish chains that tie them to a tragic past associated with their lives in Haiti. Success is varied. These stories are representative of the larger collection, in which Danticat illustrates the varied forms of trauma experienced and coping methods employed by Haitian-Americans. The argument to follow suggests that Danticat provides a potentially confident view of a future beyond tragedy. Her narratives demonstrate that there is at least some possibility of successfully moving beyond traumatic pasts.