Sunday, February 13, 2011

Edwidge Danticat "A Wall of Fire Rising"

“A Wall of Fire Rising” is a story about change, from beginning to end.

The pacing of this piece is an interesting part of it. From the beginning, we know that something has changed for Guy, but Little Guy has also had something big happen to him, so the reader must wait to find out what Guy’s news is. This automatically sets up some tension within the first scene until Guy and Lili are able to talk about his day. At first the pacing of the story felt like it was at a snail’s pace to get to his information and whether or not he would be able to get into the balloon, but then the ending snuck up on me as a reader. I was shocked by Guy’s actions at the end of the story, not so much that he was finally in the hot air balloon, but that he was leaving his family in more ways than one. When he was in the balloon and Lili and Little Guy were watching along with everyone else, I was nervous for them as a family. I was hoping that he wouldn’t leave them, that somehow he would understand how to bring the hot air balloon back to land, but the ending was a shock and happened quickly. However, that’s not a bad thing for this piece, in my opinion. Life is shocking, things in life happen quickly, and the pacing of this piece works really well for that ending.

Guy and Lili as characters interact well together, but Little Guy’s language and mannerisms seem a bit too mature for a seven-year-old. Of course, every child is different, but my initial reading of the story made me feel like Little Guy was either wise for his age or just grew up faster than other children I’m used to reading about. After reading the short information about Edwidge Danticat, I was under the impression that her experience with children may be that they are smarter than people give them credit for, and that some families simply encourage that sort of maturity and adult behavior out of children. During my second reading of the story, I really liked that this child, a child portraying Boukman throughout the piece, was so mature. The characters in the piece all sound different. Even if Little Guy does seem a bit mature, he does not necessarily sound like his parents. They are all separate characters and their interactions as a family were wonderful.

The style of this piece is beautiful, and I found myself rereading certain lines and descriptions multiple times. Little Guy’s mannerisms, from mature to simply a child, were obvious in the ways they were written, his “of-course-I-remember look” to his pain when his father punished him. I also enjoyed the use of Boukman quotes weaved into the narrative. Even the moment of Guy’s death and Lili’s reaction afterward are stunningly written. One of my favorite descriptions in the piece, however, though there are many to choose from, is when Guy, Lili and Little Guy were first on their way to the sugar mill. “Their feet sounded as though they were playing a wet wind instrument as they slipped in and out of puddles.” I have never in my life imagined walking through puddles to be so melodic. Danticat’s style is just beautiful.  

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