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“Brother I’m Dying” by Edwidge Danticat

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Who loved to hear folktale stories from their grandmother at nights before going to sleep? Personally I loved hearing them especially at night with hot chocolate and pan dulce [sweet bread]. However, wouldn’t you wonder why your grandmother would tell you these stories if there was a significant explanation, or lesson to be learned from them? In the book, “Brother I’m Dying”, by Edwidge Danticat it’s dispersed with numerous folk tales and children stories with a symbolic message. Most of the tales were told by her [Edwidge] grandmother “Grandme Melina” who can be seen to be giving her guidance even after her death, through her stories. The tales connect to Danticat providing a form of escape for her during the most troubling times in her life, dealing with issues such as death, displacement and illness.

Danticat did not have a good communication with her parents nor her siblings she would always keep everything to herself. She would not feel comfortable talking to her parents about her personal issues or concerns because they left when she was small. One great example of that would be when she got pregnant and her father was dying this was a very hard and confusing situation to be in. So what did she did was she keep it to herself until she felt it was the right time to let everyone know. Imagine being pregnant and not being able to let everyone know. Although she did not feel comfortable talking to her parents she enjoyed spending time with Madeline. Danticat explains, “Leaning down, I picked a book that looked familiar, a book I’d owned before. It had a nun on the cover and on one side of her were eleven little girls in raincoats and on the other, having the luxury of an entire hand to herself, a little girl who was dressed exactly the same as the others but stood apart somehow.

The little girl’s name was Madeleine…I couldn’t wait to climb into bed and have another visit with my old friend Madeleine, who like me, now live in an old house with other children” (67). This is important because Danticat shared a similar experience with the character of Madeleine, as she feels displaced and abandoned with her parents leaving to New York to set up a better life for them. However, the only difference here is that Madeleine mother died and her father left with uncle Joseph in order to give her a better future. However, Danticat and Madeline still wouldn’t talk to her parents that very well. Her lack of communication with them could be seen as a reason for why she was so dependent on such tales to help her through her childhood.

Her grandmother also informs her of another tale named Rapunzel, of a “beautiful young girl whose mother, fearful that she might be abducted by a passerby, locked her inside a small but pretty little house by the side of the road while the mother worked in the fields until dusk…Grandme Melina’s voice would grow shrill with excitement from dangers that might lie ahead for this young girl…our representative in the story, the one from whose choices we were meant to extract our lesson” (69). The story can be interpreted as having many lessons, of being safe and aware, especially living in a politically unstable place such as Haiti. This is significant because her uncle Joseph was very aware of the things that would happen around his country and him. For example, when he would write down as much description he could of every person he would come across while walking around to do his errands. Imagine walking down the street and finding people just lying around dead.

This would be very frightening to anyone people wouldn’t even feel safe anymore. However, a more relevant one to Dandicat’s tale would be the snake acting as a symbol of death and the young girl as sickness: “…a story I thought was meant only to scare the neighborhood children. But I see now that the story was more about Grandme Meline than anyone. She was the daughter, locked inside a cocoon of sickness and old age while death pleaded to be let in somehow” (71). My goal is to demonstrate that Grandme Meline told Danticat this stories so she wouldn’t want to give up or feel sad because of the life she is living.

Everyone goes through bad situations in life people just have to learn to forgive or forget about what happen to be able to live a peaceful life. Life can be tough at times but all we can do is learn a lesson from the bad experience we went through and move on. Yes, it is hard to move on but then that’s why parents should let their children know that people come and go that no one stay here in earth forever. According to the book that was the same exact thing Grandme Meline was trying to do with her short stories. She was trying to let the children know that everyone goes through tough situations that they should not let things get on their way.

Works Cited
Danticat, Edwidge. Brother I’m Dying. 1st ed. New York: Alfred A. Knopf,
2007. Print.

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