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The Book of the Dead Literary Analysis

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  • Pages: 3
  • Word count: 513
  • Category: Books

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Edwige Danticat’s “The Book of the Dead” is a short, historically based fictional story which describes the reign of a corrupt Haitian dictator, Dr. Francois Duvalier, and the adverse effects of his oppressive rule. In the story, Annie, a sculptor, discovers that her father, who she idolized for his heroic role standing up for Haitian rights is actually a criminal and worked on behalf of Papa Doc(dictator Duvalier). Annie’s parents have kept the ugly truth hidden from her. One day, Annie’s father decides that he must tell Annie the painful reality of his jaded past.

The irony of who Annie believes her father to be, and the cold truth of who he actually is add to the drama. In the beginning of the story, Annie is on a trip with her father to sell a sculpture that she made of him titled “the father” which depicts her father and his strong hands kneeling down enduring torture as a prisoner under Papa Doc’s rule. Annie plans to sell the sculpture to another Haitian woman whose father also suffered in prison under Papa Doc’s rule. Annie’s father disappears on the morning the sculpture is to be sold. Annie is frantic, worrying about her beloved father. When her father finally returns, he comes clean with his daughter telling her that he is not a hero at all, but a criminal. He explains that he threw the sculpture away because he could no longer bear living the lie. “Your father was the hunter. He was not the prey,” he explains. Annie is in shock. She wonders whether she will ever be able to forgive her father for the sins of his past. Annie calls her mother, confronting her, and asks her, ”How do you love him?”

The reader must also come to terms with how one forgives another for past mistakes. Also, one must ponder how one forgives oneself for sins committed . Sabol2 The irony of it all is compounded when Annie and her father go to visit Gabrielle and her father. Gabrielle’s father, who was actually a war hero, is in a conversation with Annie’s father who was a war criminal . Annie now understands why her father cannot sleep well. Annie wonders if in her father’s nightmares he “dreams of dipping his hands in the sand on the beach in his own country and finds that what he comes up with is a fist full of blood.” She suggests that maybe the prisoner who scarred her father’s face may have dreamed this moment. Annie questions whether she can forgive her father and whether her father can ever live in peace. The proverb, “Those who give the blows may try to forget, but those who carry the scars must remember,” provides a fitting ending to this heartbreaking story which deals with Dr. Francois Duvalier, and his horrific rule. Danticat masterfully explores the question of how to move forward in life and forgive sins of the past in order to achieve everlasting peace in this sad story, ”The Book of the Dead.”

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