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"A Wall of Fire Rising"
Transcript of "A Wall of Fire Rising"
About the Author
Born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti in 1969 then moved to New York City when she was 12- spoke very little English
She Published her first novel,
Breath, Eyes, Memory
, in 1994, when she was only 25
She was named one of the "Best Young American Novelists" in 1996
Duty & Expectations
Slavery vs. Freedom
Hot Air Balloon
Double meaning of escape
Lines in the play become more significant
Like father, like son?
Duty & Expectations
Guy should take care of family but can't because he can't get a job
Didn't want to turn out like his father - but sees no other option
Expects his son to do well because of how well he's doing in the play, but Little Guy can't succeed because of his living conditions
Haiti expected to be free after the revolution, but can't because of extreme poverty
All of this drove him to suicide
Guy shifts where he places blame throughout the story
On situation and location
On his father for being stuck there
On himself for failing to support his family
Poor and can't find work
Family has no means of leaving their situation of poverty
Name on the list for work
Wants a better life for his family
Can't make something new of himself
Guy feels he has no choice but suicide
Slavery vs. Freedom
Haiti won their freedom from the French
Now the people are enslaved by poverty
Lines in the play written by a European - still influenced
Owner of hot air balloon is Arab
List enslaves to only factory work, and so Lili did not want Little Guy on it
Hot air balloon as a means of escape
List means the promise of work
One day of work for Guy is taunting
Hot Air Balloon
Hope & Escape
Leave their situation
Find a better life
Flying as freedom
"freedom not only from specific circumstances but from those more general burdens that tie us down" (Foster 127).
From beginning of story to the end
Potential of Little Guy
Is Haiti really independent?
Wall of Fire
Traps and destroys
Represents their situation
In hot air balloon
Promise of work in the future
Dictated their destiny
Death and the King's Horseman
Elisin needs to commit suicide to help his king in the afterlife
Guy feels he needs to commit suicide to save his own family
The Yellow Wallpaper
The woman trapped by society because she isn't acting in the way it is believed she should
Trapped in that room for months, desperate to get out
Guy and his family are trapped by their economic environment
Slavery of his destiny vs. freedom of choice
Can't escape his fate no matter how hard he tries
Guy and his family can't escape poverty because he can't get a job
This is a story of a family living in poverty in Haiti.
It begins with the father, Guy, coming home to his wife, Lili, and son, Little Guy. Little Guy very excitedly tells his father about the lines that he has in the school play, and then goes on to read them.
The family then sits down together and has dinner, and then they go to the sugar mill in town. This is where we first get introduced to the hot air balloon, as it is sitting behind a fence in the yard of the sugar mill.
It is revealed that Guy is fascinated with the balloon and he tells Lili that he believes he could make it fly.
Later, Guy tells his wife that he has gotten work the next day scrubbing latrines at the sugar mill – a job that he waited six months to get. Later that night, the two talk about the permanent hire list for the sugar mill that Guy has his name on, and discuss whether or not to put Little Guy’s name on there as well so that he might have work there when he grows up – Lili says that she does not want his name on the list.
The next day, Little Guy gets more lines in the play and, after listening to his son recite them, Guy becomes sad. Guy then talks to Lili about how he wants to make something of himself and about how he wants to fly the balloon away from there. Lili seems concerned about where she and Little Guy fit into whatever plans he may have.
In the next scene, Little Guy runs in and frantically tells his mother that Guy is up in the hot air balloon. They go outside and there is a crowd of onlookers looking up at Guy and cheering him on, wondering how he got the balloon up by himself.
Then suddenly, Guy climbs over the edge of the basket and falls to earth. He is pronounced dead and Little Guy, clearly upset, can only recite his lines.
"A wall of fire rising and in the ashes, I see the bones of my people. Not only those people whose dark hollow faces I see daily in the fields, but all those souls who have gone ahead to haunt my dreams. At night I relive once more the last caresses from the hand of a loving father, a valiant love, a beloved friend."
"There is so much sadness in the faces of my people. I have called on their gods, now I call on our gods. I call on our young. I call on our old. I call on our mighty and the weak. I call on everyone and anyone so that we shall all let out one piercing cry that we may either live freely or we should die."
Foster, Thomas C. How to Read Literature like a Professor:
A Lively and Entertaining Guide to Reading between The.. New York: Harper, 2003. Print.
Lyons, Bonnie and Edwidge Danticat. "An Interview with
Edwidge Danticat." Contemporary Literature. 2003. Web. 16 Apr. 2014.
Background on Haiti
Lines in Play
Story takes place in mid to late 1900's
Rebelled against the French in the early 1800's
Left the country in extreme poverty
Still greatly influenced by the Europeans
Began as a representation of Haiti's revolution
Play is about the Haitian revolution
Little Guy's potential
Memorizes lines very quickly and well
Has the lead part
Become more applicable and significant when Guy dies
"I relive once more the last caresses from the hand of a loving father"
"There is so much sadness in the faces of my people"
"We shall all let out one piercing cry that we may either live freely or we should die."
(p. 378 ln. 216)
Leaving with his family
Guy wants to take the balloon away from there to make something new of himself (p. 376 ln. 166)
Lili asks if she and Little Guy are in his plans and he does not answer (p. 376 on. 174)
Open to interpretation
"...in general a symbol can't be reduced to standing for only one thing" (Foster 98).
Guy wonders how a man is remembered after he is gone (p. 376 ln. 177)
Guy did not want to be like his father
Very poor and struggled his whole life (p.377 ln 190)
Realizes that he has become his father
Does not want Little Guy to turn out the same way or to remember him in the same way
Possible motive for suicide