Symbolism in "The Farming of Bones"

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Justin Peterkin
Eng150-014
Prof. N. Essey
11/15/11
Research Essay
Symbolism in The Farming Of Bones
In The Farming of Bones, a story based on tragic real life events written by Edwidge Danticat, a Haitian girl named Amabelle attempts to establish a new life for herself in the neighboring Dominican Republic after the tragic deaths of both her parents. After establishing herself in the Dominican town of Alegria as a servant for a Dominican family, Amabelle's whole way of life is once again turned upside down when Generalissimo Rafael Trujillo orders the slaughter of Haitians who are occupying the Dominican Republic (Derby). Of the many themes and symbols used in this story the most prominent of them is water. (Scribd Inc.)

While reading the novel, I came to realize that water represented almost everything relating to life, including death in this story. In many ways it represented the beginnings of new lives or ways of life and the endings of old ones. It also in fleeting moments represented hope. These representations become Danticat’s way of allowing us to feel a sense of relation to the main character and the tragic timeline of events that occur in her life. In the eyes of the main character and in the minds of the reader water represents many transitions into and out of life.

In the novel, the reader soon learns that Amabelle's parents both died by drowning. They were swept away by the river current the same river which separates the Dominican Republic from Haiti and the same river were later thousands of people would die. The river in this case is not only representative of the taking of the Amabelle's parents lives, but the start of a completely new one for Amabelle. After witnessing the deaths of her parents crossing the river to re-enter Haiti Amabelle is found on the Dominican side of the river by Don Ignacio and his daughter, who would soon become, in a sense her new family, her new life. We see here that water represents both the end of one life and the start of a new one.

While living in the Dominican Republic Amabelle begins to adjust to her life as a servant for the wealthy Don Ignacio and his daughter Senora Valencia In the town of Alegria, forming a friendship with Senora Valencia and becoming almost like family. While working for Don Ignacio, Amabelle meets Sebastien Onius who becomes her lover and fiancé. We soon learn that Sebastien's father was also killed by water, this time in the form of a vicious hurricane that caused widespread damage in Haiti. Once again we see water representing the end of a life, causing death. Following the hurricane Sebastien is forced to enter the Dominican Republic and transition into a new life to find a means of income. It is here that he works in the brutal cane fields and it is herethat he cultivates a powerful relationship with Amabelle and a new life amongst the cane cutters. We can see here that the water ended the lives of important figures in these two characters lives, but it also brought them together, giving life to their new relationship together. In many ways the water also represented the life and death of Amabelle's relationship with Sebastien. During their time together Sebastien would take Amabelle to a cave behind a waterfall were Sebastien claims that the water holds onto light or some "memory of the sun that it will not surrender" causing you to not be able to tell night from day inside of the cave.(Danticat 100) It is in this very cave in the shadow of a waterfall that they make love for the first time. Here it is representing the life of their relationship,but later on in the story it will represent the end of their relationship(Fraim). Soon there is talk amongst the cane workers that Haitians are being killed by the Dominican army. At first Amabelle is reluctant to believe that this is true, but soon the circumstances become all too real and it is obvious that a major tragedy is imminent. Aware of the fact that they would soon be killed,...
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