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The Farming of Bones: the Symbolic Portrayal of Water's Relation to Death vs. Life

By | December 2010
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“Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside us while we live.” (Norman Cousins) Death comes to us all, for some it marks the end of a life, for others it reveals the road to a new path in which the soul travels. However it leaves behind a trail of darkness regardless for those who have experienced the loss. Through enduring the death and tragedies of those around us, we are tested by our emotions. The character Amabelle experiences the trauma of death and tragedy many times through water in her journey and Danticat shows us how it affects her in the novel. In a time where there was much death and tragedy, Danticat’s depictions gives us insight into just how horrific the events were that took place during the period of the novel. In Edwidge Danticat’s The Farming of Bones, water is viewed upon as a symbol of death vs. life and is a common theme in the novel especially in reference to the Massacre River.

The Farming of Bones by Edwidge Danticat revolves around the true events that occurred in 1937 in the Dominican Republic. The dictator at the time was a man named Rafael Trujillo who ordered his troops to massacre as many as 15,000 Haitians living in the Dominican Republic. The killings were brutal and left survivors with psychological trauma after experiencing the massacre. (Hewett 123) In The Farming of Bones, Danticat does an exceptional job with supplying the reader with details of just how horrific this massacre was, giving us an imagery of death by Trujillo’s soldiers and the brutal acts done upon Haitians living in the Dominican Republic. The character Amabelle shares her story and sorrow through her memories and present as she makes her way to the border in hopes of surviving the struggle.

The loss of Amabelle’s parents in the Massacre River is the first hint Danticat gives us to support that water has a negative symbolism in the novel. As the narrator in the novel, we as the reader get a more personal in depth...

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