The Imagery of Fire in Edwidge Danticat’s “A Wall of Fire Rising”
The imagery of fire in Edwidge Danticat's short story “A Wall of Fire Rising” possesses a very powerful meaning and also continually changes throughout the entirety of the story. Fire was a very sacred thing to have, especially during the time this story has taken place. One example of how fire is used in the story "A Wall of Fire Rising" is the fire that is burning deep down inside of Big Guy. This fire is a metaphor of the build up of all of Big Guy's emotions and frustrations that happen and are presented throughout his life. Big Guy struggles with his inner self a lot. He is also ashamed because he has not had a job in six months, and even that job is not guaranteed. The mere fact of having a job was important to Big Guy because all he wants in life was to be able to have his manhood back and support is able to support his little family. The only job he could get was scrubbing toilets at the sugar mill. This wall of fire is Big Guy's ego, and it is very damaged. Big Guy also struggled with wanting to do the right thing by his family by supporting them but also wanting to make himself happy. He especially wants what he thought is right for his son, but Lili did not want what Big Guy had in mind:
"I was thinking of putting the boy on the list now, so maybe by the time he becomes a man he can have the job." (pg 238)
"I don't want him on that list," she said. "For a young boy to be on any list like that might influence his destiny…" (pg 238)
"Look at me," guy said. "If my father had worked there, if he had me on the list, don't you think I would be working?" (pg 238)
This argument is about how Big Guy wants Little Guy to be on the list for the sugar mill to be able to be set and possibly have a job when he is older. Lili, Big Guy's wife, continually turns him down, making him feel helpless in life. These constant disagreements that Lily and he have throughout the story shoot makes him feel helpless with being able to give his son a head start in life. Lili who does not really listen or even compromise with what Big Guy says contributes to his “rising fire” inside of him. This wall of fire rising is what is holding Big Guy back, and it will lead him to self destruction. A second example of how fire is used in the story is how significant the fire is in the hot air balloon. That fire in the hot air balloon represents Big Guy's freedom and all of his fantasies of wanting to get away. He wishes he could just start over. As unfortunate as it is, and as much as Big Guy loves his little family, they are a constant reminder of his failure, and he hates that. By getting into that hot air balloon, in his mind, he would be able not to have any more worries of not being able to support his family and not having a job. Throughout the story, Guy is always in a constant daydream about flying high above Haiti and to be one with the clouds. Big Guy is always trying to start a conversation with Lili about how he wants to get away:
"Think like this. Can't you just see yourself up there? Up in the clouds somewhere like some kind of bird?" (pg 239)
"If God wanted people to fly, he would have given us wings on our backs." (pg 239)
"You're right, Lili, you're right. But look what he gave us instead. He gave us the air, the birds, our son." (pg 239)
Every night Big Guy, Little Guy, and Lili walk down to the sugar mill. The air balloon sits right next to the sugar mill, and Big Guys always marvels at it. He reaches for it through the fence and always watches the owner during the day play with the controls and begin to fly it. Guy is convinced he would be able to start it and fly it. The fire in that hot air balloon is what gives it life and enables it to fly. Big Guy, in a sense, desires that fire to be his own and eventually gets the freedom that he really wants at the end of the story.
A final example of how significant fire is...
Cited: Danticat, Edwidge. “A Wall of Fire Rising.” The Norton Introduction to Literature: Portable Tenth Edition. Ed. Alison Booth and Kelly J. Mays. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2011. 232-244. Print.
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