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Purpose of Communication in ‘The Dew Breaker’

Many people in today’s world have trouble when it comes to communicating. In literature many authors use communication as a way to either create relationships or to create barriers in one. In the novel The Dew Breaker, by Edwidge Danticat, many characters struggle when it comes to communicating about their past, while others thrive at accepting it. This is shown throughout the entire novel however, three stories that show this in particular are, “Seven”, “Night Talkers”, and “Monkey Tails”. Danticat uses communication to represent a theme that the more people communicate about their past and secrets the easier it is for them to accept them.

In the second story from the novel, “Seven”, a man his wife are introduced. They have not seen each other in seven years. After this long of a separation the formation of a barrier starts to occur. They know they’ve missed each other and that they love each other but they don’t really know how to act around eachother. The situation is almost awkward. The husband is even scared of how to tell his wife he loves her. He thinks about it first and says, “It’s too bad, that in Creole the word for love, renmen, is also the word for like” (Danticat 43), so instead of just saying I love you he would have to use it in a sentence to explain how much he loved her. Due to the separation of seven years he didn’t know what to add to it so instead he said nothing at all. This plus affairs neither share with the other all add to the barrier. There is also a language barrier between them. The husband having been living in America seven years prior to his wife’s arrival has become accustomed to his life. While the wife finds it very difficult because not only is she unfamiliar with the city but can not speak english creating another communication barrier between her and the world around her. The longer that they go though not communicating about their past seven years the larger the barrier between them becomes. Danticat uses this barrier due to lack of communication to support the theme that the more you hide your past the harder it will be to move forward.

The next story that represent the theme of communication is, “Night Talkers”. Night Talkers are, “people who wet their beds, not with urine but with words” (98). This chapter is given this title because many characters in it have this characteristic. The first night talker we encounter is both Estina and Dany. Dany is a young man living in New York City who returns home to Haiti to tell his aunt Estina about discovering the man who killed his parents years ago. Estina does not care to think about this past terror that her and Dany experienced instead she embraces her past and is not ashamed of it. This is not Dany’s case though he is set on living in the past and discussing it with Estina. One of Dany’s more “chatty nights” he dreams about finishing his conversation with his aunt about the man who had killed his parents, when his own voice jolts him up. When he wakes up he finds his aunt is also awake. Once she falls asleep he hears her mumble words in her sleep as well, eventually becoming the last words he ever heard from her. The last night talker we meet is Claude. Danticat portrays Claude as luckier of night talker because instead of just speaking his nightmares out loud to himself, he is able to speak his nightmares to others as well. However he can’t always do this because of his english language barrier. This chapter relates to the theme of communication present in all chapters. Dany does not get the chance to tell his aunt what he had wanted to about the barber, but the communication seems to have taken place. As night talkers there is an intangible connection between the two creating a form of unconscious communication.

Lastly the theme of communication is present in, “Monkey Tails”. The main character in this chapter is Michel. Michel is from Haiti and like most has a complicated past. However, unlike most of the other characters in the novel Michel is not afraid to communicate his past. Michel is so set on making sure he doesn’t keep his past hidden like his mother did to him he creates a memoir to give to his son. Meaning the whole chapter represents a form of communication. He wants to share his childhood past and his present as a father with his son so that he doesn’t face the chance of a relationship barrier between them, like Ka and Mr. Bienaime. Michel communicates his past of not growing up with a father, only to find out he lived across the street the whole time making it easy for him to accept. Danticat creates michel to contrast him to other characters such as Mr. Bienaime, Dany, and the man and wife in seven to show that the only way to move forward is to accept the past and communicate it.

Throughout the novel Danticat has used the theme of communication to represent many different things. In, “Seven”, to show how not communicating for that long of a time can affect a relationship. In, “Night Talkers”, to show that being aware of a fear is one thing but being able to communicate it is something completely different. Lastly in, “Monkey Tails” Danticat shows that communicating the past leads to a better relationship between two people. However the overall theme of communication present in all chapters is the more people communicate their past and secrets the easier it is for them to accept them and move on. This is a problem that is still evident in today’s world. Many people still don’t know how to communicate their past or they are scared to.

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