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Analysis of “Brother, I’m Dying” by Edwidge Danticat

Brother, I’m Dying, a memoir by a famous Haitian-American writer Edwidge Danticat, first published in 2007, is an outstanding literary work that pushes the boundaries of the genre. The author skillfully applies various elements of the memoir, conveying the life story of her family emotionally and consistently, alternating the course of events with references to the past, and including elements of inner experiences of oneself as one of the main characters. This paper aims to critically analyze Brother, I’m Dying memoir by Edwidge Danticat.

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According to the requirements of the genre, a memoir should contain information about the author or convey the story of his life. In the late 20th and early 21st century, perhaps under pressure from the growing ubiquity of multimedia, the memoir genre has become extremely popular among people who are not literary men but want to share their legacy. Presidents, journalists, scientists, politicians, and secret service workers publish their memoirs primarily to convey some important ideas and facts about the life of society.

Edwidge Danticat does not belong to this category of memoirists, although she provides an important historical context in her book for understanding the Haitian emigrants and their perception of the world and integration into American society. Her work is literary, as it is replete with many emotional details, creating a literary story about the lives of the heroes rather than simply recording important facts. Despite the logically verified text that describes the family drama from the author’s life, Edwidge Danticat also creates an additional perspective or projection for the perception of this drama – this is a vision filled with love and hope, despite the horror and pain experienced along the path of life.

The author goes along with the reader the path from the beginning to the end of the book, being at the same time a storyteller, one who experiences what is happening, and one who evaluates the experience. In other words, Edwidge Danticat weaves stories as a reformer in the memoir genre. The past events unfold not in chronological order, but arbitrarily, in the course of the narrative, when particular circumstances evoke the author’s memories.

For example, the touching scene when Edwidge learns about her father’s illness from the doctor, and then he gathers the family at the dinner table to discuss “what is going to happen to your mother after I’m gone” (Danticat 22). After her brother Bob asks if her father had a happy life, Edwidge presents an excerpt from her childhood memories of living with her uncle and aunt in Haiti while her parents were settling in New York, and her only connection with her father was reading letters that he sent every month.

The author fondly recalls how she helped her uncle Joseph decipher father’s handwriting: “I would try to guess his thoughts and moods from the dotting of his i’s and the crossing of his t’s, from whether there were actual periods at the ends of his sentences or just faint dots where the tip of his pen had simply landed” (Danticat 25). It seemed to her that the formal style in which the letters were written created an invisible wall through which her father tried not to show his feelings, not to hurt anyone. Edwidge bumped into the same wall when she wrote back letters under the guidance of her uncle, who, with a focus on grammar, asked her to rewrite them several times. And yet, through this formal style, Edwidge hoped that her father would find out how bored she was.

Another touching episode that brings an element of the novel into the memoir is the meeting between father and Edwidge at the airport and a subsequent visit to the doctor. The pain and tenderness with which Edwidge describes the physical condition of her father simultaneously confront the reader with the insurmountability of the fact of father’s illness, and his love for his daughter, life, and the world.

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Remarkably, Edwidge talks in detail about what kind of driver her father is, and how difficult it is for him to breathe and walk. “Driving has always been like another breath for him” is a powerful metaphor, describing the experience of the author’s father who loses the ability to breathe due to incurable pulmonary fibroids (Danticat 33). The car and twenty years of driving experience allow him to forget about the disease at least for a while and pretend that everything is good, feel like a living and healthy person.

One of the highlights of the opening chapters is the news of Edwidge’s pregnancy. “My father is dying, and I am pregnant,” – the author shares with the reader her emotions about how difficult it was to accept both news, which seemed almost unrealistic, and how she would like her father to hear the news about pregnancy, not being overshadowed by incurable disease (Danticat 19). Edwidge does not tell the news to her family, not to distract attention from her father, and because she cannot say out loud the words she wants to say. However, on the way home to Miami, she finds the strength and admits her pregnancy, arousing the joy and support of her parents.

Overall, Edwidge’s affection and respect for her family are evident in every line. Each family member for her – grandmothers, grandfathers, adoptive sister, uncles, aunts, cousins and siblings, mother and father – is a valuable world with its laws, which unfolded before Edwidge’s eyes when he was a child. It’s amazing how accurately she describes the characters, preferences, inclinations, and personal pain of her characters. For example, in the medical history of her uncle Joseph, who lost his voice due to the removal of a tumor in his throat at the age of 55, the author vividly imagines how significant this loss was to him.

Uncle Joseph was a civic activist with the makings of a politician. He built a church and gave sermons there on Sunday, thus averting the danger of participating in the resistance movement against American rule on the island. However, unexpectedly, illness deprived him of the opportunity to continue his professional occupation, took away his vocation, leaving only bitterness. Edwidge talks about the physically hard road to competent doctors and expensive treatment. But at the same time, she conveys the story from the perspective of her uncle, for whom physical deprivation did not matter as long as he had the opportunity to be himself.

Thus, Brother, I’m Dying memoir by Edwidge Danticat was critically analyzed. The author uses a unique style that goes beyond the genre, bringing elements of the novel and drama through detailed descriptions of historical events, memories, and experiences. Edwidge lays out events in no particular order, weaving elements from the past, present, and the anticipated future into the narrative. Interestingly, this approach does not complicate perception but makes the story lively, sincere, and exciting.

Work Cited

Danticat, Edwidge. Brother, I’m dying. Vintage, 2008.

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StudyCorgi. (2022, December 15). Analysis of “Brother, I’m Dying” by Edwidge Danticat. Retrieved from https://studycorgi.com/analysis-of-brother-im-dying-by-edwidge-danticat/

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StudyCorgi. (2022, December 15). Analysis of “Brother, I’m Dying” by Edwidge Danticat. https://studycorgi.com/analysis-of-brother-im-dying-by-edwidge-danticat/

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StudyCorgi. "Analysis of “Brother, I’m Dying” by Edwidge Danticat." December 15, 2022. https://studycorgi.com/analysis-of-brother-im-dying-by-edwidge-danticat/.

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StudyCorgi. 2022. "Analysis of “Brother, I’m Dying” by Edwidge Danticat." December 15, 2022. https://studycorgi.com/analysis-of-brother-im-dying-by-edwidge-danticat/.

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StudyCorgi. (2022) 'Analysis of “Brother, I’m Dying” by Edwidge Danticat'. 15 December.

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