In his novel The Farming of Bones, Edwidge Danticat, a Haitian-American novelist, engages in the process of re-remembering the tragic events surrounding the Haitian massacre of 1937, delving deep into his memories and the psychological relaying of history. From the very beginning of the novel, it becomes clear that the author wants to ensure that he honors the victims, the majority of whom were unburied, through giving them a voice and honoring their memory through literary inscriptions. After reading the book, I discovered that the natural elements such as water, earth, and air have played crucial roles in the narrative. The existence of the characters and their overall state of mind has influenced the way they express themselves. Thus, the metaphoric content of the novel, from its beginning, has been focused on nature almost wholly.
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Reading half of the novel, one cannot help but see the parallels that the author draws between the elements of nature and the narrative itself, including the main events and the feelings that the characters have expressed. When speaking of her loved one, the female protagonist uses metaphors about nature to express her sense of fear, which can be predicted because of the author’s heavy use of metaphors: “I am afraid to exist when he’s not there. I’m like one of those sea stones that sucks its colors inside and loses its translucence once it’s taken out into the sun, out of the froth of the waves” (Danticat 2). By likening herself to a sea stone, the beauty of which fades without the seawater, the character expresses her deepest fears and worry regarding losing the love of her life.
By getting to know the author’s style, I expected that any turmoil that the characters experience would be supported by nature as an ally, a guard, and a source of resistance during misfortune. For instance, the sea cave metaphor appears in the novel as a symbol of motherly protection as related to the victims of the massacre: “saying that in there flowed the sound fishes hear when they swim deep inside the ocean’s caves” (Danticat 45).
The repeated metaphors of water are essential to note here because they have a double meaning. On the one side, they have been continuously associated with death and drowning. On the other side, they also represent immense love, protection from harm, and immortality. The sea cave metaphor is critical in this context because it shows that the character, when facing the choice of either life or death, jumps off a cliff and takes shelter in a sea cave that protects him from the attackers. By showing that the character can take refuge in the cave, the author communicates that the individual has the opportunity to return to the stage of rebirth.
In my opinion, the novel is full of nature-related metaphors because of the need to soften the challenges endured by the characters. The fact that the characters are low-class Haitians working on plantations in the Dominican Republic suggests that the people had no other entity that would support them besides nature. For the population that is struggling, nature becomes the rescuer and the place of shelter. I would give the book give starts because it is a prominent example how metaphors can embed into the narrative and help not only transfer the emotions of characters but also point to the bigger problem at hand. The book is a must-read not only for the plot but also for the mastery that Danticat uses when delving deep into the connections between humans and nature.
Danticat, Edwidge. The Faming of Bones. Soho Press, 2013.