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The “Nineteen Thirty-Seven” Novel by Edwidge Danticat

Nineteen Thirty-Seven is a short novel written by Edwidge Danticat. The life of Josephine is a significant element in the book, as she uses flashbacks to dwell on her predicaments, which show her pain and suffering. The plot of the novel sheds light on tragic events, namely, the murder of Haitian immigrants in the Dominican Republic happened on November 17, 1937. In a five days period, the massacre was conducted to eliminate the Dominican Republic’s Haitian immigrant population (Danticat 40-41). Dominican soldiers executed thousands of Haitians near the Massacre River, which, supposedly, got its name after this incident, and Josephine’s grandmother was one of the victims of the killings.

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After being suspected by the community of being a witch, Josephine’s mother was caught by a group after an occultist who lived with them said Manman had used magical ways to murder their child (Danticat 33-39). She was arrested by the police and convicted and now faces a sentence of life in jail. Among the problems outlined in Danticat’s book are inequalities, violations, resistance, and identities. This paper also examines the interplay between society and powerful, dissident, and unwanted people, especially women.

The theme of inequity is brought to light via Josephine’s account of her mother’s life. According to Danticat, strong and independent women posed an issue for the Haitian authorities and a male-dominated society. Women in positions of authority who were unpopular and odd were subjected to unjust treatment. In a couple of cases, the women were wrongfully accused of something. For instance, Josephine’s mother was charged with murdering the kid when the infant died despite all of their efforts to cure his disease (Danticat, 33-39). The woman was falsely accused and convicted as a witch, and she was publicly assaulted and humiliated on the streets before being sentenced to life imprisonment in the following year.

As a result, the general public believes that Josephine’s mother is an occultist who poses a danger to everyone she comes into contact with. The fact that she is perceived as having a unique social identity that differs from the norm makes her an outcast and an undesirable member of society. When it comes to Josephine’s mother, the gang falsely accuses and humiliates her. In the wake of the accusations, she was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

The novel depicts the mob that assassinated Josephine’s mother as vengeful and angry. Because of this, it’s clear that magical and supernatural talents were taboo topics, to begin with (Danticat, 33-39). When accused of crimes using magic, Danticat claims that only a few people had to endure mockery and public humiliation. These people shared the same traits of character with Josephine’s mother: independence, self-esteem, and a trust in justice. The socioeconomic status of the society where the story takes place and the historical context should be taken into consideration when interpreting the plot. When looking at the overall trajectory, one could find that individual social interactions were impacted by susceptibility, education level, and amount of material wealth. Because of this, it can be said with certainty that a person’s social position dictated what they were capable of achieving and what they weren’t throughout that period. The only way to convict someone of practicing magic was to identify who they were and what they were doing.

Josephine’s mother was a single mother with no spouse and little financial means. As a result, people like Josephine and her mother are regarded as vulnerable in society as a whole. When Josephine and her mother cannot contest the illegitimacy surrounding Josephine’s mother’s detention, their fragility is demonstrated (Danticat, 33-39). Because persons in Josephine’s sociological class lacked a sense of belonging, they were particularly vulnerable. These people cannot assert their rights in society because they have no sense of social affiliation. They are therefore helpless against a repressive system; despite all the difficulties they endure. An example of this statement can be found in the episode with the imprisonment of Josephine’s mother, and this is used as evidence in Josephine’s case against her. Josephine’s mother is an example of someone helpless in the face of the system because of the power it wields. The dictatorship of the Dominican Republic Josephine’s mother is living under does not give her the recognition or authority to disagree with the way her captors are approaching the issue with unwanted people. In her years of imprisonment, her weakness was further underlined as her health deteriorated, and she died while still detained.

Injustice is a critical theme in Edwidge Danticat’s novel Nineteen Thirty-Seven when it comes to storyline and development. In this writing, the experiences of Haitian immigrants in the Dominican Republic are described. The Dominican army, led by General Rafael Trujillo, expelled immigrant workers from sugar cane plantations in 1937. On the sugar estates, the killing took place over five days. Their remains had been sealed and deposited into the Massacre River after they had died. This river was the informal border between Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

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Because of the tragedy, many people, including Josephine’s grandmother, lost their lives. On the other hand, Josephine’s mother had managed to cross the river and escape the ensuing mayhem without injury (Danticat 40). Under the dictatorship, atrocities such as murder were committed without regard to the motives or status of the victim, as well as oppression. As the novel progresses, the importance of injustices and violations increases since they occur when Haitian natural history blends with Josephine and her mother’s story.

Danticat’s fiction skillfully denounced human relations norms based on the perpetrators’ own words and actions. When Josephine visited her mother in prison, it was apparent how much the lady had changed since she last saw her. While in jail, Josephine describes an oppressive and depressing environment that is represented in her heartbreaking narrative. Josephine would bring food to her starving mother for a single meal as a child, but she had no idea that prison food could only be given out once in a few weeks. This is unequivocal proof of the institutionalized dehumanization that took place. This incident makes Josephine feel a lot of pity for her mother. During one of her trips to the prison, she comes across a prisoner suffering from severe spinal bleeding, and she resolves to assist her. For the most part, women were kept in jail because they were endowed with ethereal wings that allowed them to fly at night (Danticat 40). Because they were thought to be witches, they were subjected to cruel treatment to keep them from ascending to the skies.

The story, in addition to the issues of freedom and the person’s position in society, also raises the issue of relations between mother and daughter. In the last days of Manman’s life, a close and strong bond is revealed between her and Josephine. It began as a classic tie, but it was strengthened by grandmother’s sacrifice. The grandmother, not named in the book, shed her blood so that her daughter and even her unborn granddaughter could get out of the Dominican Republic in one piece. Moreover, Josephine was born on the same day that her grandmother sacrificed herself. According to Manman, Josephine “came out at the right moment to take [her] mother’s place” (Dantiсat 40). It is clear from this episode that for Manman, her child fills the empty hole in her heart left by her mother’s death. Consequently, the symbol of this relationship is the Madonna porcelain figure, passed down between women of this family.

Throughout Edwidge Danticat’s story, there are portrayals of revolution, injustice, social class oppression, and resistance. Each of these images and events is addressed in length, with specific examples supplied in the book. This is done not just to steer the novel’s storyline but also to give the reader a thorough grasp of these principles as they apply to the story. These themes are markers of social degradation, as depicted in the intertwining of Josephine and her mother’s character development in the context of contemporary Haitian culture. Finally, the novel makes excellent use of these aspects in themes to provide the reader with amusement, education, and enlightenment.

Work Cited

Danticat, Edwidge. Nineteen thirty-seven. Recorded Books, 2007.

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