A Wall of Rising Fire is a story in Edwidge Danticat’s book

A Wall of Rising Fire is a story in Edwidge Danticat’s book Krik? Krak! about a small, three-person family made up of a man called Guy, his wife Lili, and their young son Little Guy. They are a poor family, and Guy, the family’s head, comes from a modest background as well, as his father was also a poor man. The guy does odd jobs to support his family, but one day he returns with good news: he has secured a new job working for one of the richest families, the Assads. On the same day, their son arrives home from school and informs them that he has been cast as the lead in a play. They rejoice over their son’s news. However, Guy is happy with his new employment for a different reason. His reason for joy is because the family he is working for owns a hot air balloon and he believes that he is capable of flying it into the air. His wife disagrees with this belief and tries to stop him. Contrary to her refusal that Guy should give the hot air balloon a try, he goes ahead to do it. While midair, he jumps off the balloon to his death. His son then performs lines from his role in the school play, while standing over Guy’s dead body.
In Danticat’s story, Imagery is among the most well brought out literary devices. The use of imagery is dominant throughout the story and even in the title of the story itself. The title of the story is significant as it is a word for word extract of Dutty Boukman’s actual utterances at the time when he initiated the Haitian revolution. The significance of Dutty Boukman and his words is well brought out in Tara Stubbs’ book where she states that, “Presided over by the talismanic Jamaican born slave, Dutty Boukman, the Bois Caiman Assembly, as it came to be known, signaled a germinal moment in the political geneology of the Haitian revolution” (Stubbs 252). The setting of the story is in a Haitian community in the countryside and the imagery that is used by Danticat in this story blends in well with the history and culture of Haiti. Among the instances of imagery that have been used in this story include; the poverty stricken nature of Guy’s family, the equally humble background that Guy had, Guy’s burning desire to fly the hot air balloon and the courage to go through with it, Little Guy’s lead role in the school play, The use of Dutty Boukman’s piece as the play that Little guy was supposed to perform, the bonfires that the people held to sit around and complain about the government, among other instances.
Imagery plays an important role in the story. It does so in the sense that, the instances of imagery in the story help to bring out more clearly the setting, the context of the story as well as the message that the story intends to bring out through the plot. According to Paivio’s book on Imagery and Verbal Processes, “Memory, meaning, association, perception, thought- all these in one way or another implicated mental imagery as a crucial mechanism”(Paivio 3). This shows the parts of the audience which imagery appeals to and their usefulness in imagery fulfilling its purpose in any literary work. Without the imagery, the appropriate message, context of the story and what it symbolizes is made vulnerable to being misunderstood. The purpose of this imagery is to help the reader connect the plot of the story with the meaning that is beyond the outward interpretation of the narration. The imagery plays the role of triggering the appropriate emotional state that the audience needs to be in for the story to have an impact on them. In Danticat’s story, imagery has been brought out well, dominantly and connects well with the plot of the story.
The first instance of imagery in the story is when Little Guy comes home from school and announces to his parents that he has been chosen to perform the lead role in a school play based on Dutty Boukman who was a Haitian revolutionary. Dutty Boukman was originally from Africa but as a result of slave trade he ended up working as a slave in Jamaica and later in Haiti. Boukman was both a maroon leader as well as religious leader among his people. Boukman later became among the first individuals who initiated revolution of the Haitian people. His agility acted as a trigger and more so a catalyst of the Haitian Revolution. In A Wall of Rising Fire, Little Guy being given the lead role of Dutty Boukman in the school play is a symbol of hope to his parents. The role symbolizes hope to Guy’s family because they perceive that Little Guy will play the same role that Dutty Boukman played in the Haitian Revolution. In Celucien Joseph’s journal, Journal of Race, Ethnicity and Religion, he says that, “Boukman’s invocation registers the collective desire for justice and the urgency for human liberation” (Joseph 5). To Guy and Lili, they see it as a sign that Little Guy is the one who will play the actual lead role of saving their family from the misery and state of poverty that they are in. The joy that they express once Little Guy performs lines from the play is not only of pride for their son but also as a result of how much hope this sign gives them. Imagery is clearly brought out in this part of the story.
The second instance of imagery in the story is the poor and miserable state of Guy’s family and the burning desire that he has to free himself from leading such a life. Despite the fact that Guy’s family is not the only poor family around, Guy feels more bothered by this state because not only is he poor in the present day but he is also from a humble background because his father was also a poor man. The continuous state of poverty in Guy’s family is an imagery of the slavery and colonization that Haitians had been under for years. The first part of this imagery is the fact that Guy’s family is a poor family which symbolizes the colonization that Haiti was suffering from. The second part of the imagery is the fact that Guy is not the only one who is poor, in his background; his father was also poor just like him. The prolonged state of misery that runs through Guy’s family is one that symbolizes the many years that the Haitian people had suffered slavery and colonization by the Europeans. According to Alyssa Goldstein’s book, Haitian History: New Perspectives, “Africans were forcibly brought to the colony from 1680 to 1786” (Goldstein 13). This shows how long the Haitians had been under slavery. Guy’s state develops into how much he desires to free himself from the shackles of poverty. The burning desire that Guy has symbolizes the similar push that the Haitians had which was so strong that it led to an intense and drastic revolution against the French rule. The relation between Guy’s need to escape poverty and the need of the Haitian people to free themselves from the control of the French, both running for a longer time than was bearable, is an instance that brings out imagery well.
There is also another state of imagery brought out in the story by the hot air balloon which Guy fixates on from the time he is offered a job by the Assad’s. The Assad’s are a rich Haitian-Lebanese family which is in charge of or rather owns the sugar mill which Guy is working in. As a result of their wealth, they are able to afford their own hot air balloon, something that indicates how rich they are. Owning the sugar mill plays the role of showing where their wealth is coming from. However, the hot air balloon, due to its expensive nature, acts as a symbol of richness. As a result, since Guy has a burning desire to escape poverty and become wealthy, he becomes obsessed with the idea of one day flying in the hot air balloon. The hot air balloon is an imagery of Guy’s dream of evading poverty, and further broken down, is an imagery of the freedom that the Haitians craved and only saw their masters enjoying during the years when they were under colonization. The Haitian people had no freedom since the French set foot in their land and settled there. Freedom is something they only desired and obsessed over but could not have to themselves. Celucien Joseph in his journal claims that, “slaves at Saint-Domingue had a natural love for liberty, and the desire for independence was there from the beginning”(Joseph 3). This freedom that they had fixated on is symbolized in the story by the hot air balloon which Guy only dreams about constantly and it would take a very long time or a miracle, to have one of his own. Imagery is brought out vividly in this instance.
As seen in Danticat’s story, imagery is a very important literary device in narrations that have a meaning deeper than just the surface understanding. It is an essential literary device because through its usage, the audience can be able to fully relate to the message of the story. Furthermore, it gives a reference point that the audience can be able to use to grasp the whole point of the narration. Imagery also plays the role of provoking the appropriate emotional state that one should be in so as to be impacted by the story, in the specific way that the author originally intended. Imagery has been well and satisfactorily utilized in A Wall of Fire Rising.

Works Cited
Danticat, Edwidge. “A Wall of Fire Rising.”.” Krik? Krak (2009): 51-80.
Harding, James. “13 Antagonism, Antagonism!.” Navigating the Transnational in Modern American Literature and Culture: Axes of Influence (2017): 252.
Joseph, Celucien. “The Rhetoric of Prayer: Dutty Boukman, the Discourse of “Freedom from Below,” and the.”
Paivio, Allan. Imagery and verbal processes. Psychology Press, 2013.
Sepinwall, Alyssa Goldstein, ed. Haitian history: new perspectives. Routledge, 2012.

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