Edwidge Danticat's novel, The Farming of Bones is an epic portrayal of the relationship between Haitians and Dominicans under the rule of Generalissimo Rafael Trujillo leading up to the Slaughter of 1937. The novel revolves around a few main concepts, these being birth, death, identity, and place and displacement. Each of the aspects is represented by an inanimate object. Water, dreams, twins, and masks make up these representations. Symbolism is consistent throughout the novel and gives the clearly stated and unsophisticated language a deeper more complex meaning. While on the surface the novel is an easy read, the symbolism which is prominent throughout the novel complicates the audience's interpretation. The reader is left to look beyond the language and uncover the underlying themes of the novel. Through symbolism Danticat is able to use inanimate objects to represent each of her character's more deeply rooted problems. In order to prove this theory true, I will thoroughly examine the aforementioned symbolic devices and provide a clear interpretation of their significance in the novel.
The first example of symbolism we encounter is in the first chapter and comes in the form of dreams. When Amabelle and Sebastian open up to one another it is through their shared experiences, which are most usually, their dreams. They are able to be the most themselves when they are not in real life experiences, though it sounds like an oxymoron, the juxtapose between dreams and reality says a great deal about the characters. Dreams are essentially escapes from reality, and when Amabelle and Sebastian share their dreams with one another it serves as an escape. It becomes clear that they share the desire to escape, but escape from what exactly, their pasts, presence, or futures? This implication of escape prepares readers for the escapes made by the lovers near the end of the story. On page 2 Amabelle says of her nocturnal escapes, "It's either be in a nightmare or be nowhere at all. Or otherwise simply float inside these remembrances, grieving for who I was, and even more for what I've become." This quotation implies that that even her life has become a nightmare. Readers can infer that a good night's sleep would be Amabelle's only chance of escape. Her nightmares are destroying her life, and her life...
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The Farming of Bones is not only an amazing work of literature, but a wonderful example of post-colonial literature. It has all the classic experiential images; dualism, confrontation, liberation, and identity.
The presence of symbolism throughout the novel is undeniable. Each of the symbols in the work are representative of a certain aspect of the characters lives. Dreams showed readers the desire of characters to escape their realities. The twins that Senora Valencia gives birth to are clearly meant to represent the neighboring nations of Haiti and The Dominican Republic. Water is primarily symbolic of life and death, but in this case readers are expected to come to their own conclusions regarding the river. Using these symbols allows the author to make discrete yet important additions to her writing without disrupting the format of the novel. Aside from serving as a benefit to the authors writing style, they can also be seen as an artistic addition which brings the entire novel to a different level. The use of symbolism in The Farming of Bones is not only extraordinarily well written but also completely essential to the story as a whole.
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