The Dew Breaker Stories 4-6

The fourth story begins with a Mother, Anne, discussing miracles with her daughter and husband while on their way from picking the daughter up from college to attend Christmas Eve Mass. The story is titles “The Book of Miracles” which came as no surprise once Anne reveals herself to be the mother Ka spoke of in the first reading when she references the artistic tendencies of her daughter and the obsession her husband has with the Ancient Egyptian statues at the Brooklyn Museum. This title immediately draws comparisons to the first story, titled “The Book of the Dead”, and, I believe, draws its meaning from the point of view Anne has, noticed by her daughter on page 73 when she says :“So if I see a woman’s face in a rose, I’d think somebody drew it there, but if you see it, Manman, you think it’s a miracle”. This quote indicates the differing opinions Anne and her daughter have regarding faith and, in some ways, could be the daughter challenging her mother’s practicality, as if to say “you see what you want to see”. As the family makes their way towards mass they pass a Cemetery and Anne holds her breath, going on a brief digression about the loss of her younger brother when they were each quite young and how the thought of his soul wandering the Earth, lost, torments her still, especially when by a Cemetery.  The family is then seated at Mass where Anne regrets not making any close acquaintances, making it known they she and her husband were fearful that he may be recognized before also concluding that because of age and the fact that he had never been a famous “Dew Breaker” or torturer that perhaps it were safe enough to venture out amongst their community without fear of him being recognized. Part of the way through mass Anne’s daughter begins to make a commotion with her father, signaling at one person in particular, and we learn that the daughter and husband both believe the person in question to be Emmaneul Constant, a man that Anne recognizes from signs outside her and her husband’s respective businesses that claim he is wanted for crimes committed against the Haitian people while living in Haiti. She then talks about how much alike this man’s story and her husbands, how they both fled their countries because of ambiguous offenses against their own people, and how she has always feared that one day she would arrive at work to find her husband’s face on a wanted sign like Emmanuels. Sitting in mass she realizes that there could be another family behind them, discussing whether or not they had recognized her husband just as her husband and daughter are discussing whether or not they had discovered Emmanuel, and decides that the risk of bringing her family to a mass like this, given the possibility they’re recognized, is too great. Her husband’s past actions are compared to Constants in this scene but his reformation is acknowledged earlier on in the story, on pg 72, when Anne states it is a miracle that he has become so calm, patient and family oriented. This leads me to the conclusion of the first story and , thus, my first question. After mass is over and Anne is being escorted by her daughter to go meet her husband she asks her daughter “Wasn’t it a lovely mass?” to which her daughter replies “..It was only a mass. Nothing more. It’s never as fabulous as one of your miracles.”.

Given our discussion about point of view last class and the knowledge we already have about the true nature of Anne’s husband, what can be said about this last quote and how it relates to the internal conflict Anne is experiencing regarding her husbands past?

The fifth story begins with man stranded in the mountains on the way to visit his Aunt who moved out there following his departure for New York City.  He had not seen his aunt, who had been his only family since his parents died twenty-five  years ago, in over 10 years and sets out alone to surprise her, ignoring much of the advice he knew she would give along the way. He finally stumbles upon a group of children who bring him water and an older man, referred to as Old Z, who guides him to the place where his aunt lives. It is revealed through his inner dialogue and his interactions with other characters that the narrator is Dany, one of the three tenants who live underneath Ka’s parents. He has returned to the mountain community where his aunt raised him to inform her that he has found the man who killed his mother and father and caused her to have such terrible burns, but as soon as he mention of his discovery the members of the village come in and present them with gifts of food that he and his aunt share with their neighbors before going to bed, where it is discovered that Dany and his aunt both talk in their sleep. The next day Dany is introduced to Claude, another from New York, by his Aunt. Dany and Claude have a brief conversation in English together in which Claude gives Dany a background of his troubled past before expressing some appreciation for the life he has now and how its changed him. After he leaves it is revealed that he may have killed his father. Later that night Dany dreams of finishing the story he had tried to begin earlier with his aunt, and doing provides more context as to exactly how his parents died as well as revealing that Ka’s father, the Barber that he is renting the room from, is the man that killed his family and set his house a flame. Next, in his dream, he tells his aunt of the night he was going to kill the Barber in his sleep and how he couldn’t do it at the risk of being wrong.

-Why is it that the author structured the revelation of the past of Ka’s father in this way, where the reader is not made fully aware of his offenses until after we have experienced his remorse?

He wakes mid-dream and realizes that he is talking in his sleep once again and that his aunt can hear him. He tries to interrogate her about his parents and she reluctantly indulges him before going back to sleep; in the morning she is dead. After the villagers discover his dead aunt and come to pay their respects, all the while speaking about Dany in Creole as if he isn’t there; this makes Dany feel left out and out of place as he takes in the Beau Jour’s ceremony for the deceased almost as an outsider, neglecting to share his personal experiences with his aunt while all the other villagers speak of the great influences shes had in their lives.  Dany struggles to find a word to describe what he’s feeling following his Aunt’s death and has a moment of clarity while talking to Claude where finds out that Claude did indeed kill his father and it wasn’t an accident but an act of violence because Claude was on drugs. Claude chooses to see this situation optimistically, however, declaring himself lucky because he has experienced the worst that he is capable of and now get to live his life pursuing the best. The story ends with Dany reflecting on this, stating that Claude is like him, a night talker who has the ability to speak about his nightmares not only during sleep but during the day.

What is it that enables Claude to “speak his nightmares to himself as well as to others”?

The sixth reading begins with a woman named Beatrice Saint Fort readying herself for a nap when she is interrupted by the arrival of a reporter, which seems to catch her by surprise, suggesting she has forgotten that she made the appointment. She welcomes the reporter in and takes 30 minutes readying herself and then another 20 preparing coffee before even sitting down with the reporter. The reporter notes that it seems Beatrice has placed spirits in her coffee without her knowing which seems to relax her a bit and Beatrice confesses her secret is time; with everything she does she takes her time. They begin the interview and Beatrice reveals that she addresses each of her clients as her “girls” and has them address her as “Mother”, which we find out is because she never wishes to be asked whether or not shes ever been married, a question that she believes a woman of her age should never be asked. They then go on a walk and see several members of Beatrice’s neighborhood, many of which she identifies by their occupation or their nationality. When they return to Beatrice the find their way to the topic of what Beatrice will do after she retires. She says she will move to escape a man that arrested her some years ago after she refused an advance from him; she says that he tortured her and still continues to do so, following wherever she goes. This brings Beatrice’s sanity into question for the first time, which continues throughout the remainder of the story as the reporter searches for evidence of Beatrice’s tormented past.

What is the significance of this man in Beatrice’s life and, again, how does the Character of Beatrice challenge our notions of how truth and point of view are presented in the novel?

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1 thought on “The Dew Breaker Stories 4-6”

  1. Wish the final chapters were reviewed, read book myself but these post were most helpful for additional insight and summery. (and thoughtful questions). Probably the most helpful of everything else I have found on the internet, just needed final chapters.

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