The Dew Breaker 11/14/2012

During my reading of the first half of The Dew Breaker, I saw two main ideas that stood out: The ideas of association and the eventual fading into memory that occurs with all people, actions, and abstract objects. These would be things to think about in regard to the novel and during my presentation.

In the first half of The Dew Breaker, we briefly meet many characters who are only the focal point of one chapter. Each character is associated with another in some way, and these connections are very easy to miss, as they are only mentioned in a sentence or two. The connections also do not seem particularly meaningful either – I had a difficult time finding meaningful reason behind the fact that Anne is the unnamed man’s landlord or that Nadine used to be his girlfriend. The fact that characters do not repeat leaves their personas, in my opinion, a bit underdeveloped. The reader might like to know more about Nadine, Ka, or the unnamed husband and wife from Chapter 2. The reader also begins to forget about past characters, as they are only reminded of them through a vague sentence here and there. However, I think that this perpetuates the idea that these people are slowly fading away from others’ memories. It is possible that they are only given a sentence or two in another’s story because that is the degree to which they matter to that character. The characters have not left a lasting impression on each other. Because of this, the associations are not fully developed and neither are the characters.

The idea of memory is also quite literal in several places in the novel. For example, on page 66, Nadine is thinking about Ms. Hinds’ future. “[Ms. Hinds] would realize that she herself was slowly forgetting, without the help of old audio or videocassettes or answering machine greetings, what her own voice used to sound like.” Secondly on page 79, the reader is given a description of the Emmanuel Constant sign. “After a while, the letters and numbers started disappearing so that the word rape became ape and the 5 vanished from the 5,000, leaving a trio of zeros as the number of Constant’s casualties. The demonic-looking horns that passersby had added to Constant’s head and the Creole curses they’d scribbled on the flyer were nearly gone too, turning it into a fragmented collage with as many additions as erasures.” I found the description of the flyer to be particularly striking. Its fading suggests the disheartening fact that, with the passage of time, crimes are forgotten, the victims/dead lose meaning, and the hatred for the criminal eventually fades.

There were also two lines from the first half of this novel that stood out to me, but I wasn’t quite sure what to do with them. The first is on page 27 when Ka and her father go to visit the Fonteneaus’ house. It reads, “The Fonteneaus’ house is made of bricks and white coral on a cul-de-sac with a row of banyans separating the two sides of the street.” To me, this seemed to encompass the ideal, white picket fence home, but I wasn’t sure how it fit into the development of these characters or the novel as a whole. The second is on page 40 when the unnamed woman is talking about the trimmed chicken feathers. It says, “in the early days, soon after he’d left, she had spun the tips of the feathers inside her ears too and discovered that from them she could get jwisans, pleasure, an orgasm. She’d thought hen that maybe the foreign television programs were right: sex was mostly between the ears.”

So my first question would be: What do you make of these quotations and how do you see them fitting into the novel’s characterization or overall development?

Secondly, how do you feel about the character development in this novel? Would you have liked to see more of certain characters or do you find Danticat’s approach effective? Do you think we will see the return of any characters?