Symbolism in “A Wall of Fire Rising” by Edwidge Danticat

Edwidge Danticat is among the few writers who make extensive use of their early childhood experiences to write their different literature pieces. The author reckons the diverse incidences which transpired during her childhood and transition to adulthood. Danticat was born in the outskirts of Port au Prince city, Haiti, in 1969. The country is known to be a French colony, whereby the Haitians were forced to work in the sugar cane fields as slaves (McIntosh and Pierrot 127).

The writer’s parents came into the United States to escape the political and socio-economic feuds in their ancestral land. Understandably, Haiti’s political climate was oppressive, giving the natives little opportunities to prosper in life. Denotatively, symbolism is the more extensive representation of an object and other-related scenarios using a known object (Tsur and Gafni 196). Therefore, I would want to argue that the balloon in “A Wall of Fire Rising” short story represents freedom, the socio-economic differences, a developmental enabling environment, societal privileges, nature of anxiety, and the colonization era.

Colonization and slavery are affiliated with an environment whereby colonized individuals seek freedom. In “A Wall of Fire Rising” short story, Guy, who is Little Guy’s father and Lili’s husband opines that he yearns to fly with the hot balloon to a safe place where he will build his house (Danticat 155).

The author presents a critical understanding that individuals who are colonized always yearn to become free and do what makes them happy. They are against the idea of being forced to engage in less productive and forced practices which contribute to the deterioration of their lives. Guy is anticipating that he will get a new home once he flees Haiti, his native country.

He does not know the exact place where he can stay. The author also makes the reader comprehend that people often view foreign lands as their “home” as opposed to their native and ancestral lands. Guy anticipates to escape Haiti and subsequently find a serene place to build a house and live peacefully. Connectedly, the air balloon characterizes freedom, which Guy and the majority of the colonized Haitians want to attain in life.

The hot air balloon critically represents the social and economic difference between the affluent and the poor in the community. Danticat reiterates that the dirigible is kept in the Assad’s sugar company and that it is the only family which has it in the entire city (155). The gasbag represents the richness, whereby it is only the affluent who can afford to purchase it. Arguably, the balloon distinguishes between the colonized and the colonizers, whereby the latter have maximum resources, which they use selfishly.

The hot air blimp is locked in the factory fence, away from accesses by others. Air balloons are known to be possessions and assets of the rich. As a result, the book develops an understanding of the socio-economic difference between the ‘have not’ and the ‘haves.’ Significantly, of all the people in Haiti, specifically in Port au Prince, it is only the Assad family which is rich, whereas the other percentage is languishing in poverty. The family has the financial capacity to purchase a hot air balloon. Thus, the hot air balloon represents the economic differences between the rich and the poor in society.

Noteworthy, the hot air balloon represents an enabling environment which supports personal development. In “A Wall of Fire Rising,” short story, Guy alludes that “I saw the owner of the balloon riding it in the sky like a kite” (Danticat 153). The author makes the audience comprehend the forces and requirements necessary for the balloon to float up in the sky. Arguably, it needs the balloon to be inflated for it to have the ability to lift a person and carry him up in the sky.

The balloon’s internal pressure must be higher than its external one for it to be flamboyant in the air. In the same way, the author understands that it requires an accommodative and effective environment to help people grow both socially and economically. It requires a surrounding that avails the necessary resources to people to enhance and boost their development. People must get the necessary resources, including land and well-paying employment opportunities, to live a stable and comfortable life.

Therefore, it is worth noting that the hot air balloon represents an accommodative environment and can augment personal development, hence enhancing societal sustainability.

The hot air balloon signifies the societal privileges alienated from the majority and only confined within a few wealthy individuals who are mostly foreigners. When the poor get the same opportunities, it becomes an outstanding achievement despite being a ‘norm’ to the affluent. For instance, no one cares or gets surprised when the Assad family rides to the sky with the balloon in the short story. On the contrary, it becomes fascinating when Guy, who represents the socio-economically unfortunate people in society, flies with the balloon, whereby he is praised. People gather, clapping, and cheering for him while in the sky (Danticat 156).

To Guy and the poor, who are the mainstream in society, touring the sky is a huge privilege which has to be recognized and celebrated. It is only the rich’s culture to go to the sky with the balloons but not the poor. What Guy does is an extraordinary phenomenon, considering that he obtained the balloon from its place in a strange way, without Assads’ authorization. Hence, the hot air balloon represents the opportunities and privileges alienated from the poor and given to the rich in a societal setting.

Significantly, the hot air balloon epitomizes the retrogressive nature of anxiety. The short story critically explains that regardless of people looking for freedom, the same liberty can cause damage if misused. Guy jumps from the balloon, falling on the ground, and consequently dies (Danticat 156). Previously, he saw the balloon as something which could have easily given him the freedom he wanted. However, it turns to be the contrary when instead of the balloon saving him from the existing disaster, it leads to death.

The audience consequently relates to Guy’s freedom to death. Seemingly, he sees death as the solution to the suffering which he faces. Guy represents people that have lost hope in society, seeing no value in life. The reader understands that it is better to formulate how one can use autonomy effectively to benefit themselves. Independence makes audience doubt its ability to safeguard people from societal subjugation. It is not the people that liberty can benefit, but it can cause a negative impact, which leads to death. Therefore, the hot air balloon symbolizes the retrogressive nature of anxiety which people have in society.

Furthermore, the hot air balloon represents the setting during the time of colonization. According to Fujiwara et al., colonial masters had a great power over the different colonies’ inhabitants, hence mistreating them and making their lives miserable (6). Notably, Danticat was born during colonization, presenting the actual picture of the specific happenings during his childhood. The colonial masters often saw the natives as dangerous people who can easily steal their belongings, hence being cautious (Lamb and Dundes 132).

There was a colossal sense of oppression whereby the colonial masters mistreated the poor. The natives were only assured of getting petty jobs whose salary could not guarantee the specific employees a better living. As evident in the short story, Guy is unhappy despite securing a sugar company job (152). Understandably, people are often thrilled when they protect a job vacancy.

Hitherto, Guy remains dull until his wife, Lili, worries about his wellbeing. Moreover, Danticat postulates the correct setting of industries in the colonial period, whereby the cheap laborers could live in devastating houses near the company. Connectedly, the air balloon represents the natural setting and environment during the colonial period.

From my perspective, I believe that the hot air balloon relates to the rescuer that comes in time to protect people from tyranny and mistreatment in society. Symbolically, Guy states that he wants to go to a place that no one can find him, where he is at peace (Danticat 156). Guy presents an understanding that the surrounding environment has become intolerable, hence preferring to die to be free. He hallucinates about the bills which await him and contemplates that life is unfair to him. As Danticat mentions, “Guy, Little Guy, and Lili live in a single room, spreading cornmeal mush on leaves of bananas as dinner” (148).

Guy knows that he has failed his family, hence not deserving to be alive. As a result, the author highlights the levels of poverty which enshrined Guy’s family. He sees himself as a failure, whereby despite trying hard to find a job, his duties of cleaning the factory toilets are not enough to feed his family, hence deciding to kill himself as a form of getting the long-desired liberty. Therefore, death symbolizes inner freedom and the ultimate way of overcoming environmental disaster.

In conclusion, it is paramount noting that Edwidge Danticat’s “A Wall of Fire Rising,” short story has many instances which illustrate symbolism. Representation is the aspect of different random and known elements in the contemporary world used by writers creatively to develop an inner and perceived meaning. Notably, the balloon in Danticat’s work embodies the socio-economic differences, freedom, societal privileges, a developmental enabling environment, and the retrogressive nature of anxiety.

The author creates a clear picture of how life was challenging during the colonial period when Haitians were considered to be slaves to the French masters. Slaves were paid pennies that could not satisfy their personal and family needs. As a result, the individuals developed depression and aggression, presuming to kill themselves as the best option. It is the setbacks of life which make Guy bitter hence deciding to commit suicide to get freedom. Above all, there is a need for the reader to comprehend the authors’ economic, social, and political background before reading their pieces of literature to relate how the environment modeled the writer’s life perception.

Works Cited

Danticat, Edwidge. “A Wall of Fire Rising.” Krik? Krak, 1996, pp. 148-157.

Fujiwara, Thomas, Humberto, Laudares, and Felipe Valencia Caicedo. “Tordesillas, Slavery and the Origins of Brazilian Inequality.” ProQuest Publications, 2017, pp. 1-56.

Lamb, Valerie, and Lauren Dundes. “Not Haitian: Exploring the roots of Dominican identity.” Social Sciences, vol. 6, no. 4, 2017, p. 132. Web.

McIntosh, Tabitha, and Grégory Pierrot. “Capturing the Likeness of Henry I of Haiti (1805–1822).” Atlantic Studies, vol. 14, no. 2, 2017, pp. 127-151. Web.

Tsur, Reuven, and Chen Gafni. “Methodological Issues in the Study of Phonetic Symbolism.” Scientific Study of Literature, vol. 9, no. 2, 2019, pp. 195-229. Web.

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