In the story “Nineteen Thirty-Seven” Edwidge Danticat presents Josephine, a Haitian girl who often visits her mother at the Port Au Prince prison. In the process of Josephine’s visits the reader comes to understand that pain surrounds her life. Not only does it surround her life, however, pain is a prominent factor in all of her contemporaries’ existence. The oppressed nature of Josephine, her mom, and the woman of the river cause them to create an artificial sense of hope for their life full of suffering. Suffering seems to be a common component inherent of all Haitian women.
This can be seen when Manman states “We were saved from the tomb of this river when she was still in my womb. You spared us both, her and me, from this river where I lost my mother” (Danticat, 40). Josephine was born on the day of the massacre by El Generalissimo’s soldiers representing that she is birthed from pain, as a lot of Haitians died that day. One of those who died was Manman’s mother, in an effort to alleviate her pain Manman takes Josephine as a replacement of the existence of her mother. Not only does Josephine emanate from suffering yet she carries the connation of false hope, as life can’t be replaced.
The effect of suffering is once again seen when Manman mentions “Keep the Madonna when I am gone…Maybe you will have some flesh to console you. But if you don’t, you will always have the Madonna” (Danticat, 43). Once again Josephine’s mom creates hope for her daughter. Given that pain surrounds her life, her mother hopes that Josephine can deal with her suffering in the same way that she dealt with her mom’s death. The aforementioned quotes emphasize the repetitive occurrence of yet different pain Haitian women particularly experience.
Danticat, Edwidge. “Nineteen Thirty-Seven.” Krik? Krak! New York: Vintage, 1996. 33-49. Print.