Against dechoukaj: the trauma of Haiti in Edwidge Danticat’s The Dew Breaker


Diaspora writers add to a long American literary tradition of engaging with political issues, a rich body of literature focused on themes of occupation, persecution, dictatorship, repression and trauma. This paper focuses on a political protest in the form of personal narrative of Haitians whose forgotten or ignored stories were reinscribed by Haitian-American author Edwidge Danticat in The Dew Breaker (2004). The paper examines the representation of Haiti’s history and the collective experience of violence and trauma during the Duvaliers’ dictatorship, and revisits the terror instilled by a paramilitary police – the Tonton Macoutes. In The Dew Breaker Danticat offers a compelling portrait of individuals haunted by pain, trauma and loss. Their stories function as a testimony of the generations of Haitians who experienced abuses and atrocities committed during the era of “Papa Doc” and “Baby Doc”. The book presents the effects of trauma on the individuals and the community, shows what is destroyed by trauma and offers solutions to deal with the traumatic experience. The aim of the paper is to analyze how The Dew Breaker gives a unique access to Haitian history, how it deals with its legacy of violence, how the subaltern articulate their traumas and how literature creates a voice for victims of political violence and psychological terror.


Edwidge Danticat; trauma; Haiti; dictatorship; Francois Duvalier; Jean Claude Duvalier; Tonton Macoutes

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Published : 2015-12-30

Karczewska, A. M. (2015) “Against dechoukaj: the trauma of Haiti in Edwidge Danticat’s The Dew Breaker”, Crossroads. A Journal of English Studies, (11), pp. 4-14. doi: 10.15290/cr.2015.11.4.01.

Anna Maria Karczewska 
University of Białystok  Poland