“Children of the Sea”
- An educated young man who opposes the Haitian government. The
male narrator has no hope for the future and worries he will never again see
the female narrator, whom he loves. He’s upset by the suffering he sees
around him, but he’s so used to it that he no longer expresses pain. In the
end, he gives in to death.
- A young woman very much in love. The female narrator clings to
the hope that the male narrator is alive and they will somehow be reunited.
She does not openly defy her father, though she hates him for disapproving
of her lover. She’s angry at the world for preventing her love, but she’s
powerless to do anything about it.
- The female narrator’s father. Papa is controlling but only
because he wants what is best for his family, and he feels guilty when he
makes them unhappy. He refuses to endanger his family for the sake of others
- The pregnant teenager in the male narrator’s boat. Célianne is in
shock from the experiences she had with the macoutes
forced her brother to rape their mother and then raped her. When her baby
dies, she finally gives in to her despair.
- The female narrator’s mother. Manman has high ideals about love
and responsibility and is horrified when she must listen helplessly to her
- A young woman whose mother is in prison. Josephine is sad and
confused about the rumors about her mother. She doesn’t know how to express
her love for her mother and can never talk when she visits her, though she
feels like crying. When her mother dies, she finally understands why she
paid tribute to her grandmother in such strange ways and embraces the
- Josephine’s mother, imprisoned for being a witch. Manman was
traumatized when she saw her own mother murdered, but she had the strength
to save Josephine by fleeing Dominica. Manman tries to explain her behavior
but always cryptically. She suffers in prison and takes comfort in
Josephine’s visits, but she resents Josephine’s silence.
- A woman who lost her mother. Jacqueline participates in the same
rituals Manman did, which makes Josephine feel close to her. Jacqueline’s
actions encourage Josephine to embrace her mother’s
“A Wall of Fire Rising”
- A poor man working to feed his family. Guy is frustrated with his
inability to give his family security and ashamed of the menial work he
does. He dreams of starting over. Guy loves Lili and is proud of
Little Guy, but they remind him of his failure. He reveals the
depth of his despair when he kills himself.
- A wife who must frequently make ends meet. Lili is strong and
resourceful and tries to keep her family happy. She derives genuine
happiness from their success and manages to be content with what she has.
She’s afraid of Guy’s ambitions, but she’s cautiously hopeful for Little
- A young boy chosen to play the revolutionary Boukman at school.
Little Guy is proud to share this achievement with his parents, whom he
admires. He’s extremely dedicated and gets painfully nervous about making a
mistake. Little Guy reveals his independence when he mourns Guy with a
tearful recitation of the lines Guy was so proud of.
- A young single mother and prostitute. The narrator hates her job
but needs it to support her son. She makes up lies about angels to protect
him and wants to believe them herself. She is totally enamored of her son,
in an almost sexual way. She convinces herself that women who work during
the day lack her independence.
“Between the Pool and the Gardenias”
- The daughter of Josephine from “Nineteen Thirty-Seven” and a
maid. Marie has suffered many miscarriages and left a cheating husband. She
is so desperate for love that she imagines a dead baby to be alive and tells
it all her disappointments. She imagines her female ancestors watching over
her, silently pressuring her to continue the family line.
“The Missing Peace”
- A teenage girl who defies her grandmother by sneaking out to take
foreigners, usually journalists, to the cemetery. Lamort is virtuous when
avoiding Raymond’s advances, but she resents her grandmother for holding her
mother’s death against her. She is independent and feels important when she
can help people like Emilie.
- An American journalist who is searching for her mother and who
supported the old government. Emilie is kind to Lamort but angry at the
government that killed her mother, and she is unable to hide her hatred.
Emilie embodies the independent woman for Lamort and gives her the courage
to assert herself.
- Lamort’s grandmother, who dictates how she should act. Lamort’s
grandmother says people are judged by their actions and constantly reminds
Lamort to be careful. She disapproves of Emilie’s independence and blames
Lamort for her mother’s death.
- A young soldier who switched alliances when the new government
came to power. Raymond brags about his adventures as a soldier to impress
Lamort. He protects Lamort when he has to, but he doesn’t really care for
“Seeing Things Simply”
- A young student who poses nude for a foreign artist. Princesse
wants to keep her actions secret from the town, but she’s comfortable in her
own skin. She is fascinated by Catherine’s views on art, and she’s sensitive
to the beauty around her. She hopes to create beauty herself
- A painter who teaches Princesse about art and life. Catherine
cares about Princesse, but she also imposes her strong ideas about the world
on her. Catherine is stubborn, and her drinking suggests that she doesn’t
care about social norms.
“New York Day Women”
- A young Haitian woman who works in New York’s Midtown. Suzette
thinks of her mother as a bit of a nag and is shocked to find that there are
things she doesn’t know about her. However, Suzette does love her mother,
and she wants her approval even though she ignores her
- A Haitian immigrant who is very set in her ways. Suzette’s mother
wants Suzette to be like her and frequently criticizes her. She dreams about
winning the lottery but doesn’t play it, and she talks about Haiti but
cannot face its suffering by visiting. Suzette’s mother is ashamed of her
- A Haitian immigrant in her mid-twenties who just became an
American citizen. Grace, whose real name is Gracina, doesn’t feel fully part
of either Haitian or American culture. She is very close to both her sister
and her mother and tries to defend each against the other’s frustrations.
Family is all she really has, so although she wants Caroline to be happy,
she cannot help but be sad that Caroline is leaving.
- Grace and Caroline’s mother. Ma maintains her Haitian traditions
and beliefs twenty-five years after leaving. Ma is sad to see Caroline with
a non-Haitian because the marriage represents the end of Haitian culture in
their family. She’s ashamed that her husband stopped loving her and that she
has nothing but her daughters, who will leave her.
- A young Haitian-American woman about to get married. Caroline is
loving but independent and embraces the freedoms of America while rejecting
her mother’s traditional Haitian expectations. Caroline acts confident but
feels a hidden insecurity, especially about her missing forearm.
- A Bahamian janitor engaged to Caroline. Eric is a bit slow but
very kind, and he truly cares about Caroline. He even tries to please her