Motifs are recurring structures, contrasts, or literary devices that can help to develop and inform the text’s major themes.

Imagined Dialogue

Imagined conversations often structure characters’ relationships in Krik? Krak!. “Children of the Sea” consists of letters that are never exchanged. Their letters are, in effect, more like journal entries than letters: they reveal more about how the characters feel about each other and how they feel in general than real letters would. In a different way, Suzette’s narration of “New York Day Women” is peppered with quotations she imagines her mother saying. Suzette’s consciousness of these quotations as she follows her mother around New York reveals the sensibility she has inherited from her mother, even though she distances herself from her mother’s beliefs. This narrative technique shows the impact people have on each other and on their understanding of the world, especially when making sense of the world is difficult to do independently.

Religious Iconography

Religious iconography shows the often-conflicted interaction between Haiti’s native voodoo religion and the Christianity imposed on the Haitian people by Europeans. Though Christianity represents oppression, many of the characters in these stories have embraced Christian beliefs as their own, even while clinging to voodoo rituals. In “Caroline’s Wedding,” Grace’s mother goes to mass regularly, but she also believes in superstitions, such as the magical powers of bone soup. Similarly, in “Nineteen Thirty-Seven,” Josephine’s mother practically worships a statuette of the Virgin Mary, but she believes it has mystical qualities that don’t belong to the Christian tradition. She incorporates these qualities into voodoo rituals to honor her ancestors. Any postcolonial nation has difficulties reconciling native traditions with colonial ones, but religion, a particularly significant area, proves to be an anomaly: in Haiti, beliefs that should be in conflict with each other are all embraced without question. The hybrid religion that results shows how Haiti’s national identity is influenced by both its native roots and its colonial history.


The constant references to water in Krik? Krak! suggest the limitations of the characters’ worlds. As half of an island, Haiti is surrounded by water, which symbolically serves to contain the country’s troubles. Refugees leave Haiti by boat, overcoming the limits the sea imposes on them and thus the limits of Haitian politics and poverty. But this obstacle is not so easy to overcome. “Children of the Sea” shows how the ocean holds the dead bodies of many Haitians who have tried to flee their desperate lives. The water that defines their world continues to overwhelm them even as they escape it, and it often claims them for its own. In “Nineteen Thirty-Seven,” water separates Haiti from the Dominican Republic as the Massacre River, and almost everyone who tries to cross it is killed. In “Seeing Things Simply,” however, Princesse sees beauty in the ocean. She sees not limits but possibilities in its vast, watery world, and she sees hope in the horizon, where the sea meets the sky. The characters who do escape Haiti, in “New York Day Women” and “Caroline’s Wedding,” live in New York, a city of islands, where water surrounds them and connects them to the lives they left behind.