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A wall of fire rising is a story set in a Haitian shanty town. It has three major characters; Guy, his wife Lili, and their son Guy junior. Themes in the story include poverty, deprivation, hope, and despair.
The family stays in a one room apartment and their typical supper consists of corn meal mush.
But there was hope when the father and the son were falling over themselves to disclose the good things that have happened to them. The boy is giving the role of Boukman, a Haitian revolutionary in a play. While the father just got a few hours’ work for the following day in the sugar mill in their town.
Poverty is further depicted by the fact Guy had to strain his eyes to see the words in the book brought home by his son. This is because it was an old kerosene lamp they were using to get light. There was despair when Guy said; “All these words seem so long and heavy. You think you can do this son?”
But then his wife Lili countered with words of hope; “He has one very good speech.”
There is also hope in the speech recited by the boy. Which moved his parents to tears. Even though Guy was finding it difficult to keep his eyes off the food that was waiting for them in the middle of the room.
Poverty was likewise illustrated by the fact that when things got so bad Lili would boil sugar cane pulp to make what she called her special sweet water tea that was supposed to suppress gas and kill vermin in the stomach that made poor children hungry.
Also, poverty was shown when sometimes the boy had to seat by the side of the road under the street lamps in order to study his lines when there was no kerosene to power the old lamp at home. Poverty was also shown in the fact that the whole town dwellers had to assemble at a particular location in order to get the news via a single television set provided by the government.
But Guy is seeing hope in the hot air balloon stationed near the sugar mill. Hope of freedom. Freedom from bondage. Bondage of hunger and deprivation.
Guy eventually gave into the temptation to fly the hot air balloon. Even though he didn’t fly off to ‘a really nice plot of land where he could be something new”. Instead he just circled over the sugar cane mill and later hurtled down to his death.
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