The Dew Breaker – Chapter 1 Summary & Analysis

Edwidge Danticat

The Dew Breaker

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The Dew Breaker – Chapter 1 Summary & Analysis

Chapter 1: The Book of the Dead

This chapter introduces the “dew breaker,” as well as his wife and his daughter, Ka. The chapter is narrated in the first person, through the perspective of Ka. Ka has travelled to Miami, Florida, along with her father. Ka is a sculptor and has been invited to Miami to sell a sculpture to Gabrielle Fonteneau, a Haitian American television star who collects art. Ka is well aware that while her sculpture might be quite good, Fonteneau has been persuaded to buy the sculpture by a mutual Haitian American friend. Nonetheless, Fonteneau remarks that the sculpture, titled Father, in fact reminds her of her own father.

Unfortunately for Ka, she wakes up on the morning of her visit to Fonteneau only to find that her father is missing from their hotel, along with the sculpture. Panicked, she calls the police. While waiting for her father, Ka briefly describes the sculpture: it is made of a piece of mahogany with many superficial cracks, which Ka leaves in the final product because they represent scars.

Eventually Ka’s father returns, but without the sculpture. He takes her to a lake where he has thrown the sculpture into the water. Once there, he begins a discussion about her name. According to the Egyptians, “A ka is the double of the body, …the body’s companion through life and after life. It guides the body through the kingdom of the dead.” For Ka’s father, this means she is also his “good angel” (or “ti bon anj” in Creole). He goes on to explain that her sculpture prompted in him a desire to die and be buried alongside it, taking it to the afterlife with him like an Ancient Egyptian.

Ka wonders if this bizarre explanation means that her father is dying, but instead he reveals that he feels unworthy of her artistic offering to him. He insists that he is like one of the statues in the Ancient Egyptian exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum, where he took Ka as a child; in other words, he is a part of the past. Specifically, Ka’s…

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