Author (Your Name)

Kara McCabe, Colby College

Date of Award


Document Type

Honors Thesis (Colby Access Only)


Colby College. English Dept.


Cedric Bryant


The relationship between history and literature has always been interactive, complex, and dynamic. Understanding the interconnectedness of the two disciplines is especially important in analyzing the works of Caribbean women writers such as Edwidge Danticat and Julia Alvarez, for whom historical fiction has become an important means of creative expression. Many historians criticize the documentation of Caribbean history as being incomplete, sexist, and Eurocentric; in light of such assertions, Danticat and Alvarez integrate female voices into Haitian and Dominican history, respectively. By depicting the female experience on Hispaniola, both writers demonstrate that history's inherent place in individual memory. Alvarez and Danticat use many recurring symbols and images in imagining the Caribbean, and Caribbean-American, experience. Their works are inspired by the religion and spirituality of Hispaniola, and many symbols are drawn from Roman-Catholic and Haitian Vodoun beliefs: the Madonna, butterflies, bogeymen, flying humans. Other images have geographical-historical value, such as the Massacre River, the Atlantic Ocean, sugarcane fields, and the mountains of Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Such symbols capture how politics have permeated cultural and personal life on the island. Motherhood is a major theme for both Alvarez and Danticat; female communal bonds are important in both countries, and are formed strongly within matriarchal lineages. A woman's relationship with her mother often parallels her relationship with her homeland: both connections are characterized by love, beauty, and freedom, as well as pain, tragedy, and oppression. Additionally, Danticat and Alvarez suggest that immigration, because it often leads to separation from the mother/motherland, presents many obstacles to identity. Danticat and Alvarez create characters who try to find themselves in the face of many obstacles – historical, geographical, familial, and personal.


Full-text access is restricted to Colby College.


Hispaniola, Carribean, historical fiction, motherhood