1. Why does Danticat use multiple narrators to tell the story?
How do these shifting points of view affect the way the story is
told? How do they affect the way readers absorb and understand the
events described in the book?
2. Why does Danticat begin The Dew Breaker with
Ka's father's confession and then return, near the end of the book
to the moment some thirty years earlier when he committed his last
crime? Is this way of structuring the events more powerful than
chronologically telling the story?
3. Ka says about her father, "If anyone could, [he] must have
already understood that confessions do not lighten living hearts"
[p. 33]. Why would he understand this better than others? Why then
does he confess his secret past to his daughter? What role does
guilt-his own and that of others-play in this book?
4. For her sculpture of her father, Ka chooses "a piece of
mahogany that was naturally flawed, with a few superficial cracks
along what was now the back. I'd thought these cracks beautiful and
had made no effort to polish them away, as they seemed like the
wood's own scars, like the one my father had on his face" [p. 7].
What does this passage suggest about the differences between Ka and
her father? In what ways has he tried to "polish away"
his own scars?
5. What do the stories of Eric, Michel, Dany, Nadine, Beatrice,
and Freda add to the book? In what ways are their lives intertwined
with Ka's father? What effect has the "dew breaker" had on
6. Claude tells Dany, "I am the luckiest fucker alive," because
in killing his father, he has "done something really bad that makes
me want to live my life like a fucking angel now" [p. 119]. Does
The Dew Breaker seem to suggest that people can
redeem themselves even after committing acts of horrific violence?
How might this conversation affect Dany's feelings about his
landlord, the "dew breaker," the man who killed his own mother and
7. Beatrice tells the reporter Aline, "Everything happens when
it's meant to happen" [p. 125]. Can this axiom be applied to the
book itself? Do things in the book happen when they are "meant" to
happen? What significant events in the unfolding of the characters'
lives seem fated?
8. How does The Dew Breaker, though a work of
fiction, convey the reality of life under the Duvalier dictatorship
more vividly and emotionally than a work of history or
investigative journalism might?
9. Some regard the preacher's outspoken sermons against the
Duvalier dictatorship as selfish. "Not all the church members
agreed with the preacher's political line. . . . Some would even
tell you, 'If the pastor continues like this, I leave the church.
He should think about his life. He should think about our lives'"
[p. 186]. His own sister, Anne, wonders, "What made him think he
could denounce the powerful on the radio, of all places, and not
risk the safety of those he loved?" [p. 215]. Is the preacher right
in speaking out against the regime, even when it puts his loved
ones and his congregation in danger?
10. After the preacher wounds "the fat man," he thinks, "at
least he'd left a mark on him, a brand that he would carry for the
rest of his life. Every time he looked in the mirror, he would have
to confront this mark and remember him. Whenever people asked what
happened to his face, he would have to tell a lie, a lie that would
further remind him of the truth" [pp. 227-28]. What effect, both
good and bad, does this last act of violence have on the "dew
breaker"? How does it change him?
11. At the end of the book, as Anne is telling her daughter more
about her father's past, Ka hangs up, leaving Anne with a recording
telling her to "hang up and try again" [p. 241]. Why has Danticat
chosen to end The Dew Breaker in this open-ended
way? Will Anne try again to explain her husband's past? Will Ka
ever forgive him? Should he be forgiven?
12. Why does Ka's mother marry the "dew breaker"? Why does she
stay with him after learning the truth about the identity of his
last victim? What does the reconciliation between Ka's parents-to
each other, and to the truth-tell us about the nature of
forgiveness, of recovery, and of healing? And how does the last
section of the story told in The Dew Breaker bring
us back full circle to the beginning?
13. In what ways is Ka's father a complex character? What
motivates him to join the Volunteers? How does he rationalize
killing the preacher? What does he wish he could give the boy who
brings him cigarettes as he's waiting to arrest the preacher? What
does he enjoy about the pain he inflicts on his prisoners? How
should he be judged, finally?