The struggles of Haitian peasants to improve their living conditions are depicted in the book “Master of the Dew” by Jacques Roumain. The battle for social justice and issues of community and class are all covered in the book. One of the book’s major topics is the history of imperialism and colonialism in Haiti and how it continues to influence the nation. I examine how the book depicts the heritage of imperialism and colonialism in Haiti and how this legacy continues to impact the country now via the prism of Mary Louise Pratt’s critical essay, “Imperial Eyes.” According to Pratt, colonial peoples’ understanding and experiences of the world reveal how imperialism has significantly influenced their cultural and social lives. She refers to the leftover effects of the empire as “dust,” illustrating how the past still affects the present.
‘‘We are all going to die,” Délira Deliverance said as she sank her hands into the dust in the book’s opening lines: plants, animals, and all forms of life (Roumain, 1947, p. 23). The novel dives deeply into the despair, loss, and aridity associated with hunger. Délira’s prophecy embraces all life; she is equally concerned with plants and animals as humans. Bienaimé avoids the present by ruminating on a more prosperous time, recalling recollections of growing eggplant or managing his maize and bean fields as she sees the suffering land where erosion has peeled away strata of rock and bled the ground to the bone (Roumain, 1947, p. 24). He laments the demise of coumbité, the practice of community labour in which everyone cleaned fields together, with a craving for a sense of connection and an overpowering sense of well-being: They would abruptly raise their hoes into the air. A light beam would strike each blade. They would be carrying a rainbow for a short time. (Roumain, 1947, p. 26)
Manuel was in Cuba chopping cane and has just returned. He comes into contact with the poverty that his parents are going through. He hardly knows his own house because the drought’s consequences are so visible, and the landscape has changed. In addition to the drought, other factors have led to declining community labour. A deadly blood feud shatters Fonds Rouge, and the two factions cannot converse without resorting to violence. The battle began when the locals started dividing a large plot of property. Dorisca, a peasant, wanted to acquire the land for his family’s use, but Saveur Jean Joseph resisted and murdered him. Manuel’s efforts eventually result in a simultaneous solution for both of them, but at a cost: his life. The tale ends with a tone of redemption through sacrifice and rejuvenation in the face of loss.
The effects of imperialism and colonialism are strongly felt in “Master of the Dew.” The difference between French and Haitian Creole is among the most important. Although Haitian Creole is seen as a language of the underprivileged and the impoverished, French is linked to luxury and power. The French invaders’ attempts to impose their language and culture on the Haitian people may be seen in this linguistic gap, a remnant of colonialism. The involvement of the landowners in the story is another way that the legacy of imperialism is seen. The landowners are shown as powerful, affluent elites who control the peasantry. They utilize their influence to preserve things as they are, oppressing and impoverishing the peasants. This picture accurately captures the larger reality of Haiti, where the effects of colonialism and imperialism have left a system of inequity that permeates the nation’s social and governmental systems.
The peasants in “Master of the Dew” fight for social justice despite these challenges. They cooperate in opposing the existing quo since they know imperialism’s involvement in their subjugation. As he strives to unite the peasants and construct a dam to provide water for their crops, the protagonist Manuel comes to represent this conflict. They can get closer to a brighter future thanks to their combined efforts. However, the book emphasizes how tough it is to confront the history of colonialism and imperialism. In their fight for social justice, the peasants come up against numerous challenges and are sometimes faced with hatred. This represents Haiti’s larger reality, where the effects of colonialism and imperialism are being felt today.
Plantations for coffee and sugar were expanded during this period. Yet, the topography of Haiti was steeper and less suited to monoculture than that of Cuba or the neighbouring Dominican Republic. As a result, despite establishing and spreading sugar plantations, a considerable chunk of Haiti maintained its villages, smallholdings, and internal trade networks during the early twentieth century.
There is a distinction Roumain makes between villages where cane isn’t grown and Cuba, which is heavily dependent on it. Although only some peasants have visited Cuba, they are attracted to the country. As the author recognizes, sugar is both a source of prosperity and exploitation (Moore, 2011, p.41). “Tell me about Cuba,” Laurelien, Manuel’s neighbour, asks. It’s a country five, or perhaps twenty times the size of Haiti, Manuel says. Yet, as you are well aware, I am composed of this. True, yet Laurelien maintains that wealth is larger in Cuba. Individuals are living with more comfort. As a result, Manuel proposes that the peasants take responsibility for creating money and capturing power: The “Masters of the Dew” will convene an assembly and organize a powerful coalition of farmers to destroy poverty and plant new life in the world (Roumain, 1947, p.74–75). In Roumain’s novel, Haiti exists both inside and outside the world. The peasants live in hilly, forested, and valley settings that need interpretation and are difficult for capitalist systems to exploit swiftly and easily. What is hidden is more important than what is visible, and communal cooperative labour and subsistence farming will benefit a village’s fortunes more than increased income or ownership of the means of production.
An important perspective on the themes of “Master of the Dew” can be found in Mary Louise Pratt’s article, “Imperial Eyes,” in which she contends that colonized peoples’ cultural and social lives are profoundly impacted by imperialism and that this impact can be seen in the ways that they perceive and experience the world (Pratt, 1992, p.35-65). She refers to the leftover effects of the empire as “dust,” illustrating how the past is still influencing the present. The legacy of imperialism in “Master of the Dew” may be examined using Pratt’s to provide another perspective of imperialism and the dust. She emphasizes how the French language and culture influenced the nation’s social and political systems. The legacy of imperialism, according to Pratt, may also be observed in the ways that colonized peoples are compelled to adopt the standards and ideals of their conquerors, often at the cost of their cultural practices.
This is shown in “Master of the Dew” by the peasants’ struggle to maintain their cultural traditions and sense of self while negotiating the power dynamics forced on them by the landlords. The book shows how imperialism’s legacy has produced a system of inequality and oppression and how this system is maintained through language, education, and economic systems. But, Pratt’s piece also casts doubt on the likelihood of opposition and reform. She contends that the legacy of imperialism need not be a passive or static power and may be changed through actions of resistance and cultural creativity. This viewpoint encourages the peasants in “Master of the Dew,” who are shown as actively participating in collective resistance and action.
I believe that “Master of the Dew” is a strong and significant book that provides a critical viewpoint on the effects of colonialism and imperialism in Haiti. The book demonstrates how the legacy of imperialism continues to influence the nation today while portraying the hardships of the peasants in a manner that is both moving and thought-provoking. The story does a very good job of depicting the gap between the French and Haitian Creoles. The methods by which the French occupiers attempted to impose their language and culture on the Haitian people are reflected in this division, which also reflects the colonial era’s larger impact. The book also provides a striking indictment of the role played by landowners in upholding the oppressive and unequal society. Ultimately, I think anybody who wants to comprehend Haiti’s intricate history and social dynamics should read “Master of the Dew.” The book pushes readers to consider how imperialism’s legacy has been imposed on the Haitian people and how it continues to influence modern society. It provides a compelling and complex portrait of the struggles of the Haitian people.
Moore, Jason W. (2011), “Transcending the Metabolic Rift: A Theory of Crises in the Capitalist World-Ecology,” Journal of Peasant Studies, vol. 38, no. 1, pp. 1–46
Pratt, M. L. (1992). Imperial eyes: Travel writing and transculturation. Routledge.
Roumain, J. (1947). Master of the Dew (L. Hughes & M. Cook, Trans.). Heinemann.