Date Approved


Graduate Degree Type


Degree Name

English (M.A.)

Degree Program



This thesis is a reading of the Massacre River in Edwidge Danticat’s The Farming of Bones that takes into account the river’s role as a physical border as well as various social, linguistic, and experiential borders that are at work in the novel. The Massacre River physically divides Haiti from the Dominican Republic; it both unites and separates the two nations. This thesis examines the language and structure of the novel to make sense of the paradoxical opposing representation of the river and examines the various borders Amabelle Désir experiences and her search for belonging upon being exiled from places she calls home. The image and role of the river in Désir’s narrative becomes a mediator between the divisions and exiles she endures within her life; it negotiates the differences of the past from the present, Haiti from the Dominican, and her own life from the lives of individuals surrounding her. The river’s division is fluid and dynamic unlike the manmade ridge or human constructed social, linguistic, and experiential borders that are like “iron girders dotted with night lights … making the distant sentinels seem like giant fireflies” (200).