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Quotes

Quote #7

A zombi is a dead person who seems to be alive or a living person who is dead. A zombi can also be the spirit of a place, usually malignant but sometimes to be propitiated with sacrifices or offerings of flowers and fruit […] They cry out in the wind that is their voice, they rage in the sea that is their anger. (II.4.3.28)

On reading about obeah, Rochester realizes that the flowers he saw in Quote #6 was one such offering to appease the ghost of Père Lilievre, who was rumored to haunt the area. But the passage also asks us to consider what characters also serve as spirits who have to be plied with flowers and fruit, that "cry out" and "rage" – yup, that's Antoinette we're talking about. Makes you take a second look at all those flowers in their honeymoon house, doesn't it?

Quote #8

"So you believe in that tim-tim story about obeah, you hear when you so high? All that foolishness and folly. Too besides, that is not for béké. Bad, bad trouble come when béké meddle with that." (II.5.1.37)

Christophine's words are somewhat disingenuous here because she does end up giving Antoinette an obeah potion. But her words are also loaded in that she's already been imprisoned by the békés, or whites, for practicing obeah, which was associated with slave mutinies, particularly in Haiti. Obeah terrifies precisely because it's a cultural expression, not a magical one: the voice of protest for a community, not a species of witchcraft or wizardry. Christophine's use of the word "trouble" also echoes the first line of the novel, where "trouble" refers to the turmoil after the Emancipation Act was passed in 1833.

Quote #9

She said something I did not hear. Then she took a sharp stick and drew lines and circles on the earth under the tree, then rubbed them out with her foot.

"If you talk to him first I do what you ask me." (II.5.2.9)

This quote shows how Christophine's obeah works as much through psychological manipulation as it does through its various incantations, rituals, and potions. Christophine gives Antoinette a condition that Christophine has no way of enforcing: once she's given up the potion, there's no way to stop Antoinette from doing whatever she wants with it, whether she talks to Rochester or not. Christophine's words throughout their exchange seems to indicate that she knows what will happen – "bad, bad trouble" – if Antoinette uses the powder. Then why does she give Antoinette the powder? Her intentions continue to remain mysterious.

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