Work and Death: The Two Certainties in The Sea at Dauphin

In The Sea at Dauphin, work and death are prevailing themes for the characters and this play illustrates that people die as a result of work and because of the absence of work, while work persists even after the death of others. Thus, work and death are seen as inevitable aspects of life.  Several times the fishermen mention men who have died on the sea such as Bolo and Rafael. However, the death of a few men does not stop the necessity to work, as Afa observes that work never ceases: “work is work, and sea and I don’t sleep.” At the same time, the absence of work precipitates death, as is the case for Hounakin and Rama. Hounakin is an elderly man who has just lost his wife, Rama. He explains that Rama dies because they no longer wanted to beg in order to get medicine: “When Rama say no medicine we must not beg. I did want to beg and Rama die.” This shows that work is an integral part of their life and that work is so essential that without it they cannot live because they cannot afford medicine to keep her alive. Hounakin says that they had begged for a whole year, but now Hounakin is willing to beg for work as he tells Afa: “The first time I did beg you was last night. To work. I cannot beg or bend down to make garden. I know have friend, but friend and pride is different.” This also shows the honor involved in doing work because Hounakin has tremendous pride and even though he recognizes that he has friends and can ask for assistance, his pride won’t allow him to do so long term. This is why Hounakin wants to work on the boat with Afa and Augustin, but Hounakin recognizes the futility of work because at the end one still must die: “Your break your back for seventy cane reap times And then is ashes.” Shortly thereafter, Hounakin dies because he falls from some rocks and into the sea. Thus, Hounakin dies in the sea, which is the last place he considered doing work. Also, Hounakin’s death continues the tradition of death in the sea.

Despite Hounakin’s death, the men return to work and they allow Jules, a young boy, to join them working. Jules thus represents the next generation of fishermen because even though the men constantly complain about the hardship of fishing, Jules is enthusiastic to work with them. Jules symbolically takes up the baton from these men and his presence gives hope for a continuation of work. At the end of the play, death and work are addressed yet again. Afa says: “Last year Annelles, and Bolo, and this year Hounakin… And one day, tomorrow, you Gacia, and me.. And Augustin.” Yet, Gacia and Afa close the play by saying that even though the sun and the sea are going down, they will return “tomorrow again.” Thus, the play ends with these men’s commentary that death is inevitable, but also that work is inevitable and must continue until death. Hence, throughout the play work and death are portrayed as the two constancies in life.

 

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