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In 1972 I published an article, maybe the féirst serious article that I wrote, which was titled “Pourquoi la Négritude?” For those who are of “Créolité” it’s the same thing: I do not want to be defined or imposed upon by a literary canon. I think that I am a complex being because of my situation as a colonized subject, by a series of influences that make up who I am, and I must be absolutely free to express all facets of my personality. (translation mine) 50 Condé also rejects the idea of one belonging to a native land, which is not surprising given her nomadic tendencies, as well as the fact that she situates her characters in various locations whether it be Cuba, Africa, the United States or Guadeloupe. Again, this technique is representative of the theme of miscegenation found in her novels, as Françoise Lionnet points out: “Métissage is a model of intertextuality and hybridization in which the warp and woof of the social fabric, the racial elements of a given group, and the traditions of literary history are interwoven, or juxtaposed, and mirror each other.” Yet this viewpoint is controversial, for, as Condé puts it, “Even the most superficial study of literature from the West Indies demonstrates that every writer keeps to his or her island.
Marie-Agnès Sourieau, “Entretien avec Maryse Condé: De l'identité culturelle.” French Review:
Journal of the American Association of Teachers of French 72, no. 6 (1999) : 1092 Lionnet, “Narrating the Americas,” 74.
Maryse Condé, “The Role of the Writer.” World Literature Today 67, no. 4 (Autumn 1993): 699 Johnathan Ngate, “Maryse Condé and Africa: The Making of a Recalcitrant Daughter?” A Current Bibliography on African Affairs 19, no. 1 (1986-1987) : 5 – 20.
readers), she can be viewed as one who perpetuates the “colonial” language and therefore the European tradition. In ways, Condé does connect to the European literary tradition, yet in others she detaches herself from it, which enables her to convey a Caribbean literariness which is primarily Francophone literariness but which does not exclude other Caribbean cultures. In the novel La migration des cœurs, Condé fuses these cultures together.
Métissage in La migration des cœurs Condé’s novel is at first faithful to Brontë’s text, the largest difference being that the location has changed. The majority of the action is in Guadeloupe, where Wuthering Heights is replaced with L’Engoulvent, and Thrushcross Grange with the Belles-Feuilles estate. The plot is very similar to the English text, in which Heathcliff and Cathy Earnshaw’s strong bond is broken as Cathy betrays Heathcliff to marry Edgar Linton.
Cathy views the marriage as an opportunity to move up in social structure and sees Heathcliff, whose ambiguous origins are not that of a white European, as belonging to the lower class. Heathcliff, bent on revenge, leaves for years but returns as a wealthy, handsome gentleman. His clever scheming reverses the class system: the Linton family becomes poverty stricken and the descendants of both families (Hareton Earnshaw and Cathy’s daughter, Cathy Linton) are forced to work for him. Heathcliff’s extreme cruelty astounds readers, yet it is tempered by the encompassing love he still has for Cathy.
Despite the reversal, in which the Other is the dominating force, order is eventually restored through lineage. The descendants of the Earnshaw and Linton family, Cathy and Hareton, fall in love and marry. Their marriage is symbolic of Heathcliff and Cathy’s love, for they carry on in their lives what Cathy and Heathcliff were unable to accomplish in their own. At the same time, Cathy and Heathcliff’s ghosts meet on the moors, and they are able to continue their love beyond death.
It is important to note that Hareton and Cathy’s marriage is more than the continuation of a cosmic love. It also gives back what Heathcliff had taken away and allows for pure, English society to be reinstated.
Theo D’haen speaks of this return to “normalcy” in the Linton/Earnshaw household:
With Heathcliff’s self-announced, but otherwise inexplicable, death, and Cathy and Hareton’s marriage, everything reverts to normal. The ancient families of Earnshaw and Linton resume control of their houses, their fortunes, their lands. With the earlier death of Heathcliff’s son, and now his own death, all further threat of “foreign” blood sullying England’s purity has vanished. In both social and racial terms, then, order and purity has been restored. The colonial Other threatening to invade Europe’s heartland has been successfully eliminated. 54 Condé’s work describes similar events at first, but ends in a dramatically different way, a subject that will be addressed later in this chapter. First, it is necessary to explicate the changes Condé employs to incorporate Antillean elements into the re-writing of Brontë’s work. Among the most important is the emphasis placed on métissage : Cathy Gagneur is mulatto; her ancestry includes black and white descendants. When she wrestles with the idea of marrying Aymeric (Edgar) as opposed to Razyé (Heathcliff) she encounters difficulties of determining cultural identity. She describes herself as two Cathys grappling for control: the “white Cathy” of, presumably, European descent, and the “black Cathy” of Africa. She views them as opposing forces, the “white” Cathy as
positive and the “black Cathy” as utterly negative:
Une Cathy qui débarque directement d’Afrique avec tous ses vices. Une autre Cathy qui est le portrait de son aieule blanche, pure, pieuse, aimant l’ordre et la mesure.
Mais cette deuxième Cathy-là n’a pas souvent la parole… (48) D’haen, “Caribbean Migrations,” 208.
One Cathy who’s come straight from Africa, vices and all. The other Cathy who is the very image of her white ancestor, pure, dutiful, fond of order and moderation.
But this second Cathy is seldom heard, and the first always gets the upper hand… (41) Cathy is not only torn between conflicting ideas of class and color (through color is left ambiguous in Brontë’s text; it is only said that Heathcliff is dark), she is also torn between two cultures, both of which are a part of her. This conflict is connected to Caribbean literature; it does not present an obstacle to the European writer who is part of a dominant culture and writes of the Other in terms of the European perspective. Cathy simultaneously has both perspectives and neither: she is not fully African, not fully European, and what does it mean to be fully Antillean? This is the question that all Antillean writers are examining.
In her article “Réécriture de la folie dans La Migration des cœurs,” Françoise DuRivage speaks of how Cathy’s decision to marry Aymeric implicitly aligns her with
Pourtant elle choisit d’épouser Aymeric dans un effort désespéré de détruire en ellemême la Cathy venue d’Afrique, car elle la voit avec des yeux blancs, « avec tous ses vices » Chez le métis, le mélange des races ne peut être harmonieux car, sur ses goûts les plus profonds, sur ses désirs secrets, il porte sans cesse le jugement moral de la société coloniale.
She chooses however to marry Aymeric in a desperate effort to destroy within herself the Cathy from Africa, because she sees her through white eyes, “with vices and all.” Among those of mixed blood, the mixing of races cannot be harmonious because, deep within their hearts, their secret desires, they carry the unceasing moral judgment of colonial society (translation mine). 55 The reason Cathy begins to view Razyé with “des yeux blancs” emerges from her stay with the Linsseuil family. She goes to the family as a wild girl who “déchirait le français, remuait son bonda et dansait si bien le gwo-ka le soir” (massacred the French language,
Françoise DuRivage, “Réécriture de la folie dans La migration des cœurs de Maryse Condé,” RLA:
Romance Languages Annual 10, no. 1 (1998): 23.
wiggled her bonda and danced the gwo-ka every evening) but returns as a girl who “s’abritait d’une ombrelle et recherchait l’ombrage” (shaded herself under a parasol and hid from the sun) (35). She mimics the refined lady who emulates European standards;
her hair is pulled back and she is confined in her dressy attire. This prevents her from doing the things she once enjoyed, such as horseback riding or running in the fields with Rayzé. Cathy internalizes society’s values when she commits to the European system, becoming like the women in Victorian novels. The mention of language is also noteworthy, for Cathy returns speaking European French; the colonial language. The emphasis on language and the juxtaposition of Creole and French further demonstrates the extent to which this novel is representative of Caribbean literature, which, of course, makes language a primary subject matter.
Another element which demonstrates Condé’s independence from Brontë’s text and the tradition of the Victorian novel is the introduction of sexual desire in La migration des cœurs. Condé makes it no secret that Cathy and Razyé have a sexual relationship; they are childhood friends and lovers. Cathy defends her sexuality by affirming that though it may be viewed as vice, “moi, je sais que c’était innocence” (99) (I know it was innocence) (95). Razyé is seen as a sexual creature, which contributes to his being “immoral,” in the eyes of other characters, and his sexuality casts a spell on Aymeric’s sister Irmine, who is also taken by desire. Razyé uses this to his advantage and sees his opportunity to get a foothold in the Linsseuil family, turning the tables by becoming “colonizer” instead of “colonized.” He treats Irmine like a slave and successfully takes over the Linsseuil’s land, yet unlike Antoinette and her feelings for Rochester, Irmine’s desire for Razyé does not wane.
In contrast to Razyé, Aymeric is seen as someone lacking masculinity. He is weak and easily shaken; emotional conflict renders him ill. It must be said that this does not make him an unsympathetic character; it perhaps heightens the pity the reader will have for him. Condé makes it clear that Aymeric is unable to satisfy Cathy sexually,
which contributes to the unhappiness in her marriage, as the housekeeper observes:
Mais je savais que son cœur et son corps mentaient et qu’il ne lui donnait pas ce qu’il lui fallait. Le matin, quand j’entrais dans sa chambre, je la trouvais déjà réveillée, appuyée droite contre ses oreillers, morose et insatisfaite.” (75) But I knew that her heart and her body lied and that he didn’t give her what she needed. In the morning when I entered her bedroom I would find her already awake, propped up against her pillows, brooding and dissatisfied. (69) 56 Aymeric mimics the model of the English Victorian novel, in which sexuality is virtually absent. Condé incorporates sexual desire in the Afro Caribbean characters in La migration des cœurs, but she also makes sexuality a subject in her other works, such as in Moi, Tituba, sorcière. Though the introduction of sexuality into the plot of Wuthering Heights could be said to further “Caribbeanize” Condé’s work, Condé says that sexuality
is rare even in Caribbean literature, especially when the authors are male:
Male novelists portray women only as mothers or grandmothers. They are only in the maternal function. In the French Caribbean classic La Rue Cases-Nègres by Martinican novelist Joseph Zobel, Man Tine sacrifices her entire life to her grandson José and symbolically dies when he reaches adulthood. As a female I cannot accept being restricted to motherhood, however important it is. 57 The fact that Condé does not wish for women to be linked continuously to motherhood is perhaps the reason she leaves so many orphans in La migration des cœurs. Of course, several women characters die in Wuthering Heights, leaving small children, but Condé adds many additional characters, mainly narrators, who speak about their mothers dying The speaker in the passage is Lucinda Lucius, a housekeeper for the Linsseuil family.
Condé, “The Role of the Writer,” 699.
before they had a chance to meet them. One of the major modifications of Wuthering Heights is the death of Cathy’s daughter, Little Cathy, who dies during childbirth.
Though Condé includes sexuality in Cathy and Heathcliff’s relationship, she keeps their romantic (and obsessive) love intact. As in Brontë’s novel, this love has destructive consequences. Cathy is twice driven to madness (true to Brontë’s text) because of her consuming love for Heathcliff: once when he leaves upon learning about her upcoming marriage to Aymeric, and again when she learns that Heathcliff and Irmine are lovers. The first time she is cured through Mama Victoire (the white doctors can do nothing for her), but the second time she cannot be saved. She dies shortly after giving birth to Little Cathy, who is Razyé’s child, another significant alteration in the text. Of course, Razyé is perhaps the most affected by love; he is inconsolable after Cathy’s death and longs to contact her spirit. Condé keeps close to Brontë’s text and, consequently, European tradition by applying to her work the depth of love Cathy and Heathcliff feel for each other. This is different from African culture, as Condé describes in an interview
with Françoise Pfaff:
…l’amour tel que nous le concevons aujourd’hui est une invention européenne et qu’il n’existe pas en Afrique car l’amour individuel n’a pas de place dans une société qui donne plus de place à la collectivité qu’à l’individu.