«A Dissertation Submitted to the Graduate Faculty of the Louisiana State University and Agricultural and Mechanical College in partial fulfillment of ...»
We were led to believe that Africa was the source; it is the source, but we believed that we would find a home there, when it was not home…Diversity within unity is the definition of our shared objectives for national autonomy and cooperation within the larger Caribbean. 67 The emphasis placed on collectivity also parallels Glissant’s insistence on creating a distinct Caribbean community, rather than assimilating to Europe.
The second major digression from Wuthering Heights is the outcome of Cathy’s daughter. In Brontë’s novel Little Cathy is forced to marry Heathcliff’s son, Linton.
Linton is dying of tuberculosis and the forced marriage will allow Heathcliff to take over the Linton estate after his death (being a woman, everything Cathy owns will go to her husband, then to her husband’s father, as she has no children). When Linton dies this plan is executed, but as previously mentioned, the family line and its land are restored after Heathcliff’s death and Cathy and Hareton’s engagement. In Condé’s text, Little Cathy represents hope not for her ruined family’s restoration but for the forgotten Other. She is born with dark skin, while her brothers and sisters are extremely light, and this brings back the African bloodline in the family. Though she does not know that she is probably Razyé’s child, she does not feel that she belongs to the Linsseuil family. She decides to leave her white European existence and teach in the poverty stricken island of MarieGalante, where she meets Razyé II.
In terms of family, Condé’s character Justin-Marie (Justin’s son) corresponds to Brontë’s Hareton character (Hindley’s son), while Razye II (Razyé’s son) corresponds to Linton (Heathcliff’s son). Yet the behavior of these characters is reversed: Rayzé II is Clark, “Je me suis réconciliée avec mon île,”117.
much more like Hareton. He is strong and healthy, yet uneducated and treated horribly by Razyé, while Justin-Marie, like Linton, is stricken with tuberculosis and dies. Little Cathy does not fall in love with Justin-Marie. In fact, she never comes in contact with him. Instead she marries Razyé II in Marie-Galante, where Razyé II has fled to escape his father. It is Little Cathy who begins to tutor Razyé II, just as Little Cathy tutors Hareton in Brontë’s work. However, the couple must abandon their plans and flee to Roseau, capital of Dominica, to escape Razyé. Cathy is pregnant during this turmoil;
therefore Condé not only muddies the bloodlines through a child fathered by Razyé (Heathcliff) and not Gagneur (Hindley) blood, but also through the incestuous relationship that produces the child. As the reader is well aware, Little Cathy and Razyé II are probably both children of Razyé; they are half brother and sister. It seems as if the Caribbean “colonized” just might triumph over the European “colonizer” as the Other’s blood invades both the Linsseuil and the Gagneur families. However, Cathy dies during childbirth and Razyé II returns home with the baby to his mother in La Pointe, where he is stunned to learn that Razyé is dead and that his old house is transformed. After Razyé’s death, Irmine was able to use his riches to turn the dilapidated house into one resembling those of the European bourgeoisie.
Brontë’s novel temporarily reverses the imperialistic powers and then restores them. Theo D’haen comments on how the turn of events in Condé’s novel also undermines a reversal for the Other, due to the fact that Irmine’s (and Razyé’s) children
seem destined to carry on the European tradition:
…the younger children of Razyé has with Irmine will…be educated in France: the boys “dans un collège de jésuites à Bordeaux,” Cassandre “au pensionnat des soeurs à Versailles” (300). Cassandre, not coincidentally, is the lighter-skinned of Razyé and Irmine’s children, and apparently destined for success: “Elle avait joué du piano devant le gouverneur et avait baisé la main de monseigneur l’évêque.” Premier né [Razyé II] and [Little] Cathy de Linsseuil, as well as their daughter Anthuria, are very dark. It seems, then, as if in Razyé’s children everything he strove for is undone. 68 In Brontë’s novel, Isabella, who corresponds to Irmine’s character in La migration des cœurs, dies. But in Condé’s novel Irmine survives everyone and her children will be taught to emulate the European model, a model to which Irmine was accustomed before she married Razyé. In contrast, Razyé II becomes wild and savage, like his father when
the Gagneur family found him:
Sa barbe frisait en zéros autour de sa bouche. Il s’habillait avec des fripes sans couleur, enfilées n’importe comment, à la va-vite. Ceux qui avaient connu Razyé du temps qu’il était Razyé hochaient la tête en soupirant.” (336) His beard grew prickly-haired around his mouth. He dressed sloppily in drab, wornout clothes. Those who had known Razyé when he was Razyé shook their heads, sighing. (348) These actions appear to support D’haen’s theory, but D’haen does not elaborate on the fact that these are children of Caribbean culture, despite their assimilation with the European model. Therefore, their experiences will possibly penetrate the European system. Instead of Europe transforming the Caribbean, Condé could be indicating that it is the Caribbean that will cause change in Europe.
It is difficult to draw any conclusions about La migration des cœurs. As is often the case, Condé raises more questions than she answers. It could be an ironic account of Wuthering Heights, commenting on how the colonizer always wins out, despite the effort to reverse the situation. It also leaves open the possibility for the Other to succeed through Anthuria, Little Cathy and Razyé’s child, who may or may not be “maudite,” or
cursed. Leah Hewitt comments on the elusive quality of Condé’s work:
All idealism in Condé’s work is tinged with ironic, self-conscious overtones that belie the writers’s own bouts with colonial politics, as well as with race and gender issues.
D’haen,“Caribbean Migrations,” 211.
None of her characters is ever constructed unequivocally: idols reveal their weaknesses; the meek show their strength. And while racial, sexual and political oppressions are always denounced, Condé is more often concerned with tracing their complications and intersections than with clarity of their definitions. 69 In her writing, Condé does not simplify things in terms of black vs. white, African vs.
European, Creole vs. French; she instead absorbs all these cultures and their intricacies into her text, giving a sense of plurality to her work. She narrates the pain of the European educated white Creoles, such as Irmine, as fluently as that of the oppressed black woman who works for them, like Mabo Julie. The unanswered questions in Condé’s novel could easily be seen as representative of Condé’s ambivalence towards
migration des cœurs, the Caribbean aspects of the work are apparent: the complexity of métissage, the emphasis on (Creole) language, the placement of death in the African tradition, and the illustration of the problems of colonized society. Yet Condé does not entirely shed elements of the European tradition in that she articulates the same depth of love endured by Catherine and Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights, and she is careful not to demonize European culture; demonstrating instead the problematic nature of its power and influence. Of course, there is the unclear ending of the novel in which European tradition appears to prevail, but there are various potential outcomes made possible through the descendants of both African and European blood. On the whole, Condé is difficult to categorize; she does not limit herself to the French Caribbean but expands her vision to the entire Caribbean, and its relationships to Europe, Africa, and the United States. Condé shies away from the idea of any one Caribbean identity and focuses instead on the collective experience in a region of diversity.
Leah Hewitt, “Inventing Antillean Narrative: Maryse Condé and Literary Tradition,” Studies in Twentieth Century Literature 17, no. 1 (Winter 1993) : 87.
experience of marginalized figures in Rosario Ferré’s The House on the Lagoon and Tina De Rosa’s Paper Fish. In reading of Ferré’s novel, I examine race as a prevalent theme, and, specifically, the characters of different races in Isabel’s manuscript whose lives are affected by the complex discrimination found in Puerto Rican culture. Petra, the mysterious African woman briefly mentioned in chapter one is a bigger topic of discussion in this chapter. Her influence on the other characters in the house is an important element in Isabel’s manuscript and in Ferré’s novel. In this chapter, I draw similarities between Petra and Wide Sargasso Sea’s Christophine, arguing that they are more than tangential figures to their narratives. In addition to race, gender is another important theme in the novel which is developed through Isabel’s relationship to her husband. She allows herself to be marginalized as a submissive wife to her domineering husband, but this role changes when she begins to write. In creating a manuscript that divulges the family secrets of the house, Isabel is able to de-center the patriarchal position of men in the novel and create equilibrium for women. This is another example of the empowering force of the text for this and other characters.
In Paper Fish, like in Rhys’ novel, the focus is also on the power of the text and how writing enables the Italian American woman to break the silence that has permeated her culture. In this novel memory is used as a way to sustain the Italian American experience. More importantly, Paper Fish is an example of how recording the memory ensures immortality to the Italian American tradition, a tradition whose customs did not always include writing. In her novel De Rosa describes a girl whose family suffers in silence, who sees herself as Other for the first time, and who through the text is able to achieve an identity with her culture and with herself. In so doing, De Rosa makes an important contribution to Italian American literature, a literature that is severely underrepresented in academic studies.
Race and Blood in The House on the Lagoon Isabel, the main character and narrator of the novel, describes Puerto Rico, like other places in the Caribbean, as an island obsessed with race and class distinction. In the opening chapters of The House on the Lagoon, Isabel explains that a clean family line was “worth its weight in gold” (22) and that marriages were inscribed in Bloodline books and kept in churches so that the entire family ancestry could be traced back for several generations. At the same time, the opening chapters also focus on the United States’ intervention in Puerto Rico and the propaganda surrounding the Puerto Ricans’ new American citizenship. It is interesting to look at Western influence on Puerto Rico from different points of view. In one way, the American influence contributes to a decrease in
When the Americans arrived on the island, the Bloodline Books were abandoned.
Priests became poor and many of their records perished in random fires or hurricanes, when the wind blew away many a leaky parish roof. But the Books disappeared also because the practice was considered unworthy of American citizens…As the new habits of democracy gradually took over, unsoiled lineages were becoming almost impossible to find. (23) Puerto Ricans, however, realize that Americans are not as liberated as they seem. This realization occurs when they visit the United States, and see that it promotes racial segregation and oppression. In this America, blacks are forced to use separate restrooms or travel in separate trains, and the islanders also endure some of the same discrimination, for their olive complexions raise suspicion in the minds of mainland Americans. These prejudices surprise the Puerto Ricans, who note the difference between island and
It would have never happened in their country, they thought, where everyone could eat or make water in the same place. The concept of equality under law, which the new democratic regime supposedly had brought to the island and which they had so earnestly embraced because they wanted to be good American citizens, was interpreted very differently on the mainland (25).
In spite of the hypocrisy America has shown with respect to racial tolerance, Ferré describes a Puerto Rico that has experienced an increase in racial mixing. What is the real reason behind this trend? A possible answer could be the island itself. As Césaire and so many other Caribbean writers and critics have observed, the land is a powerful force. In conjunction with American leadership, it was wind and fire that destroyed the churches and hence the Bloodline books that were contained within them. Similarly, Rebecca remarks that the warm climate and the attractiveness of the mixed-blood women contributed to the loosening of Bloodline restrictions:“…before long the sons of the wellto-do began to eye the bare arms and shoulders of the beautiful mulatto girls…The beauty of the quadroons, which until then was a hidden treasure, was suddenly discovered by the young men of “good families” and there was a veritable epidemic of racially mixed liaisons on the island” (23). Of course, each country has its own form of intolerance, as Isabel duly notes. Though they are amazed at the treatment blacks receive on the mainland United States, many Puerto Ricans are also rooted in tradition and want the bloodline to remain intact. This is part of the struggle that Isabel faces with Quintín as her story progresses. As observed previously in this dissertation, these marginalized authors are creating a discourse that both provides them with a distinct identity and challenges the dominant tradition. As a woman, Isabel’s writes her novel to include the predicament of marginalized women, most notably black and mulatto women. Instead of remaining in the margins, or being summed up by the voices of male authors, Isabel puts them in the forefront, and therefore deepens the reader’s knowledge of their plight.