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“I know this is a novel of great historical and cultural significance and that it explores complex issues of race and colonialism and all, but what matters to a guy like me is, it’s a hell of a read. Sea battles and land battles, a steamy setting and hot-blooded gallantries, ancient enmities and sweet revenge, forbidden love, insults and duels, bravado and bravery and redemption, hot pursuit and desperate flight and crushing captures and daring escapes. What a story! And Kover’s translation lets all the lushness and the romance and the passion come through with cinematic clarity.”
–David Bradley, author of The Chaneysville Incident
“A remarkable discovery that expands the corpus of Alexandre Dumas. Rendered in beautiful language, this is a tale that transports us to a time and place that still speaks to us in our present circumstances. We are indebted to Werner Sollors and Jamaica Kincaid for their framing documents that provide us with a critical lens for the journey Dumas has created for us out of his own generous and expansive imagination.”
–Rudolph P. Byrd, Emory University
“A brilliant example of the French Romantic novel, far too infrequently read and . . . deserving of a broader audience.”
–Barbara T. Cooper, professor of French, University of New Hampshire
From the Hardcover edition.
2. As Werner Sollors points out in his Introduction, Alexandre Dumas never visited the île de France in his lifetime; his grandmother, however, had been a slave on Haiti, an island with similar mixed demographics and the site of history’s most famous slave rebellion. Why do you think Dumas did not choose to set his novel there?
3. When Georges goes abroad to study in Paris, he is popular, wealthy, and well loved. Why is he treated so differently in Europe than on the island? Why does he return to the île de France?
4. When Jacques finally returns to the île de France, Georges expresses some concern upon learning his brother’s profession: “Naturally, Georges’s European-educated heart had given a lurch of regret when he learned that his brother was a trader in human flesh,” but their father is less concerned: “As for Pierre Munier, an islander born and bred, he did not give his elder son’s profession a second thought” (p. 138). How do Pierre and Jacques reconcile their own mistreatment as mulattos with their position as slave owners and even traders?
5. Though the focus of the racial tensions in the novel revolve around blacks and whites, the île de France is home to a surprising number of ethnic groups, including Muslim and Hindu Indians, Chinese, Arabs, Malagache, and Malays. How would you describe Dumas’s characterization of some of the other ethnic characters, particularly Miko-Miko and Antonio the Malay?
6. Dumas sets up nearly identical scenes between Nazim and Laïza and between Jacques and Georges at different parts in the novel. In each, one brother tries to convince the other to flee with him, but the other brother refuses. Why do you think he included these parallel scenes? How do the pairs of brothers compare to each other?
7. Sara seems to be a typical romantic heroine—vulnerable and in need of rescue. But she also shows strength and enlightenment. What surprised you about Sara’s character? What, if anything, do you think sets her apart from other heroines? How important for her characterization is the contrast with the figure of the governess Henriette?
8. In her Foreword, Jamaica Kincaid portrays Georges as a very conflicted character: “Georges is not a slave but he is descended from slaves; Georges is not white but he could pass for white; Georges is not an entirely free man (he is partly descended from the enslaved) but his manners in every way are so correct that really free men (European) cede him a place in their presence and even their society” (pp. xii–xiii). How do you think these contradictions shape Georges’s character? His motivations?
9. Why do you think Lord Murray goes through with Georges’s death sentence? How significant is their friendship to the story?
10. Several characters in the novel, including Georges, Laïza, and Lord Murray, seem to abide by a particular code of honor that others lack, particularly M. de Malmédie, Henri, and Antonio the Malay. How do you think each of these characters would define honor?
11. The publication of Georges preceded Dumas’s best-known works, the d’Artagnan trilogy, the Valois romances, and his sweeping success, The Count of Monte Cristo. How, if at all, do you think Dumas sets readers up for these longer works in Georges? What particular themes and elements of his style do you see emerging?
Posted May 24, 2015
Posted August 7, 2011
No text was provided for this review.
Posted September 16, 2010
No text was provided for this review.