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Posted August 25, 2007
Ourika, by Claire De Duras, is a unique depiction of an African American during the French Revolution. Previous portrayals of Africans in French Tradition are reportedly vague and are not frequently described as individuals. The story of Ourika is a true story about an African woman who is rescued from slavery at a young age by the governor of Boufflers and is raised in a wealthy aristocratic white family. Claire De Duras was born in France in 1777 and was forced to flee her homeland shortly after the execution of her father. She doesn¿t return until 1808 with her French husband, the Duke of Duras. De Duras doesn¿t have the desire to publish the story of Ourika until she sees what an interest is provoked by telling it orally to the customers in her salon. When De Duras does publish it in 1823, she does so gradually because female authors were not given much, if any, credibility at this point in time. The first edition had no author or date printed on it and consisted of only 25 private copies. The book did not remain a secret for long and several thousand copies were printed over the next few years. De Duras wrote four other novels the same year as Orika, but only two others were published before she passed away in 1828. The story of Ourika is quite personable. The story is told by a doctor whom Ourika is one of his patients. At this point, Ourika¿s depression has taken a severe toll on her health and the doctor (who remains unnamed throughout the text) is determined to cure her despite her poor physical state. The doctor is initially taken by her gentle and eloquent manner, curious as to where an African woman had learned to be so proper. She insists that he can not cure her without knowing what troubles have ailed her health. Ouirka tells him the struggles she has had to face as an outcast throughout the course of her entire life as a black woman raised in a white person¿s world. As Ourika gets older, she is reminded daily of how alone she is. She has no family and no white man will marry her. She doesn¿t understand the culture of her own people since she has never experienced it, so she doesn¿t fit in anywhere. The only male friend Ourika has ever had marries a beautiful wealthy white woman. Ourika is constantly sneered at by those who do not know her, so she limits her time away from home. The accounts of Ourika¿s life are told in dramatic detail and give the reader much sympathy for her. Her depression causes frequent fevers and she falls unconscious on numerous occasions. All of Ourika¿s oppression is eventually relieved as she turns to God and becomes a nun, but at this point her body is too frail to continue much longer. Ourika is a remarkable story for someone who is interested in nineteenth century Europe or studying inequality between races throughout history. Ourika touches deeply on subjects not commonly written about in the early nineteenth century and paints a vivid picture of how difficult life was for women and minorities during the French Revolution.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.