Better Late Than Never? (Post on Cesaire & Kingdom of This World)

For this blog post, I will comment on not only Kingdom of This World, but Cesaire’s play as well.

Both texts focus on similar subject matter yet manage to leave the reader with entirely different impressions of the, in Cesaire’s case, titular character: Henri Christoph.

I found that in Kingdom of this world, Cristoph was portrayed as completely evil and insane for the amount of time that he was the focus of the book, with no redeeming qualities whatsoever. I also found it very strange and somewhat irritable that the book skipped entirely over the story of Henri Christoph’s transition from slave chef to absolute monarch, considering that there was minor foreshadowing of his character in one of the passages about M. Mezy, which led me to expect a more prominent featuring of the character.

 

However, what I wanted to know most of all is the significance of many of the supernatural themes such as voodoo, black magic and reincarnation. Examples range from Macandal’s alleged shapeshifting abilities and escape from his execution, Henri Cristoph’s insanity and Ti Noel’s ascension. My possible idea for the significance and importance that the author places on these themes is that they represent some form of escapism. I mean that in the sense that the the perceived notion of the supernatural let’s characters cope with the otherwise unbearable horror of Haitian plantation life.

Returning to King Cristoph, compared to Alejo’s portrayal of the monarch, Cesaire’s┬ácharacter is written in a completely different light. I believe that the audience is to think that Christoph’s intentions were good in the start, and he later on became evil. Lines such as “under no pretext to suffer a return to slavery or any measure prejudicial to the freedom or to the civil and political rights of the Haitian people” near the beginning of the play are contrasted by lines later of “freedom cannot endure without labour” or the outright killing of peasants for little to no reason. It is in this way that I believe that the play has semblance to classical tragedies. King Christoph, while by no means a likeable character, has some of the main qualities present in the tragic heroes of old. He begins with an idealistic vision, but lets himself be consumed by this ideal and eventually transformed into that which he aspires to save his people from.

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