Le Mélange of Francophone Culture in William Wells Brown’s Clotel

Le Mélange of Francophone Culture in William Wells Brown’s Clotel

The Undergraduate Review
Volume 7, Issue 1 (2011)
pages 8-11

Sandra Andrade
Bridgewater State University, Bridgewater, Massachusetts

In Clotel; Or, The President’s Daughter, William Wells Brown argues that for fugitive African American slaves France represented freedom. This connection between African Americans and France that is familiar to many Americans in the twentieth century was existent at the time of Brown’s own escape. The Francophone culture became a major motivator in the author’s personal life and also in his writings. This project covers many themes, including the “tragic mulatta”, American identity, American freedom and slavery, and explores readings from Anna Brickhouse’s Transamerican Literary Relations and the Nineteenth-Century Public Sphere, and Eve A. Raimon’s The Tragic Mulatta Revisited. Brown questions not only the impossibility of being accepted in the American society as a person of mixed race but argues that the French are better interpreters of the Declaration of Independence than the Americans. In France, Brown found a secure home among French elites and his positive experience with francophone culture helped shape his most well-known work of literature, the novel Clotel. In this sentimental novel, Brown creates a character whose hope for freedom is based upon the author’s experiences in France. Being the first western European nation to abolish slavery in its colonies, France provided hope to many African Americans.

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