Engl 335- Twentieth Century Novel

Francesca Gentile


ENGL 335- Twentieth Century Novel I

Felix Fuchs

May 18 2018


Topic: The ending of Chapter VIII, “The Great Flight,” portrays Mackandal’s execution. Two perspectives are given here, those of the slaves and that of the plantation owner de Mézy. How do we explain their differing experiences/accounts of the event? What does this tell us about the function of narrative, especially in the context of anti-colonial resistance?


Alejo Carpentier, a Latin American author is best known for the launching of the concept, magical realism in Latin American literature. Magical realism, also known as marvellous reality, is a term used to express a realistic view of the real world from the perspective of a character perspective while adding some magical elements to the story. Marvellous reality is used in the novel, The Kingdom of this World by Alejo Carpentier.The narrative is a work of historical fiction about Haiti during the French colonialist rule. It depicts the realistic view of the world from the perspective of the slave, Ti Noel while adding some magical elements to the plot. One key point that sets out what the author calls “marvellous reality” is mentioned in the prologue, it states that magic can only be seen and experienced by those who believe in it. A major scene in the novel that demonstrates this is in the ending of Chapter VIII, The Great Flight. The chapter portrays Mackandal’s execution, however, the execution is seen from two different perspectives, that of the plantation owners and that of the slaves. The plantation owners witnesses Mackandal being executed, however, in contrast, the slaves see him magically escaping his execution. Although we take belief to be something that is spiritual, and magical that is disconnected from reality, it is, in fact, the opposite. In the novel, belief is deeply connected to reality, Mackandal’s magical escape from his execution becomes an imagination for the slaves that depicts a utopian resistant narrative, as it gives hope to the slaves of the possibility of a future rebellion from slavery.

Section I: The perspective of the slaves.

Most moments, in which there is a magical occurrence, there is a shift in point of view. Mackandal’s execution from the perspective of the slaves emphasizes the slaves’ otherness because while the slaves believe Mackandal managed to escape his execution, the plantation owners witness him being executed. In the novel’s prologue it is mentioned that only those who have a certain faith and believe in the marvellous can experience it, and “those who do not believe in saints cannot cure themselves with saintly miracles, just as those who are not Don Quixotes cannot insert themselves body and soul into the world of Amadis de Guala or Tirant lo Blac” (xvi).The belief of magic roots from voodoo, which is an integral practice in unifying the slaves, therefore, the oppressed witness Mackandal’s execution differently than the plantation owners. The slaves witness Mackandal escape his execution and metamorphose into an insect. Although the slaves believe that he managed to escape, this magical reality is used as a form of resistance against the white plantation owners in order to have hope for a brighter future.

Section II: The perspective of the plantation owners; perspective of ruling class

The execution of Mackandal contrasts with the magical perception of the slaves with the reality perceived by the plantation owners. Through the realistic representation of Mackandal’s execution from plantation owner’s perspective and from the reader’s perspective, it is evident that Mackandal’s execution was successful. Therefore, the marvellous used in the novel is used as a way to provide the slaves with a more hopeful future resisting slavery.

Section III: The perspective of Henri Christophe

The slaves are liberated, however when Henri Christophe, an ex-black slave comes to power as King and forces the black people back into slavery in order to build him a palace.Henri Christophe, someone who used to be oppressed now has the black people under his rule. As the slaves’ revolt, Henri Christophe is attacked by the magical powers of voodoo; however as, he is an ex-slave he believes he can use the voodoo to counteract what is happening to him. However, Henri Christophe does not realize that it magic no loner works for him; voodoo only works against the oppressors and it has now exhausted its usefulness as he is now in power. Henri Christophe does not make the connecting that voodoo is working against him because it is more than just spirituality, or something that is magically happening, magic becomes a utopian imagination that is only activated in order to imagine the possibility of overcoming power.


“But that blood had never been directed against the blacks, who, so close as they were now ahead of the marching flames, invoke powers that demanded blood sacrifice” (101)

“The blood of the bulls the thick walls had drunk proffered protection only against the arms of the whites” (100,101)