How Race, Class and Gender Intersect in the Novel “The Kingdom of This World”
During the revolution, African slaves fought against the French for freedom and basic human rights. Black men were used as “production machinery” in the farms as they were treated as slaves in sugar plantation (Carpentier, 14). According to (Stephen, 273), “French colony was the most profitable of all Caribbean plantation societies that produced sugar and coffee”. White men were the leaders, and the musters of slaves as stated by Stephen (273) “over the course of the century, the colony took in more than a million slaves from Africa” they were also the owners of the plantation of the land. The slavery business brought in racism, gender imbalances and class ranking as I have discussed below.
At one time, trusted slaves used to gather for a secret meeting, the Jamaicans and Buckman discussed the possibility to earn freedom for the blacks in France and formation of an opposition from plantation and landowners (Carpentier, 74). This shows that the white own the lands as the blacks were oppressed due to lack of freedom and slavery.
Expression of racism is portrayed after trumpet sounds were heard when slaves surround the house of the masters. Although Lenormand de Mezy managed to escape after being frightened by the conch-shell, the slaves (black) murdered white men and totally got drunk of alcohol. Gender violence is experienced when Ti Noel rapes Lenormand de Mezy mistress-Mademoiselle Floridor. This shows that black men never had respect for white women. Race violence between the masters and slaves continues and they are still portrayed when Buckman is killed.
High-Class slave owners like Lenormand de Mezy intend to sell the slaves to Cuba market. Ti Noel and a group of slaves are taken to Cuba where Lenormand de Mezy get lazy, conduct no other businesses, gambles with the slaves, takes a lot of alcohol and enjoys with ladies. As Pauline goes with Lenormand de Mezy army general (Leclerc) to Haiti, she enjoys tempting men in the ship sexually. This shows that women have accepted to be used for sexuality by mean of all races because at a point, Solimán, a black slave lavishes care and love on Pauline Bonaparte beauty as he massages her body (Carpentier, 174).
Race violence becomes a major theme when the local governor rules for a mass eradication of black population in the colony. This is after believing that the high number of slaves threaten the administration with their religion and voodoo. Also, this is discussed “master store to reduce the enslaved to the status of laboring machine their lives organized by the demand for plantation work” (Stephen, 277). In the past, the masters considered the loss of a slave’s lives as a financial loss. Now slaves’ lives do not matter. They argue that as long as black women existed more black children continue to be born as new slaves (Phoenix, 321). The masters controlled the population of the blacks according to the labor required in the plantation.
The blacks have to work to buy freedom; for example, Ti Noel struggles to make enough savings to buy his own freedom and be able to return to Santo Domingo which is now free from French colonies. Another way the black could get freedom is trough accidents (Hall, 34). After losing his arm in a machine, Macandal is now unwanted by the master. He gets the freedom to move to the mountains where he learns about different plants herbs and mushrooms; he also discovers that some are poisonous. Macandal trains Ti Noel on what he had discovered and plans to kill his former masters and their livestock. At first, he manages to poison the livestock of his former plantation and those in the neighborhood. He also manages to kill all the family members of these colonies. Macandal became known among the slaves and his class raised to “Lord of poison” and they started worshiping him (Hall, 26). This shows that the class could change in case a slave performed a heroic action that favors them. On the other hand, the white searched for him and burnt him in front of a multitude of black slaves in order to oppress them (Carpentier, 106).
In a span of twenty years, Ti Noel has fathered twelve children with one of their cooks which shows that black women were used for bearing children and cooking. Ti Noël and his fellow slaves learn that the French government has ordered the plantation owners to free their slaves. The plantation owners refuse because of the high class of the white rich people, that they could oppose the government. The slaves on Ti Noël’s and surrounding plantations start an uprising against their owners. The first attempt at rebellion fails. Ti Noël’s owner, Lenormand de Mezy, saves the lives of his slaves by selling them in Cuba’s slave markets. Lenormand de Mezy is a womanizer, drinker, and a gambler. In Cuba, Lenormand de Mezy loses a card game and gives Ti Noël to the Cuban plantation owner who won the game (Carpentier, 164).
The country is now ruled by King Henri Christophe, a member of the rich black aristocracy. Henri Christophe was born a slave in Grenada. He then became a master chef and owner of Auberge de la Couronne. Next, he became a soldier in the revolution before rising to the first King of Haiti position. Under King Christophe, blacks are still slaves. King Christophe is a brutal and corrupt tyrant with no respect for human life. Despite race, all the people could manage a higher class if they had money. Henri Christophe managed to become a king despite being born a slave and a member of a black aristocracy because his family was wealthy (Carpentier, 114). This shows that despite race, the class was also determined by family riches. This is also proofed by Louvenrture who “was born a slave in the northern plain of Saint-Domingue. He worked as a coachman on plantation but gained his freedom in the 1770s. For the first time, Louvenrture rented and managed a coffee plantation overseeing the work of the slaves. He also owned at least one slave himself where he began working closely with the Spanish to obtain guns and ammunition” (Stephen, 280). He raised to being a solder and became the first king of Haiti. However, the black remains to be slaves under his administration.
In conclusion, racism and farming to maintain the class have brought in slavery and mistreatment of the blacks. The violence actions towards the white are brought by the white masters mistreating the black. Moreover, gender imbalances especially women harassment, is also as a result of slavery. Abolishing slavery could have led to a solution of race, gender and class discrimination in the colony.
Stephan, Palmié, and Francisco A. Scarano, eds. The Caribbean: A history of the region and its peoples. University of Chicago Press, 2013.
Carpentier, Alejo. El reino de este mundo/The Kingdom of this world. La Editorial, UPR, 1994.
Hall, Stuart. “Negotiating Caribbean Identities.” New Caribbean thought: A reader (2001): 24-39.
Phoenix, Ann, and Barbara Tizard. Black, white or mixed race?: race and racism in the lives of young people of mixed parentage. Routledge, 2005.