The Kingdom of this World
The stark dichotomies in KOTW drive the action and conflict of the novella, and occur in both on the macro thematic level and down to the micro level of character. In a story-world filled with so many nameless faces, each named character tells an important point of view about slavery and liberation in Haiti. These distinctly different named characters are often presented in pairs, so that the reader can easily access and compare two opposing perspectives on the events of the novellas. One such notable pairing is the juxtaposition of Ti Noel with Soliman. The two men had the possibility of leading parallel lives; they were both Haitian, French-speaking slaves. But while Soliman lived a life both protected and limited by his masters, Ti Noel spent much of his life thrust into uncertainty and danger because of it. Carpentier uses the two men as different lenses through which to view the liberation of Haiti. They exemplify what it is to live as an outsider. Ti Noel lives outside of society, clandestinely contributing to the overthrow of his French masters, yet left to wander in fear under Henri Christophe’s rule of a “free” Haiti. Soliman, on the other hand, is very much inside the world of the ruling class, working as a slave to powerful and wealthy people, such as Pauline Bonaparte. He is essential to their world, but will never be accepted into it. His submission (as opposed to revolt, often ending in disaster) ostracizes him from many of his fellow slaves who would argue death to be preferable to living in chains. Where is he left after the liberation? Both Soliman and Ti Noel are lost souls, just as so many slaves, free or otherwise. In a world where the alternatives included slavery under Europeans, de facto slavery under Haitians, or facing certain death, a black Haitian did not have much of a choice. Carpentier’s use of Ti Noel and Soliman was to describe two drastically different paths that ended up in the same place of...
Bibliography: The Kingdom of This World: A Novella. Alejo Carpentier. Intro. by Edwidge Danticat. Farrar, Straus, and Giroux. New York (2006).
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