Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


*Corsica. Mountainous French island in the Mediterranean Sea. Smaller than Sicily, Sardinia, or Cyprus, Corsica is just over one hundred miles south of mainland France. The novel opens with the Parisian narrator, a fictionalized Alexandre Dumas, arriving in Corsica after a visit to Elba, a much smaller French island northeast of Corsica. From Corte and Ajaccio, Corsica’s capital, he travels south to Sartène. Whereas the itinerary the narrator recommends to fellow French travelers emphasizes Corsica’s geographical proximity to Toulon, on the French mainland, the rest of the novel dwells on the gulf between life and customs in France and in its island department, Corsica. The narrator remarks that Corsica is a French department but is far from being France.

While extolling the island’s picturesqueness, its marvelous horses, its famous bandits, and its old-fashioned hospitality, the narrator notes its two supreme differences from the French mainland: its people’s constant use of the Italian language and their belief in the vendetta, a blood feud between families or clans, which originated in Sicily and other parts of Italy.

Corsica is also famous as the birthplace of French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, and nearby Elba was the island of his first exile. Clearly some of the narrator’s admiration for Corsica comes from Dumas’s Bonapartist sympathies. Writing twenty-three years after Napoleon’s death, Dumas brings Napoleon into the story indirectly by making Lucien de Franchi the owner of a saber given by Napoleon to his grandfather at a 1798 battle in Egypt. Fittingly, Lucien associates his and Napoleon’s former island home with space and liberty, refusing to leave it for any city.


*Sartène (sahr-TEN). Southern...

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The Corsican Brothers Bibliography

(Great Characters in Literature)

Dumas, Alexandre, père. The Road to Monte Cristo: A Condensation from “The Memoirs of Alexandre Dumas.” Translated by Jules Eckert Goodman. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1956. An abridged translation of Dumas’ memoirs that relate to his source material for his novels, including The Corsican Brothers.

Galan, F. W. “Bakhtiniada II, The Corsican Brothers in the Prague School: Or, The Reciprocity of Reception.” Poetics Today 8, nos. 3/4 (1987): 565-577. Approaches Dumas’ The Corsican Brothers using the critical apparatus of Bakhtin. While the reading is sometimes difficult, this is the only paper published in English on The Corsican Brothers.

Maurois, André. The Titans, a Three-Generation Biography of the Dumas. Translated by Gerard Hopkins. New York: Harper & Row, 1957. Considered the authoritative biography of Dumas père, his father, and his son. Includes an excellent bibliography. Discusses The Corsican Brothers in a cursory fashion.

Schopp, Claude. Alexandre Dumas: Genius of Life. Translated by A. J. Koch. New York: Franklin Watts, 1988. A biographical and critical approach to the life and works of Alexandre Dumas, père. The volume contains a discussion on Dumas’ adaptation of The Corsican Brothers into a drama in order to pay his bills.

Stowe, Richard S. Alexandre Dumas (père). Boston: Twayne, 1976. An excellent starting place for an analysis of the life and works of Alexandre Dumas père, probably the best source in English. The Corsican Brothers is addressed in part 2 of chapter 10.