Summary (Masterplots II: World Fiction Series)
Presented as the diary of Count Malte Moritz von Putbus (or Mignon, as he is familiarly known), Speranza consists of this young Swedish aristocrat’s memories and thoughts, combined with his notations of the sometimes puzzling events aboard a slave ship bound for the New World. The narrator’s attempt to understand the truth about his external circumstances becomes the impulse for an inward journey; both processes lead from the comfort of illusion to the dreadful awareness of a new, devastating truth.
Through repeated exclamations of bliss in the novel’s first pages, Mignon creates the impression that the sea voyage is the fulfillment of his heart’s desire; in fact, as the reader quickly learns, the enthusiast is being sent into exile. Inspired by the writings of the philosophes and the bold ideals of the French Revolution, he had founded the Brothers of Liberty, a clandestine group of liberal thinkers dedicated to the spread of an egalitarian creed through social upheaval. Upon learning of this sedition against their class, his father threatened him with a year’s banishment to the Virgin Islands. The son did not take the threat seriously at first, but the intertwining of politics with sex aggravated his danger. Grethel, the daughter of a parish clerk, caught Mignon’s fancy, and he eventually convinced her to cast off the “bigotry” of the old, repressive social order so that she might experience the erotic ecstasy available “under...
(The entire section is 1399 words.)
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