Count Malte Moritz von Putbus
Count Malte Moritz von Putbus (MAHL-teh MOH-rihtz fon POOT-buhs), known as Mignon (mee-NYOHN), a callow Swedish aristocrat who both relates the story and serves as its protagonist. A self-professed idealist and political visionary, this naif has embraced the liberal creed of the Enlightenment and dedicated himself to extending the effects of the French Revolution. The novel consists entirely of his diary, which, after summarizing the inept radical activism and erotic misadventure that have led his parents to exile the young man to the New World, reflects on events during his journey aboard the Speranza, a slaver vessel. In effect, Mignon’s mind, not the ship itself, is the story’s stage, and the drama is defined through his transition from the presumption of his own goodness and a delusive faith in humankind to the realization that human corruption is complete and unredeemable.
Roustam (rew-STAHM), the count’s black valet. Dressed in European finery and displaying European manners, he is regarded as no more than an entertaining clown by the court at Putbus, but on the Speranza he quickly tests his master’s egalitarian posture and eventually emerges as the leader of the slaves during their insurrection. The...
(The entire section is 562 words.)