Who does the slave boy Zarite fall in love with in Island Beneath the Sea by Isabel Allende?

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Tamara K. H. | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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Island Beneath the Sea by Isabel Allende is set during the late 1770s on the island of Saint-Domingue, which is now Haiti, a French colony on which the French participated in the slave trade and enslaved those to work on its plantations. The heroine of the story is a slave girl officially named Zarite but called Tete who was purchased to work on Toulouse Valmorain's sugar plantation, a Frenchman who inherited the sugar plantation from his father in 1770. Valmorain eventually marries, and his wife takes Tete to be her personal slave. However, Valmorain's wife eventually becomes mad, and Valmorain begins to use Tete sexually, resulting in Tete giving birth to illegitimate children, even an illegitimate son.

However, in the chapter titled "Zarite," we learn that the slave boy Tete falls in love with is named Gambo. As Tete describes, "He was a warrior, this love of mine, like the name his father gave him: Gambo, which means warrior." When he first arrived, he had barely survived the slave ship crossing, and Tete washed his wounds with water and covered them with "Moorish herb, aloe, and lard." Dr. Parmentier was busy tending to the slaves who had arrived from the slave ship sick, so Dr. Parmentier left Tete to treat Gambo's wounds. She first saw him in the slave hospital where she began treating his wounds, and eventually, one touch led to another. Tete describes what she and Valmorain had done as "dark and shameful" but not what she had done with Gambo, even though it wasn't actually love. Tete says she never knew love, and seeing the longing in Gambo's eyes for his home in Guinea, she knew that his love was for Guinea.

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