What is the novel Kamouraska about? How is marriage depicted? What the message of the novel?

Kamouraska is about an unhappily married woman who uses another woman and a man to help her kill her abusive husband. The man, Doctor Nelson, actually shoots and kills the husband, Antoine Tassy, and then escapes to another country. His wife, Elisabeth, and her maid Aurélie, are tried and convicted. After serving a short sentence, Elisabeth marries Jérôme Rolland. They are relatively happy and have eight children. Marriage is depicted as both a trap and a haven.

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Kamouraska explores the institution of marriage, women’s limited opportunities, and questions of personal responsibility in nineteenth-century Canada. The main female character, Elisabeth, is a convicted killer. However, the reader also considers the complexities of Elisabeth’s situation and the reasons she came to believe that killing her husband, Antoine Tassy, was the only way to escape an abusive marriage.

Elisabeth manipulates not only Aurélie, her maid, but also a respected physician to help her carry out the plan, but it is ultimately the doctor, George Nelson, who shoots and kills Tassy. George, who is American, escapes prosecution by fleeing to the United States. Elisabeth and her maid are tried and convicted for their roles in the murder, but evidence about Tassy’s abuse sways public opinion toward leniency, and Elisabeth serves only two months.

A completely different side of marriage is shown in Elisabeth’s life after she is released. She marries Jérôme Rolland, and together they have eight children. Jérôme’s goodness helps provide a stable marriage and offers a marked contrast to Tassy’s abuses. Nevertheless, Elisabeth continues to wonder what life would have been like with Nelson, the only man she truly loved, had he not prioritized self-preservation and abandoned her. Her reflections offer a contrast between security, which she learned was possible in marriage, and passion.

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