Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

New York State

New York State. When François-René de Chateaubriand visited the United States in 1791, he saw only parts of New York and the New England states. Nevertheless, he impressed his readers with an imaginative description of the Niagara Falls, although the nearest he ever got to them was New York City. Accuracy was never important to him.

American wilderness

American wilderness. Chateaubriand’s novel, which he later combined with René (1802) in a work he titled Le Génie du Christianisme (1802; The Genius of Christianity), develops the theory of the French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau that “noble savages”—such as Native North Americans—who are uncorrupted by European influences are purer and more religious than their European counterparts. Rousseau himself admitted that the “noble savage” was a myth and never claimed that it corresponded to reality; however, Chateaubriand made effective use of this myth by transforming North America’s “noble savages” into committed converts to Roman Catholicism.

The Indian characters in Atala live in a never-never land that has some resemblance to the Louisiana bayous, the Florida Everglades, the Mississippi Delta, and the mountains of eastern Tennessee and North Carolina. However, it is not possible to determine exactly where events in the book occur because of the book’s vagueness and a...

(The entire section is 507 words.)