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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 228

Black Robe is a novel written by Brian Moore. It was first published in 1985. It is set in the 17th century, in the part of North America then known as New France, which we now know as Canada. It tells of a French Jesuit priest, Father Laforgue, who is one of many missionaries who travelled to New France with the aim of converting the native tribes to Christianity. The native people called the Jesuit missionaries "Black Robes" because of their religious attire, which is where the title of the novel has been derived from.

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In the story, Father Laforgue and his assistant, Daniel Davost, arrive in Quebec. There, they encounter some Algonquian tribals who offer to be guides to the pair. They take the two men upriver and beyond a set of rapids. From there, Laforgue plans to go on to a village called Ihonatiria, which is occupied by the Huron or Wyandot tribe, where a Jesuit colony has already been established. However, he tries to baptize his Algonquian guides along the way and fails. They also suspect him of being a demon.

He is then captured and tortured by Iroquois tribals, but he eventually escapes and finds his way to Ihonatiria. There, the village people have been ravaged by an epidemic fever. Laforgue promises a cure for the villagers in exchange for their agreement to be baptized.

Summary

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 942

Brian Moore’s Black Robe is a historical novel that focuses not only on the Jesuits of the title but also on the Indians that they attempted to convert in the North America of the seventeenth century. Moore emphasizes the conflicts between these two very different cultures. As he states in the “Author’s Note”: “This novel is an attempt to show that each of these beliefs inspired in the other fear, hostility, and despair, which later would result in the destruction and abandonment of the Jesuit missions, and the conquest of the Huron people by the Iroquois, their deadliest enemy.” The novel, however, begins with the arrangements for Father Laforgue to set out on an arduous and dangerous journey to a remote Huron village to provide relief or aid to the sick or dead Jesuits there. Father Laforgue is inexperienced but eager to prove himself; he even looks forward to martyrdom on the journey. There is no doubt about his courage or his dedication; he is completely out of his element in the world of the Algonkin and Huron, however, and this dislocation challenges his most fervent beliefs and attitudes.

The picture the reader receives of the “Savages” on this journey is compelling. In contrast to the Jesuits, they are perfectly adapted to their environment. They see the land as alive, are guided by dreams, and live a communal life in which everything is shared. They despise the French, who hoard their goods rather than share them and have no respect for the land. The Indians also have a rich and bawdy language that contrasts sharply with the abstractions of the Jesuits. Father Laforgue is repelled by the Indian way of life, but his helper, Daniel Davost, is attracted to it and to a young Indian girl, Annuka. This attraction creates the first conflict of the novel. Laforgue sees him with the girl and fears for his soul, while the Algonkin believe that Daniel can never really be one of their group. Daniel must make a choice when the Algonkin decide to abandon Father Laforgue at the rapids, and he chooses the Algonkin over the Jesuits; this, however, complicates the problem the Algonkin have. If Daniel joins them, word will get out that they have abandoned the Jesuit. Thus, Chomina, their elder, argues for a compromise; he, his family, and Daniel will guide Laforgue to the village.

When Chomina and his small group return to Father Laforgue, they are all captured by the Iroquois. The...

(The entire section contains 1170 words.)

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