Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Father Paul Laforgue

Father Paul Laforgue, a Jesuit priest and missionary to the Huron Indians. A slight, pale, thin-bearded intellectual, born and educated in France, he dreams of the glory of martyrdom in the wilderness. Fired by religious fervor, he learns the Algonkian and Huron languages and prepares meticulously for work among “the Savages.” Confronted with the realities of life among the Indians, he accepts his own misery and physical suffering with courage; he is forgiving of the sins of others but is haunted by guilt for his own human weaknesses. Initially secure in the correctness of his culture and religion, he comes to respect many of the Indian ways and to question his religious certitudes. A man of conscience, he refuses to acquiesce in the religious sophistry of Father Jerome and baptize Indians before they understand and accept the faith. Because his own faith is not absolute, he comes to see himself as unworthy of martyrdom. In the midst of his crisis of faith and unsure of God’s will, he dedicates himself to his work in hope of achieving “God’s” favor and out of compassion for the Indians as fellow human beings.

Daniel Davost

Daniel Davost, who accompanies Father Laforgue on his journey to Ihonatiria. Not yet twenty years old, he has been in New France for one year after having promised to serve God for two years in a distant land. Intelligent and adaptable, with a talent for languages, he is thought of highly by the priests. He wants to go with Laforgue not out of religious devotion, as he claims, but to continue the sexual relationship he has secretly begun with the Algonkin girl Annuka. Suffering feelings...

(The entire section is 689 words.)

The Characters

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

Father Laforgue changes much from the beginning to the end of the novel. In the beginning, he does not see the Indians as human beings; they are merely objects or obstacles to the fulfillment of his fate as a martyr. His physical journey, however, is a journey of understanding, and he begins to perceive their reality and their attractiveness. He has to agree with Daniel that the “Savages” are better Christians than the French since they not only share everything they have with others but also forgive offenses against them that the French never would. After escaping from the Iroquois, he discovers that he has lost his breviary and cannot say his daily office. The reader thus sees him move symbolically away from the Jesuits and closer to the Indians. It is also at this time that he begins to question the extent and power of God’s mercy to the “Savages.” By the time he enters the village of Father Jerome, he knows that he is “unworthy” to be a martyr and his feelings toward the Indians have changed from hate to love.

Daniel Davost begins the novel not with assurance but conflict and doubt. The immediacy of his sexual experience with Annuka and the freedom of the Indian life lead him to reject his earlier training; he “spits in the face of Jesus” and defends the ways of the Indians. His moment of choice comes when he must either follow Father Laforgue or join the Algonkin; his choice of the Indians makes his allegiance clear, and by the time the novel ends, Annuka declares, “you have killed the Norman in you.” He has become an Algonkin.

Chomina is not the chief of the Algonkin, but he is singled out from the others by his clear-sightedness. For example, he is the only one who sees that the trade with the French will inevitably work against the Indians’ interests. He believes that in that trade, the Indians have become “greedy” like the French, and it will be their “undoing” and their “ending.” He is similar to the other Indian elders in his belief in dreams, his love of his family and his tribe, and his close contact with nature.