The Corsican Brothers

by Alexandre Dumas père

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What are the themes in The Corsican Brothers?

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Themes in The Corsican Brothers by Alexandre Dumas include the irrational, prideful nature of vendettas, the differences between brothers (i.e., the development of individuals apart from family and environment), and self-sacrificial love.

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Alexandre Dumas's novella The Corsican Brothers tells the story of twins Lucian and Louis and the culture of vendetta in which they have been raised. The idea of a vendetta is one of the story's primary themes. The leading families of Corsica enter into feuds almost at the drop of the proverbial hat, and these feuds turn violent in a hurry. That is why they all live in highly fortified houses that are scarred by bullets.

Lucian takes Dumas with him when he goes to mediate one of these feuds. It started over a chicken, and the families are highly unwilling to settle, even though Lucian manages to guide them into an agreement. But one gets the feeling that it will not last. One little offense will cause the whole thing to flare up again. At the heart of these vendettas, of course, is pride. No one can stand to bear even a small insult or even a small perceived insult. People would rather fight than appear humiliated.

A second theme in the story is the difference between brothers. Lucian is very much a part of the Corsican culture. He is quick with a gun and quite fiery in temper. He is proud of his home and family. Louis, on the other hand, is a scholar who has no experience with or desire for weapons or fighting. In fact, he is currently studying law in Paris. These two young men are identical twins. They were even conjoined at birth. They grew up in the same place and the same family. Yet they are extremely different in their individual personalities and interests.

Even so, when Louis is challenged to a duel by a man who is trying to take advantage of the woman Louis loves, Louis accepts the challenge. He is still Corsican in blood, and he is willing to sacrifice himself for the lady's honor. Here is another theme: the self-sacrificial nature of Louis's love. Louis is killed, of course, and even though he has a letter sent to his family saying that he has died of brain fever, Lucian knows it isn't true. He feels Louis's death in his own body, and he immediately heads to Paris to settle the most important feud of his life. He avenges his brother's death.

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What are the themes of The Corsican Brothers?

The Corsican Brothers of the title are not simply brothers, or even simply twins. The two young men were born conjoined twins and separated in infancy. This tight biological bond has not prevented them, however, from becoming distinct individuals. One main theme that Alexandre Dumas père explores in the novel is the distinction between the individual and society. As they grow up, the boys are strongly influenced by the toxic environment of endless family feuds or vendettas throughout their native Corsica. Each must decide for himself what he believes about the appropriate course he should take as well as what is best for society overall.

Closely related to the question of individual personality and responsibility is the affection that the youths feel for each other. Dumas presents each one as symbolic of a certain perspective on social action but still deeply aware of the connections between them which remain unbreakable. The hot-headed man of action, Lucien, has remained at home in Corsica, while the scholarly, reflexive Louis has studied abroad. When a question of honor arises, however, Louis lays down his own life in a fatal duel.

Lucien’s personality continues to influence his approach to social behavior. Ironically, after losing his brother, he becomes even more firmly committed to the avenging mentality because his motivation for revenge is more personal than ever.

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