Mixing history and fiction, The Kingdom of This World recounts the transition of Haiti from slavery to emancipation and from colony to republic. The change occurs through the use of African religion. The novel begins by establishing a difference between black African culture and white European culture. Although these two systems take on different forms throughout the novel and history, they remain antagonistic toward each other. One is dynamic, the other static. Mackandal, Bouckman, and Ti Noël represent the liberating spirit of African religion and culture, while Monsieur Lenormand de Mezy, Monsieur Blancheland, General Leclerc, Rochambeau, Henri Christophe, and the Mulatto Republicans represent the oppressive force of European culture. The two groups offer conflicting interpretations of history; the novel supports the African perspective.
Mackandal initiates the struggle against slave owners. After losing an arm in a sugar mill accident, he studies poisonous plants as a means of fighting the whites. Drawing on his knowledge of African lore, he transforms himself into an animal or an insect to elude his pursuers. When Mackandal is captured and burned at the stake, the whites who are present witness his death, but the blacks see him transformed into an insect, and they watch as he escapes. This important passage illustrates clearly the difference between the European and African worldview.
Bouckman and Ti Noël follow in...
(The entire section is 426 words.)