The Characters

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

The characters in the novel participate in and contribute to a historical process. They are divided into two groups, one supporting European culture, the other African. Although there is no protagonist in the traditional sense, Ti Noël comes closest to fulfilling that role, if only because the novel opens and closes with his presence and spans his life. A Haitian-born slave, Ti Noël has no direct ties with mother Africa, but he learns about voodoo from Mackandal. From this perspective, the novel is not only a description of history but of Ti Noël’s development as a major rebel figure.

After Bouckman’s rebellion and the extermination of blacks, Monsieur Lenormand de Mezy rescues Ti Noël and a few other slaves and, as did many Frenchmen in history, escapes to Cuba. While the exiled Frenchmen preserve and promote their own European culture, Ti Noël realizes that voodoo has a common ground with African religions in Cuba. Eventually, he buys his freedom and returns to Haiti, only to discover that the former master chef, Christophe, who had joined the colonial forces, is now the ruler of the Plain du Nord. Christophe lives like a white ruler, constructing the palace of Sans Souci, modeled after Versailles, and the fortress of the Citadel, which Ti Noël and others are forced to build.

Unlike Mackandal, Bouckman, and Ti Noël, Christophe and Soliman abandon their African origin and accept European culture. They uphold values best represented by the sensual Pauline Bonaparte; Soliman, who becomes Pauline Bonaparte’s masseur and religious adviser, serves as a link between Pauline and Christophe. When the plague claims Leclerc’s life, Pauline survives her husband by accepting voodoo. Once Pauline returns to France, however, Soliman, who has been contaminated by white culture, works for Christophe, and upon the ruler’s death, Soliman accompanies Christophe’s wife and daughters to Rome, claiming to be his nephew. The African gods punish both Christophe and Soliman for rejecting their religion and destiny; both meet with tragic deaths.

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Ti Noël

Ti Noël (tee noh-EHL), a house slave and rebel. He witnesses and, at times, participates in many of the events of the novel. He is faced with the problem of deciding whether he should use the knowledge he has acquired during the course of many years to answer the needs of his people. He represents an archetypal man caught up in the eternal struggle to improve the lot of future generations. His role is to suffer and sacrifice himself for his fellow humans on earth, not to redeem them for a reward in heaven.

Monsieur Lenormand de Mezy

Monsieur Lenormand de Mezy (leh-nohr-MAH[N] deh meh-ZEE), a plantation owner and Ti Noël’s master. He is caricatured as having cheeks caked with powder and a stupid smile. After the slave rebellion led by Bouckman, he is forced to flee to Cuba. He functions as a representative of the oppressive presence of European culture and “civilization.”


Mackandal (mah-kahn-DAHL), a fugitive slave, a rebel, and Ti Noël’s spiritual mentor. He has a deep voice and powerful torso. The first of the novel’s four sections narrates his exploits. He led an early slave uprising that used the poisoning of livestock and people as a major tactic. He is finally captured and burned at the stake in 1758.


(The entire section is 465 words.)