Last Updated on August 6, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 590
The play’s villain, M’Closky, hates the Peyton family because of their status and privilege. He takes great pleasure in the idea that he will take over Terrebonne and force them from their property. He may be an incredibly unlikable and vicious character—he does murder a young slave named Paul just so that he can prevent Mrs. Peyton from receiving a letter that promises her a large sum of money from an old loan—but his thoughts also seem to foreshadow the eventual fall of the Old South. He says to himself,
Curse their old families—they cut me—a bilious, conceited, thin lot of dried up aristocracy. I hate’em. Just because my grandfather wasn’t some broken-down Virginia transplant, or a stingy old Creole, I ain’t fit to sit down to the same meat as them. It makes my blood so hot I feel my heart hiss. I’ll sweep these Peytons from this section of the country.
He hates them because they look down on him and because he thinks that they feel themselves to be superior to people like him. He hates their airs and graces. They enrage him, and so he longs to get rid of them utterly, ousting them from their home and even from this part of the country. He wants them to feel what he does: to feel as though others think of them as inferior.
Scudder, another Yankee planter, hates M’Closky and feels that M’Closky “mispresent[s] the North to the South.” He calls M’Closky a “knave.” M’Closky is not socially refined or polished in the way that the Peytons are, and he sets a bad example of what Yankees are like. M’Closky hates Scudder in return, especially because they both love Zoe, Mr. Peyton’s “octoroon” daughter, Zoe. She is one-eighth black, the daughter of a “quadroon” slave woman, and is very beautiful and educated. She has been brought up as a Peyton child rather than a slave. M’Closky says to Scudder,
With your New England hypocrisy, you would persuade yourself that it was this family alone you care for; it ain’t—and you know it ain’t—‘tis the “Octoroon”;...
(The entire section contains 590 words.)
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