Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

Saint Pierre

Saint Pierre (sah[n] pyehr). City on the West Indian island of Martinique, which is a French colony with a slave-based economy. Located fifteen miles from the cloud-crested volcano Mount Pelée, the town has a church, a convent and school, an army fort garrisoned by cowardly French soldiers, and homes of proud, conservative Frenchmen. Creole-speaking slaves work their masters’ sugarcane fields that reach to Pelée’s slopes, build zigzag roads through heavy forest growth up and down lush valleys, and toil as domestics in their masters’ houses. Madame Peyronnette’s mansion is on the Grande Rue, in the Quartier du Fort. Monsieur Desrivières’s city residence is on the nearby rue de la Consolation.


Anse-Marine (ans-mar-een). Prosperous estate on the east coast, inherited by Monsieur Desrivière, that is spoiled and idle. Youma, tall and graceful, has her own room in his plantation house. She dresses in vividly colored robes for special occasions. The stalwart field-workers, their half-naked bodies glistening like polished bronze, toil and sing under the sweltering sun, while their overseer guards them from poisonous snakes. The overworked women sing in caravans as they go to market balancing head trays of cocoa, coffee, coconuts, mangoes, oranges, and bananas. Other slaves work at nearby sugar mills and wharfs. Their sixty-foot-long canoes transport barrels of rum and casks of sugar to...

(The entire section is 538 words.)


(Great Characters in Literature)

Bisland, Elizabeth. The Life and Letters of Lafcadio Hearn. 2 vols. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1906. Contains a significant letter from Hearn to a friend vouching for the historical truth of elements in Youma, including the house, the incident of the serpent, the girl who died, and the circumstances of her self-sacrificial act.

Colt, Jonathan. Wandering Ghost: The Odyssey of Lafcadio Hearn. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1991. Defines Youma as a prosaic and sentimental story and then, curiously, links the heroine’s memory of her deceased mother to Hearn’s yearning for his lost mother.

Kunst, Arthur E. Lafcadio Hearn. New York: Twayne, 1969. Praises Youma as admirable in conception, balanced in development, and restrained in effect. Commends such distractions as sex symbolism, dreams, historical notes, and folktale elements.

Stevenson, Elizabeth. Lafcadio Hearn. New York: Macmillan, 1961. Criticizes Youma, despite its early respectful reviews, for its slow start and digressions, insufficient passion, and lack of plot development.

Yu, Beongcheon. An Ape of Gods: The Art and Thought of Lafcadio Hearn. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1964. Summarizes the plot of Youma and analyzes the two main characters as idealistically treated and yet, fortunately, not made into noble savages.