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Critical analysis of the octoroon essay

The Octoroon, only considered second amongst antebellum melodramas, can be described as play authored by Irish writer Dion Boucicaut. The enjoy focuses on the Plantation Terrebonne, the Peyton estate and its particular residents, namely it’s slaves. During the time of their premiere, The Octoroon, motivated conversations regarding the abolition of captivity as well as the overall mistreatment in the African People in america. Derived from spanish language, the word ‘octoroon’ is defined as person who is 1/8th black. Zoe Peyton, “The Octoroon, is the supposedly “freed biological child of Judge Peyton, ex – owner of the plantation.

In play, the lovers, Zoe and the all judges prodigal nephew, George Peyton, are foiled in their search by competition and the the evil maneuverings of a material-obsessed overseer known as Jacob MClosky. MClosky wishes Zoe and Terrebonne, and schemes to acquire both. Boucicault’s play concentrates on the denial of liberty, identity, and dignity, whilst ironically protecting common African-American stereotypes with the antebellum period. The perform does this through several personas, most importantly, through Zoe plus the Household slave Pete.

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Even though the author endeavors to stimulate anti-slavery emotions, the play is largely in ineffectual of being a true indictment of captivity by even more perpetuating the African American stereotypes. Zoe, the octoroon, serves as a means to get the author to learn themes of racial misjudgment without an excessively black protagonist, she is black, but not as well black. She plays the role from the tragic mulatto a stock character that was typical of antebellum materials. The purpose of the tragic mulatto was to permit the reader to pity the plight of oppressed or captive races, but only through a veil of whiteness.

Through this veil the reader does not truly pity one of a unique race but rather the reader pities one who is done as near their competition as possible. This is made obvious especially in Zoes speech habits. Compared to the other black personas, even the white characters, just like Scudder and M’Closky, Zoe displays a usage of language superior to that of theirs, demonstrating she received an extensive education. Zoes 1st entrance in play commences with Am i not late, My oh my! Mr. Scudder, good morning. (Act I, pg. )

The formality stated in Zoes first collection, is only indicated the plays white character types, with the additional black personas addressing the white heroes with titles of Masr or Missey. The slaves even addresses Zoe because Missey Zoe comparable to Zoes romantic rival, Dora Sunnyside, who is also addressed since Missey Etika. The title provided to Zoe improves her location above that of the other black characters. Zoes “‘ one drop in eight’ roots had been trained and thoroughly tamed so that the girl with virtually a white girl.

Thus Zoe plays to the trope with the female tragic octoroon, a light-skinned woman raised as though a white woman in her dads household, right up until his personal bankruptcy or death has her reduced to a menial location and distributed. (Gross, What Blood Won’t)The octoroon, needs a white lover most of all, and must therefore drop a tragic end. (Brown, Negro Poetry and.. ) She is women who has all the social graces that come plus its a middle-class or upper-class white female and yet Zoe is non-etheless subjected to slavery.

The meticcio is also highly sexualized. In certain slave marketplaces, mulattoes and quadroons brought higher prices, because of their use as sexual objects. The mulatto got into contact with the white-colored ideal of female appeal the mulatto afforded the slave owner the opportunity to afeitado, with impunity, a woman who was physically white-colored (or near-white) but legally black.  (Furnas, Goodbye Uncle Tom) This is obvious as M’Closky eyes Zoe in Take action I, “‘Dam that young lady, she makes me horripilate when I think of her, she’s took me for all Now i’m worth. ‘ Then later confesses to Zoe, “‘Come, Zoe, don’t be a fool.

You know I’d marry you easily could, but I aren’t. ‘(Act My spouse and i, pg. 14) M’Closky acknowledges the limitations of Zoe competition in terms of relationship, and tries to settle for her being his mistress. The sexualization from the tragic mulatto merges prohibitions against miscegenation with the actuality that whites routinely applied blacks since sexual objects. Even Scudder states which the only the case thing in M’Closky’s body is his lust to get Zoe. In a race-based culture, the tragic mulatto found peace just in loss of life, shown in Zoes suicide.

Zoes suicide is portrayed as the only way she could transcend the wretched ineffaceable mark of Cain. 1 drop toxins all the flood’, yet her death defeats the writer’s purpose in attempting to make a sympathetic personality. Instead Zoes death permits female white readers to distinguish with the sufferer by male or female while estranging themselves as a result of her one-eighth blackness, since her fatality was undoubtedly caused by that. Thus the writer avoids dealing with a ethnicity ideology that denies the entire humanity of non-white women.

With the tragic mulatto, mcdougal romantically strains the problem of miscegenation over a problems pertinent to African-Americans, therefore enabling the author in order to avoid more serious interpersonal issues and omit even more representative character types. The household servant, Pete, assumes on the belief of a Tom caricature. The Tom saillie portrays dark-colored men while faithful, happily submissive servants. This stock character posed a question to northern viewers, ‘How can slavery become so wrong, if they were so dedicated and articles? The Tom caricature was popularized after the publication of Uncle Tom’s Cabin m Harriet Beecher Stowe. Frequently throughout the play Pete shows behavior extremely typically of these of the Ben caricature, submissive and faithful servant, resembling that of Sophie from the film Django Unchained, with his unflinching loyalty. Like Stephen, Pete shows an internalized racism towards additional black personas especially the children threating to ” ‘kill some upon ’em sure, and dehumanizing them simply by calling them ” ‘darkies.. dem dark tings niggers(Act 1, pg. )

These stock character types are typically proven with a walking cane or a sagging, a they normally are lame, because seen in the stage directions for the first access of Pete, “Enter PETE, R. U. E., (he is lame)(Act I, pg. 5) The Tom is definitely old, actually weak, desperate to serve, a dependable member of staff, and is mentally dependent on white wines for acceptance. “Point. Older seventy-two. Pete. Whats dat? A mistake, sarforty-six.? Point. Worthless.? Pete. But dont install to nuffinkin work cannel. Come, Assess, pick up.

Nows your time, sar. Jackson. $ 100.? Pete. What, sar? Myself! For melook ye in this article! (Dances. ) This research from Work III, pg. 6, exhibits how despereate Pete genuinely is for endorsement, he lessens his era just to always be sold, insists that he could be still capable to work although he is worthless, and dances for the crowd of slave-owners, comparable to that of heroes in Jeff shows, which were emptied of the noble attributes the original Tom held. By simply perpetuating dark stereotypes, Boucicaut fails in nearly the same way Uncle Tom’s Cabin performed. In conserving these stock characters, the play does not represent the fact of slavery, and fails to offer a more realistic ensemble of characters. Instead the play relies on caricatures to attempt to appeal towards the masses of the antebellum period.


Ariela J. Low, What Bloodstream Wont Tell: A History of Race on Trial in the usa, p. sixty one.

Brown, S i9000. (1969). Marrano poetry and drama and the Negro in American fictional works. New York, BIG APPLE: Atheneum.

Furnas, J. C. Goodbye Dad Tom. New york city: Sloane Affiliates, 1956. Printing.

Boucicault, Dion. The Octoroon. London: M. Dicks, n. d. Print.

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