The Slave's Revenge: The Terror in Charlotte Dacre's Zofloya (Critical Essay) - The Western Journal of Black Studies

The Slave's Revenge: The Terror in Charlotte Dacre's Zofloya (Critical Essay)

By The Western Journal of Black Studies

  • Release Date - Published: 2009-06-22
  • Book Genre: Social Science
  • Author: The Western Journal of Black Studies
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The Gothic novel is a site of dungeons and daemons, of frightening vaults and suffocating tombs. In the Gothic novel, the strange, the unknown, and the supernatural are every-moment occurrences. This is a genre of darkness and danger; it is also a genre of racism and phobia. In the case of Charlotte Dacre's Zofloya, the Gothic is infused with contemporary concerns about violent uprisings, most notably in the West Indies. The novel evokes a specter more terrifying than fiction, the clear and present risk of slave revolt. Charlotte Dacre (1806/1997) modeled Zofloya on a seminal Gothic novel, Matthew Lewis's (1796/2003) The Monk. In The Monk, a she-devil, Matilda, first seduces and then perverts a susceptible monk, who degenerates into a rapist and murderer under Matilda's evil genius. In Zofloya, a handsome Moor aids and abets unspeakable crimes committed by a lustful young woman, Victoria, who has wearied of her husband and covets her brother in law. The diabolical pact culminates in Victoria's vicious murder and quasi-rape of Lilla, the innocent young girl whom her brother in law loves. Not only does Dacre (1806/1997) reverse the genders of the principal characters from The Monk, but she also changes the race of the arch-villain, insisting on the darkness of Zofloya's skin.

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