Le cœur à rire et à pleurer by Maryse Condé is unquestionably a text in which the author subtly alludes to slavery several times; in fact, I believe that the notion that it ‘haunts’ the text is a very appropriate description. Plainly, Condé doesn’t seem to wish to mention slavery by name very often in the text. However, it is evident that in her memoir she is very aware of the undeniably negative effect that slavery and its respective legacy had on several of the most memorable events of her childhood while growing up in Guadeloupe. Incontrovertibly, Condé refers to it often enough for slavery to be able to be classed as one of the major themes which manifests in the text.
This somewhat cautious referral to ...view middle of the document...
» (pp. 90) This demonstrates that race was still a very significant factor in determining the importance of certain people. This goes to show that slavery does indeed ‘haunt’ the text, as black people were still being treated in an unfair manner which made them seem inferior to white people; even though slavery was very much in the past at the time of Condé’s childhood.
Condé also reiterates a Guadeloupian nursery rhyme which is very much self-degrading for black people to sing as it embodies the wish to be white instead of black; indeed, Maryse Condé calls those who sang it, including herself, naïve:
Une négresse qui buvait du lait
Ah, se dit-elle, si je le pouvais
Tremper ma figure dans un bol de lait
Je deviendrais plus blanche
Que tous les Français
Ais-ais-ais! (pp. 90)
The fact that those coloured people in Guadeloupe wished so much to be white that even their children sang it in their nursery rhymes shows that being black was still not ideal when Condé was growing up. This of course has direct connotations to slavery, in that black people were still being discriminated against and white people were seen as the ‘superior’ race.
This is again highlighted in the same chapter, when Condé carelessly describes the beautiful white lady, Amélie Linsseuil, to her very proud-to-be-black mother: « C’est, répondis-je avec emportement, tout à ma passion, parce que je trouve Amélie la plus belle personne que j’ai jamais vue... C’est mon idéal de beauté! » (pp. 92-93)