"Ourika" by Claire de Duras

Essay by scionCollege, UndergraduateB, October 2007

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Times were very harsh for the fortunate. The Enlightenment era encouraged many ideals into existence. Duras's accomplishment truly meant something very special. It is very interesting that having told her story in her salon, she decided to write it and later publish the tale. Although women had some rights at this time, her actions as a woman makes this such a great feat for the time.

"Ourika" is the first European novel with a black heroine, not to mention the first work in the French Literary tradition to have a black female protagonist as its narrator. Furthermore, Duras's actions were "the first serious attempt by a white novelist to enter a black mind." Enlightenment concepts are the basis of this work. is not without previous precedents in the philosophical understanding of EuropeDuras was very careful with her publication, knowing that it was dangerous. "The title page carried neither an author's name nor a date."(viii)

In addition, the published quantity was very limited so as to not endanger anyone involved.

The story of Ourika is one that was not unique. Regardless of the national attitude towards Africans, I believe that many individuals felt compelled to help a black person. The Senegalese child was fortunate for being raised in such a wealthy environment. She herself felt that she belonged in such proper surroundings. Having a very good education provided by Mme de B. was important to the person that Ourika is.

In this sort of environment, Ourika learns her true position in life. She realized that she was a lowly black woman who was "cut off from the entire human race." (16) The Revolution became more apparent soon after; and it taught Ourika many things. She gained hopes as well; especially that one day a society which...