Essay by lluukeJunior High, 9th gradeA-, July 2003

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Henri Charriére

Papillon is an extraordinary tale of hope, survival, endurance and most of all the continuos desire for freedom of an innocent man. Henri Charriére or Papillon as he is known was condemned for a murder he did not commit and in 1931 sentenced to life imprisonment in the French Penal Colony of French Guiana. Some 50 years later he wrote down the tale of the thirteen long years spent in captivity before finally escaping for good in 1945.

The story begins in the law courts of The Assizes in France. Due to the brutally oppressing public prosecutor by the name of Pradel he is found guilty. Papillon, although innocent of this particular crime was however a prominent figure in the Parisian underworld or criminal world. After a long, harsh transportation across the ocean he and many other convicts arrive at the penal settlement and Papillon wastes no time in escaping.

In short Papillon and his party are all eventually returned to French Guinea after nearly a year on the run in numerous different countries. After his short taste of freedom is even more determined to escape and although under even more unlikely circumstances he finally escapes again. This time for good.

His journey is not as simple as above. It spans many years and over time he is locked into the psychological torment of solitary confinement, visits numerous other countries both friendly and hostile, come to live with a thought to be murderous Indian tribe and sets sail for days on end on hopelessly small sea craft. He also makes 4 separate attempts to escape from a small prison upon recapture in under a month, is admitted into a mental institute and lives through a failed mutiny on the Iles de Salut. He makes many...