Atala and Chactas

Atala and Chactas

Indian lovers whose passion goes unconsummated. [Fr. Lit.: Atala]
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A storm rises, wild animals howl, and a forest tire breaks out--an appropriate accompaniment to the irresistible passion that brings Atala and Chactas to the point of intercourse.
Chateaubriand emplots an interplay between French and Native American culture in which Atala and Chactas have both been educated as Europeans, but in disparate ways that only aggravate the difference of their belonging to mutually hostile tribes.
Indeed, extinction, not ill-fated romance, is the final horror of Chateaubriand's grim story, whose central narrative of the love between Atala and Chactas is framed within a larger narrative of White-Indian interactions.
Later, when the young Atala and Chactas are lost in the wilderness, Atala sings about "her faraway fatherland" |la patrie absente~ (43/97).
Given Amelie's confession of her "criminelle passion" (190) for her brother Rene, then, as well as her chaste, saint-like death in a monastery, it is difficult not to speak of an analogous structure of incest in the case of Atala and Chactas.
Not to mention those "mariages des premiers-nes des hommes," which were all poisoned by jealousy--in the very unions where the patriarchs "goutaient tant de joie," their excessive pleasure or "satiete" perhaps turned into something like the "degout" that le Pere Aubry foresees for Atala and Chactas.
Atala and Chactas, however, will of course never take up the role marked out for them in Aubry's civilization, as Chactas and le Pere Aubry return from their visit to the Indian village to find Atala dying.
I call the characters of Atala and Chactas "allegorical" because they clearly represent more than two Romantic figures coping with the consequences of Spanish colonialism.
At the same time that Atala "founds the tradition of representing woman in the nineteenth-century as sexually stigmatized," however, it also blurs gender distinctions to illustrate, by means of the similar experiences of Atala and Chactas, both the limits and promises of cultural mixture (138).
The allegorical figures of Atala and Chactas incorporate and reject elements of two so-called opposite cultures -- the Spanish and the American Indian -- which they value equally.