The Romantic Era brings to the mind of an uneducated person of a time of idyllic pleasure, carefree and light. If asked to picture it some may say a damsel in distress rescued by her knight riding in on a white stallion. However, the Romantic Era was more of an era of rebellion as the world moved away from the “correctness” in literary art and religion.
It was an era of artistic movement, in literature, music, and the visual arts, that emphasizes pleasure in the natural world, fascination with the legends of the past and supernatural beings, creativity, imagination, exploration of human emotions, human activities struggling and striving and even rebellion. (Frameworks, p91) Romanticism traits can be found in Francois Rene de Chateaubriand’s novel Atala. The novel depicts the love story of a young Indian couple who escapes death and family traditions, and after facing difficulties, finds solace in a new and rejuvenated Christianity, yet still fall into the cruel hands of fate.
It is through this story that Chateaubriand weaves the style of romanticism, using suggestive language, the human activities: struggles and emotions, and creativity that make Atala a novel of the romantic period. The suggestive language can be found sprinkled throughout the novel as Chateaubriand describes the landscape and the nature that involves the characters lives. Chateaubriand states in describing land in which Chactas is captured and first encounters Atala: “The seventeenth day walk, to the time where the short-lived exits waters, we entrames on great Savannah Alachua.
It is surrounded by hillsides, fleeing the one behind the other, which are in elevating juice and praised, forests storied sweetgum, lemon trees, magnolias and oak charged. “(Chateaubriand, Atala) We further see more poetic language in the line Chactas says of himself and his relationship to Atala, “As a fawn seems to hang the flowers of pink vines, he enters his delicate language in mountain escarpment and I stood suspended from the lips of my beloved. (Chateaubriand, Atala) As they are escaping, a storm hits as Chateaubriand describes the fury that hits them: I touchois to happiness, when everything suddenly a sweeping Flash, followed of a Flash of lightning, criss-crosses the thickness of the shadows, populates the forest of sulphur and light, and breaks down a tree at our feet. We let us evade. 0 surprise! … . in the silence that succeeds, we hear the sound of a Bell! Both banned, we listen to this strange noise in a desert.
At the moment a dog barks in the distant; it approaches it daunting-wheat her screams, he arrives, he screams of joy to our feet; old Solitaire with a small Lantern follows through the darkness of the forest. (Chateaubriand, Atala) It is after this tree is struck by lightning right beside them, almost a supernatural feat that Chateaubriand incorporates, that the story moves into another direction as the characters emotions and activities, past and present, start to guide them.
In fear they run randomly, not knowing where they are headed when, seemingly out of nowhere, Father Aubry finds them. Father Aubry introduces them to his mission and a different way of looking at life. It is through Father Aubry that Chateaubriand pulls God back into the story as a light to the darkness that they experienced in the wilderness together. Although they are no longer struggling to survive on their own, on the run, they are now struggling with their inner emotions as they start thinking about Christianity and what that means in relation to the past decisions they have made.
Chactas chooses to follow the Christian ways that Father Aubry has shown them. Atala, struggles with guilt and desolation because she is torn between God, to whom she had consecrated her life previously to fleeing by taking a vow to preserve her chastity, and the love that has grown between her and Chactas as they have spent time at the mission. She knows that her rebellion, in helping him to escape was not how her family had raised her, yet she feels that was the right thing to do.
In trying to think things through further, however, she is unsure what path she should take. Not trusting in her own flesh, Atala takes poison; thinking that the best option would be to end her life so she does not break her vows to God. During the time that Atala is sick, Father Aubry and Chactas find out the real reason behind her illness. Father Aubry counsels Atala that it is possible for one to renounce his or her vows and the Christianity allows for that through grace. However, Chactas is less forgiving and anger akes over his emotions. Chactas love allows him to help Father Aubry care for Atala as she is dying because the poison is too far into her system. After her burial, Chactas heeds Father Aubry’s counsel and departs from the mission. Throughout the entire love story of Atala and Chactas, we can see creativity that Chateaubriand displays. He weaves together the Indian legends of that timeframe; also touching on great stories from authors who have influenced his writing, making the story appealing to all readers from every class of society.
France was still in turmoil trying to rebuild from the Napoleonic Wars. The revolutionary ideas that America embodied and the independent nature that was conceived as American was further depicted in the story, even though it set into the context of the Indians. George and Frederick, point out that, in that era, romanticism surpassed the classicist and normal ideal models that promoted various elements of art. (68) Chateaubriand controls the power of imagination and provides a clear platform for escape while embracing the unfamiliar and exotic feelings of the story.
Readers are able to step into the story. Chateaubriand follows the same guidelines of other authors and artists of the Romantic Era, using a style that is vivid, immediate, personal, expressive, and often symbolic and full of imagery. (Frameworks, pg 98) Painting a picture, with words, instead of oils or charcoal, sculpting with words, instead of clay or marble, carving images with words, instead of wood or stone, the artist, Chateaubriand, clearly displays his mastery of writing in the Romantic Era.
This artist shows the reader movement that emphasizes pleasure in the natural world, fascination with the legends of the past and supernatural beings, creativity, imagination, exploration of human emotions, human activities struggling and striving and even rebellion, through words written first in his imagination and transposed onto paper for others to get lost in. Romanticism is clearly displayed in Francois Rene de Chateaubriand’s novel Atala.
Chateaubriand, Francois-Rene., Atala. <http://rapidok.com/download/5x3ldgGIa2/Chateaubriand__Atala> (27 Oct. 2010). Translated with Microsoft Translator. George L. and Frederick C., Anthology of American Literature: Colonial Through Romantic Expression. New York: Penguin, 2000. Sommerville, Marcia and Christy. Frameworks. Gaithersburg: Lampstand Press, 2009.