Who Is William Wells Brown's Clotel?

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William Wells Brown’s Clotel, written in 1853, is considered the first novel published by an African American. Clotel is not so much a novel as it is an amalgamation of excerpts from newspapers, speeches, poetry, and fiction. A large chunk of the novel is taken straight from Lydia Child's “The Quadroons,” a narrative about Rosalie, a mulatto, and her daughter Xarifa. While Brown’s use of different texts makes for a sometimes disjointed read, the loose narrative structure is an interesting formal choice. Brown effectively expresses many different stories related to the struggles of mulattos. He compiled all of these stories into Clotel, giving authors of different texts a chance to be heard by incorporating different mediums into his novel. Brown incorporates the characters from Child’s “The Quadroons” and puts them into a larger narrative, making them more dynamic and giving them more life.…show more content…
In addition, Brown give credit to Child: “To Mrs. Child, of New York, I am indebted for part of a short story” (Brown 206). Brown uses the passages from “The Quadroons” to highlight the similarities between Clotel and Rosalie. For example, here is a section from Clotel that explores Clotel’s poetic nature in light of her relationship with Horatio: But her high poetic nature regarded reality rather than the semblance of things; and when he playfully asked how she could keep him if he wished to run away, she replied, ‘If the mutual love we have for each other, and the dictates of your own conscience do not cause you to remain my husband, and your affections fall from me, I would not, if I could, hold you by a single fetter. (Brown 63) Brown basically takes this directly from Child’s “The

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