Vol. 51‎ > ‎


The Rhetoric of Suffering, Hope, and Redemption in Masters of the Dew: A Rhetorical and Politico-Theological Analysis of Manuel as Peasant-Messiah and Redeemer

Celucien Joseph


Jacques Roumain’s 1944 peasant novel, Gouverneurs de la roséé (Masters of the Dew, 1947) is not only a testament of stunning literary skills but also a masterwork of profound theological reflections that articulates a robust humanistic and theo-political response to the problem of evil, human suffering, and poverty in the world. The objective of this essay is twofold. First, it examines the intersections of the rhetoric of suffering, hope, and redemption in the novel. Second, it analyses Roumain’s creative construction of an atonement theology in his presentation of the novel’s protagonist Manuel Jean-Joseph as the Christ-figure and peasant-redeemer. We will interpret Masters of the Dew’s atonement language in the light of René Gerard's theory of scapegoating as articulated in his 1972 book, La violence et le sacré (Violence and the Sacred, 1977) as well as against the backdrop of the Biblical story of the atoning sacrifice of Christ. I argue that Roumain intends the death of Manuel to be read as a vicarious atonement for the salvation and reconciliation of the peasant people at Fonds Rouge in the same manner New Testament writers project the death of Jesus as a vicarious substitution for the sins and salvation of the world.  Through the Geradian framework, I also read Manuel's death as a symbolic exchange for the peace and unity of the “suffering community” and as a preventive act to end the cycle of violence between the peasants.

The first part of the essay explores the rhetoric of suffering and pain in the narrative. Subsequently, we will investigate how suffering and pain establish the context for the future hope and redemption of the community. There is a strong connection between the rhetoric of suffering and the rhetoric of redemption in Masters of the Dew. Finally, we will bring a close to this piece with our observation of Roumain’s imaginative atonement theology, which we propose is sourced  in the Biblical story of salvation-history—communicating through the liberative voice and activism of the peasant-savior and hero Manuel. It will become clear to us that Manuel died as an atoning sacrifice in order to foster human solidarity, unity and reconciliation among the rural villagers.