In the final scene of Michel Tournier’s postcolonial novel La Goutte d’or (1986), the protagonist, Idriss, shatters the glass of a Cristobal & Co. storefront window while operating a jackhammer in the working-class Parisian neighbourhood on the Rue de la Goutte d’or. Glass fragments fly everywhere as the Parisian police arrive. In La Goutte d’or, Tournier explores the identity construction of Idriss through a discussion of the role that visual images play in the development of a twentieth-century consciousness of the “Other.” At the beginning of the novel, a French tourist takes a photograph of Idriss during her visit to the Sahara. The boy’s quest to reclaim his stolen image leads him from the Sahara to Marseille, and finally to the Rue de la Goutte d’or in Paris. The Rue de la Goutte d’or remains one the most cosmopolitan neighbourhoods of the city.

In Tournier’s novel, the goutte d’or also corresponds to a symbolic object: a Berber jewel. It is the jewel that Idriss brings with him, but which he also subsequently loses upon his arrival in Marseille. From the very moment that the French tourist photographs him, a marginalization of Idriss’s identity occurs. Marginality, quite literally, refers to the spatial property of a location in which something is situated. Figuratively speaking, marginality suggests something that is on the edges or at the outer limits of social acceptability. In this essay, I explore the construction of the marginalized postcolonial self (the “Other”) through an examination of the function of visual representation in the development of a postcolonial identity in La Goutte d’or. In the end, I conclude that the construction of a postcolonial identity is based upon fragmentation and marginalization, which ultimately leads its subject to create an identity based upon false constructions.


Arts and Humanities | Social and Behavioral Sciences


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