Dominion and The Aeneid

Spoilers if you haven’t finished Dominion yet!

One thing that struck me about the last section of Dominion, Lamentations, was how similar the plot was to Virgil’s Aeneid. If you strip proper names from the plot of Lamentations, this is what it sounds like:

A man, who is exceptional for his physical prowess, has a duty to his people/family to return to an ancient land. On his journey to this land, he stops in a famous city and becomes enamored with a beautiful woman. Even though he has a duty to attend to, the two fall in love, and he starts living with this woman. However, one day he realizes that he has basically shirked his duty and decides to restart his journey to the ancient land. He leaves without saying anything to the woman he had fallen in love with, and she is so upset that she sets herself on fire. The man doesn’t know that, so he continues on his way and finally makes it to the land it is his duty to live on. However, someone else is already living there, and they battle it out until the man finally wins. The land is scarred from their battle, but the man settles down with a wife and sets out to make it his again. This is basically the plot of both Lamentations and The Aeneid.

This made me think about whitewashing and sanitized versions of history we often get that Jenna talked about in her blog post, except that this is the opposite. Baker took a white, Western legend and applied it to his black, American characters living in (I think) the late 1700s. I’m not really sure what to do with this, but I thought I’d make this post anyways. Maybe someone else wants to take this finding further?

Edit: I thought that I’d add some of the stuff said yesterday in class!

  • Elissa is Dido’s other name, which makes Elissa from Dominion stand in as an effigy for Dido. (Or also makes Dido stand in as an effigy for Elissa?)
  • Another link to Roach; Carthage sits on the Mediterranean, making it a part of Mediterranean trade, which means that it gets injected into the circum-Atlantic. (I am still shaky on this.)
  • The quote “Remember me but ah! forget my fate!” is an obvious link to Elissa, but I think to Ould Lowe as well. The ghost wants the Merians to remember his strength and ferocity, but not that he’s been beaten before. The links back not only to the idea of cycles that we’ve been developing throughout the semester, but also back to the circum-Atlantic. Everything goes in cycles.
  • Which brings me to another idea proposed by Dr. McCoy, that no one is the first to tell a story. Baker’s variant on The Aeneid is only one version of it, and Virgil’s poem is only one version as well. Stories themselves are changing cycles, which may circle back to produce something closer to the “original” (i.e. The Aeneid) or farther away from it (Dominion). I want to write another blog post expanding on that, so stay tuned . . .

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