By Yosálida C. Rivero-Zaritzky
This second part talks more about the beginning and height of the French Revolution and its repercussions on Ourika’s immediate social circle. In the beginning, she embraces the hope that the ideals of the Revolution might help improve her situation. However, the events in Santo Domingo, the massacre of white people at the hands of rebel slaves, makes her more self-conscious of her race and fate. Many aristocrats leave the country to avoid persecution, but Ourika stays with Mme de B. in France. She realizes that she has romantic feelings for Charles, the grandson of Mme de B. and her long-time friend, but he only sees her as a dear confidant. Knowing that she cannot marry the man whom she loves, Ourika enters a convent where she seeks peace in a sisterhood of women who share her devotion, but the severe depression that for years had consumed her has damaged her health beyond repair.
It is interesting how self-perception can determine the type of life a person may lead. It is true that as humans we are a product of our social environment. On the other hand, we enjoy the benefit of our own agency. Going back to the time when Ourika was written, women had very few choices. In fact, Ourika receives the best possible education for an aristocrat woman (music, painting, instruction in numerous languages) but even that is limited. She enjoys a more comfortable lifestyle than other women of her race and even other Caucasian women. She receives an education equal to that of other aristocrats, but not equal opportunities.