Chocolat by Joanne Harris is about a mother and daughter who move to the church and God ruled town called Lansquenet and change that town into a free and vibrant community through their chocolate shop. Harris explores the conflicting themes of freedom and repression using techniques such as imagery, symbols and characters. The Black Man and Reynaud were two figures that imposed a great deal of repression amongst the villages in Lansquenet and Vianne.
The Black Man is a man that Vianne constantly refers to while talking about her mother and running away from town to town. For years we ran from the priest, the Black Man, and when his face returned time and again in the cards it would be time to run once more”, demonstrating to the reader that Reynaud has something to do with the Black Man or in fact could be him. Later in Chocolat Armande states that, “He’s the Black Man”, referring to Reynaud. As the dark figure that he is, the reader gets the idea that Reynaud is associated with repression. As Reynaud is the leader of Lansquenet, the reader can see that his influence on the town has left them with no freedom.
Reynaud’s dark figure and influence on the town shows how he is associated with repression. The transformation that the characters and town went through from being controlled by Reynaud and having freedom was shown through colour and weed imagery. As colour imagery was used by Harris to show freedom, it made it apparent to the reader if a character had a transformation from repression to freedom. An example of this is how Luc’s mother controlled him, Vianne saw him as “a colourless boy, too correct in his pressed flannel trousers and tweed jacket, cool green-grey eyes beneath a lank fringe”.
This quote shows how little freedom he had and how his mum controlled his life. His transformation to freedom after having chocolate was shown through colour imagery as well “His eyes flaring a brighter green”. This quote shows that Luc is now a free boy because of the bright colours used to describe him. This technique was also used to show that Josephine and been through her own transformation after leaving her husband. Josephine was described wearing “her red beret and a new red scarf”, this illustrates to the reader that she has found her freedom now that she has left her husband.
The use of colour to represent freedom can be seen when Vianne and Anouk first came to the town of Lansquenet. They wore bright red jackets and stood out from the town, which was described as, “dun-coloured half-timbered houses leaning secretively together”. The fact that they have colour and the rest of the town does not shows that Vianne and Anouk are the only people who are free within the town. Another example of this is Vianne’s shop with “red leather seats and chrome stems, cheerily kitsch.
The walls are bright daffodil colour. Poitou’s old orange armchair lolls cheerily in one corner. A menu stands to the left, hand written and coloured by Anouk in shades of orange and red”. The strong use of colour imagery with Vianne and what she owns shows the reader that she is different from the rest of the town and is free. Harris shows freedom within the characters through colour imagery and the symbolism of chocolate. Freedom was a major theme that was discussed and shown in the novel through symbols, colour and characters.
The most obvious symbol in the novel that represented freedom was chocolate. The chocolate represents a sensual approach to life, seeking pleasure and happiness through freedom of choice. When Luc and Armande meet at the Vianne’s shop to talk and eat chocolate even after Luc’s mother, Caroline Clairmont, forbids this Armande states, “what’s forbidden always taste better anyways” showing that chocolate represents freedom in the novel. This book was set in the time of lent, which is a period of repression and chocolate is making people free.
The dandelion is an important symbol for the freedom that Vianne brings to the town. Before Vianne and Anouk came into Lansquenet the town had only weeds. The reader can see that Vianne is the cause of dandelions through one of Reynaud’s worrying discussions “a single dandelion see, mon pere, would be enough to bring them back… And if she is that seed…”. This shows that Vianne is the dandelion’s ‘seed’ and will be the cause of the villagers becoming free.
Reynaud was worried by the influence that Vianne was having on the people of Lansquenet and his evident when he says “her influence is pernicious and fast-growing, seeding already into a dozen, two dozen fertile minds”. This flower imagery shows that Vianne is the cause of all the change in the village and is therefore the dandelion is a clear metaphor for freedom. The conflict between freedom and repression in the novel was shown in a variety of ways using techniques such as imagery, characters and symbols.