W.E.B. Du Bois: An Encyclopedia

By Gerald Horne; Mary Young | Go to book overview

D

DARK PRINCESS

Published in 1928, Dark Princess is Du Bois' second novel, and in his later autobiographical accounts, he claimed it his personal favorite. The novel follows Matthew Towns, a talented African American of southern agrarian origins who at the book's opening has just been denied the opportunity to complete his medical degree because of racial discrimination. In anger, he leaves the United States for Europe. There he meets the beautiful dark Princess Kautilya of Bwodpur, a British Colony in the mountains of South Asia, who has received a racial insult from a U.S. expatriate. Towns intervenes and, as a result, is introduced to a conspiracy of the global colored aristocracy against colonialism. The aristocratic and largely Asian makeup of the members of Kautilya's network, however, make the politics of the conspiracy right wing and discriminatory toward people of African descent. The romance of Matthew and Kautilya, the constant deferral of which is the motor of the plot, finally occurs when Kautilya is able on her own initiative to abandon the other aristocrats in favor of global democratic and socialist politics. Kautilya begins working as a box-maker in the United States and ultimately becomes president of the box-makers' union. Thus the explicit consummation of the sexual relationship between Matthew and Kautilya, and then the birth of their child on the last page, is made to represent the potential unity of Third World workers, the most radical wing of which is said to be women industrial workers. The potential unity is, of course, a sign of the limits of Du Bois' faith in workingclass politics in 1928. He oscillates throughout the book on the question of whether white workers might become part of this unity, and he requires the spokesperson for this radical politics to have been born a princess.

At a less global level, the book is a psychological study of the ups and downs of Matthew Towns. Du Bois refuses to portray Towns as a model revolution

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