This section contains 1,366 words
(approx. 4 pages at 400 words per page)
Persian Letters. Translated with an Introd. and Notes, by C. J. Betts Summary & Study Guide Description
Persian Letters. Translated with an Introd. and Notes, by C. J. Betts Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:
This detailed literature summary also contains Topics for Discussion and a Free Quiz on Persian Letters. Translated with an Introd. and Notes, by C. J. Betts by Charles de Secondat, baron de Montesquieu.
Usbek, appears in Various Letters
Usbek is the central character in The Persian Letters. He is a Muslim from Ispahan, Persia. Usbek has at least five wives who live in concealment at a seraglio. Usbek travels out of Persia into the European countries under the guise of seeking knowledge. In reality, Usbek is exiled from Persia because he discovers some sort of failing in the government of Persia. When he alerts others to this failing, however, he finds he has made many enemies. Usbek leaves his home country because he is in fear of losing his life. Only his friend Rustan knows the real reason that Usbek left Persia.
Usbek has difficulty enjoying his trip to Europe because he is concerned about the welfare of his wives. Usbek notes several times in his writing that he is experiencing depression and no longer desires to stay in exile out of his home country. Usbek is even more worried about his wives when his head black eunuch begins to tell him stories of the terrible things that his wives are doing during his absence. Usbek's deep love for his wives keeps him from allowing the eunuch to punish the women as he wishes. Instead, Usbek writes to his wives begging them to act as they should. Usbek believes his wives are virtuous and thinks that they can correct their behavior if they wish. This action shows Usbek's deep love for his wives and his blind belief in their virtue.
Since Usbek is a Muslim, he is deeply struck by the differences in Persian culture and European culture. Usbek believes that Christians are not serious about their beliefs. He sees them as interpreting the commands of Christ in ways that will best benefit them. In fact, in Letter 55, Usbek tells one monk that if Persian leaders had people in their court who followed their commands as the Christians followed God's commands, they would be killed.
Roxane, appears in Various Letters
Roxane is the newest of Usbek's five wives. In Letter 24, Usbek writes to Roxane his memories of how strictly she guarded her virginity. Usbek believed Roxane confused him with the men with whom she was not supposed to have relations. In the final letter of the book, however, Roxane tells Usbek that any unwillingness on her part was not caused by her modesty but instead by the dislike that she had for Usbek. Although it is believed until the end of the book the Roxane is the only virtuous woman in the seraglio, it turns out that she is instead the one who has been causing all of the problems. In fact, in his letter to Usbek, Narsit indicates that Roxane is the only woman in the seraglio who has been behaving as she should. When she is caught with a lover, this man is killed by the eunuchs. In revenge, Roxane kills the eunuchs who murdered her lover, then takes poison, and kills herself.
Rica, appears in Various Letters
Rica is the man who travels with Usbek out of the country of Persia. The two plan to travel to Paris. Unlike Usbek, Rica truly enjoys his trip out of Persia and the experiences he has in Europe. When Usbek suggests the two return to Persia, Rica discourages the idea. Rica's letters show how much he is enjoying learning about the European culture. His letters deal with the personalities and habits of those he meets during his journey. Rica is the most active writer in this book. He is the author of nearly 50 of the letters included in the novel.
Zelis, appears in Various Letters
Zelis is one of Usbek's five wives. Zelis is suspected to be the main troublemaker at the seraglio. According to the head eunuch, Zelis allowed her veil to fall from her face on her way to the mosque. Usbek also suspects that a letter that was found in the seraglio to one of his wives was intended for Zelis. As a result Usbek commands his servants to watch Zelis like a lynx. In a letter to her husband, Zelis tells Usbek he is growing cruel and tyrannical when he commands the guards of the seraglio punish the women as they see fit. In this same letter, she claims she is able to love Usbek no longer because of the punishment she is receiving.
Zachi, appears in Various Letters
Zachi is one of the five known wives of Usbek. While Usbek is gone on his trip to Europe, Zachi is caught in bed with a white eunuch, one of her slaves. At one point in one of her letters, Zachi begs Usbek to come back either to love her again or so that she can die at his feet. She writes to Usbek that she believed that the knowledge that she was loved by Usbek gave her precedence in the seraglio.
Zephis, appears in Various Letters
Zephis is a wife of Usbek. She is one of the first to begin to complain about the treatment that she is receiving from the eunuchs in Usbek's absence. She first complains that one of the eunuchs if trying to take her personal slave away from her.
Fatmé, appears in Letter 7
Fatmé is one of Usbek's wives. She writes only one letter which is authored to her husband. In this letter she tells Usbek how much she misses him. She tells Usbek that even though he is not present, she still keeps up her appearance just as she did when he was with her on a daily basis.
Head Black Eunuch , appears in Varios Letters
The Head Black Eunuch is the main eunuch in charge of Usbek's seraglio while Usbek is away on his trip to Europe. He was kidnapped from Africa at the age of 15. At this point, he was castrated and put to work in a seraglio containing more than 20 women. He learned the ins and outs of the seraglio under a chief eunuch who ran his seraglio tightly. Although the Head Black Eunuch believes he knows how to properly control the women in Usbek's seraglio, he is not allowed to do so because of his master's kind heart. Before the eunuch can receive the permission from Usbek that he desires to take charge of the seraglio, he dies and another head eunuch must be chosen to take his place.
Jaron, appears in Various Letters
Jaron is a black eunuch who has traveled with Usbek and his group to Europe. In a letter to Jaron, the head eunuch describes their relationship as a father and son relationship. Jaron trained under the head eunuch. Although he would prefer to stay with Usbek in Europe, he is prepared to do the job he has been trained to do when Usbek decides to send him back to the seraglio.
Narsit, appears in Various Letters
Narsit is a black slave who writes a letter to Usbek informing him that the head eunuch is dead. He asks Usbek to reply who he wishes to take control of the seraglio. Although Narsit has received a letter from Usbek addressed to the head eunuch, he has not opened it. Usbek calls Narsit stupid for not having opened or read this letter.
Solim , appears in Various Letters
Solim is the black slave who feels joy when he finally decides to punish the women in the seraglio as he feels is needed. Solim writes to Usbek telling him that he was with the head eunuch when he died. He states that the head eunuch instructed Solim to tell Usbek what was happening in the seraglio. Solim tells Usbek all of the things that he has observed. Solim also tells Usbek that Narsit, the oldest black slave, is not intelligent enough to govern the seraglio properly. For these reasons, Usbek determines that Solim should take over as head eunuch at the seraglio.
Rustan, appears in Various Letters
Rustan lives in Ispahan, Usbek's home city. He acts as Usbek's "eyes and ears" to tells him what the people of Ispahan are saying about Usbek and his trip.
Zelide, appears in Various Letters
Zelide is a female slave to both Zephis and Zelis. She marries the eunuch Cosrou.
This section contains 1,366 words
(approx. 4 pages at 400 words per page)