Opening the Sources of The Kip Brothers: A Generic Interpretation
Jules Verne’s The Kip Brothers (Les Frères Kip, 1902) has typically been analyzed in several ways. It is viewed as a tribute to his late brother Paul; for its resemblance to the contemporary Dreyfus and Rorique Affairs; and for its concluding “science fiction”-style discovery of the reflection of the murderers in a photograph of the dead victim’s eyes. I propose a new interpretation of The Kip Brothers, examining how the conventions of the adventure formula are reflected in the novel’s narrative. Not only does it encompass adventure’s typical view of colonialism, but in a manner similar to Mathias Sandorf, The Kip Brothers is indebted to The Count of Monte Cristo by Verne’s mentor Dumas. Examining a specific type of adventure, the genre type with a maritime setting, The Kip Brothers follows the type’s pattern of illustrating injustice at sea and how it is overcome. The Kip Brothers echoes the fundamental example of the sea formula, the Bounty saga, a historical incident Verne had previously utilized as the basis for a short story. Similarly, James Cook, the explorer whose deeds occupied such a major part of the 18th century volume of Verne’s Discovery of the Earth: History of the Great Voyagers and Great Navigators (Découverte de la Terre. Histoire générale des grands voyages et des grands voyageurs), serves not only as the name of the principal vessel in The Kip Brothers but a yardstick by which the heroism, and the martyrdom, of the Kips and Captain Gibson are measured. In all of these ways, The Kip Brothers becomes an exemplar of the sea adventure, and the use of this particular formula facilitates a novel highlighting political issues at the time of its composition.