Papillon Book Summary – Henri Charriere

Papillon Book Summary - Henri Charriere
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Papillon published in 1968 by Henri Charriere, is an autobiographical novel that recounts the Henri Charriere’s own experiences.

Summary of Papillon Book

Henri Charriere, accused of a murder as a “pimp and spy” known by the butterfly tattoo, finds himself awaiting trial. Despite his lawyer’s assurance of no real evidence, he is found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment. Papillon is immediately faced with a decision. Instead of filing an appeal against the verdict, he decides to focus everything on an escape. Fearing that he would be sentenced to years in prison in any case and still need to escape, he chooses determination to flee. Equipped with some money hidden in a metal container carried in his intestines through the anus, Papillon begins serving his sentence.

Papillon quickly seizes an opportunity to escape, but is betrayed by a man named Jesus who sells him a leaky boat. With the help and advice of many people, Papillon achieves his ultimate freedom. Assisted by a group of lepers, Papilon and his two friends successfully execute their escape but are later arrested in Venezuela. When Papillon finds an opportunity to escape from this latest prison, he is accepted by the country’s natives. There, he is recognized as a “husband” by a woman named Lali and soon begins to live as a family with both this woman and her younger sister.

Realizing that he cannot find peace without seeking revenge against those who falsely accused him, Papillon decides to move forward with revenge while living with these pregnant women. He is quickly recaptured and kept in solitary confinement for two years. At the end of this period, he starts looking for a new escape opportunity. Although caught during the construction of a raft and sent back to solitary confinement, his efforts to save a young girl in danger of a shark attack lead to a reduction in his sentence to just eight years and nineteen months.

In the relatively free environment of the main prison, Papillon makes significant efforts to appear insane. He attempts to escape from the mental hospital on the island once again but is repelled by rough seas and the death of his partner in the attempt. Papillon then discovers a place where he can throw himself into the sea and be carried by the current. Equipped with a handmade raft filled with coconuts, he successfully completes the first stage of his escape. Eventually, he finds himself in Venezuela and expects a shorter sentence among these people as he seeks to live freely.

The story begins at the “Assizes,” where Papillon is about to enter the court for his trial. Despite being twenty-five years old, he appears a bit younger, well-dressed, and polite, allowing the guards to let him move without handcuffs. Papillon realizes that Polein, a “roaming sound recorder,” is the main witness against him. He insists that he doesn’t know Polein and claims that Polein, caught in an illegal act with the police, agreed to lie in exchange for dropping charges against him – a claim supported by Polein’s subsequent arrest on drug trafficking charges. Papillon is accused of killing Roland de Petit, a “pimp and spy,” and is sentenced to life imprisonment…

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