Zone (play)

Zone is a French-language three-act play written by French-Canadian author Marcel Dubé. Written when Dubé was 21 and based on memories of his childhood,[1] Zone revolves around a gang of teenaged Québécois criminals who sell contraband cigarettes,[2] and the internal conflicts that ultimately tear the group apart.[3]


The original production of Zone was directed by Robert Rivard.[4]


  • The love interest (Ciboulette): Unloved by her parents, Ciboulette is the youngest group member at 16 years of age, and the only female in the play. She is in love with Tarzan but does not reveal this to him until the end. Her character's naïve hope for a relationship with Tarzan paired with her naked lust embodies the "extreme idealism of youth".[5] Ciboulette's character is tragically punished for standing up for love.[6]
  • The Leader (Tarzan): The leader of the group of contrabandists. A 21 year old boy who crosses the Canada–US border to retrieve cigarettes, and smuggles them into Québec to be sold. He falls in love with Ciboulette, but recognizes that they cannot realistically be together. Tarzan is the "psychologically disturbed [victim] of circumstance" whose façade of control disappears during his interrogation, where it is revealed that his real name is François Boudreau and that he is an orphan.[7] Only in death does Tarzan realize that he is already condemned due to his birth into the proletariat class,[8] and that he cannot escape his fate.[9]
  • The Snake (Passe-Partout): The traitor who accidentally leads the authorities to the shed where their cigarettes are hidden, and who betrays Tarzan by telling the police that Tarzan crossed the border the day a border-control officer was killed. It is revealed during his interrogation that his real name is René Langlois, and that he joined the group to provide food for his mother, because his father is an alcoholic who spends his salary on drinking. He is in love with Ciboulette, which complicates his relationship with Tarzan.
  • The Not-So-Important Guy (Tit-Noir): The group's accountant. It is revealed during his interrogation that his real name is Arsène Larue, and that he joined the group to obtain money for his future family and to study to become a priest. His nickname is "Tit-Noir" because when he was little, he had black hair, so his father called him "Petit-Noir", which eventually became "Tit-Noir". Tit-Noir serves a function similar to the messenger in Greek tragedy.[10]
  • The 'Somewhat Slightly Less Intelligent' (Moineau): The most artistic of the group. He often plays the harmonica, and joined the group so that he could become a musician. His name comes from the French word for sparrow, a humorous way of calling him a featherbrain. His lack of intelligence is clearly shown several times throughout.
  • The Unseen Character (Johny): The least seen of the gang, with only two lines. He drives the truck to the border with Tarzan. It is unclear whether he is a member of the group, or just a chauffeur. He is Ciboulette's estranged uncle.
  • The old, experienced Policemen (Chief Policemen): Only seen during the second act, when he interrogates the group. He cleverly causes every member to reveal something they did not intend to. He has a son around the age of Tarzan, which makes it harder for him to send him to jail.
  • "The New Guy" Policemen (Ledoux): The detective that follows Passe-Partout to the hideout.
  • The Stereotypical Guard (Roger): A police officer who is present during the interrogations, and who kills Tarzan at the end of the play.


Tarzan assembles a group of teenagers who, under the stress of their familial or economic situations, agree to sell cigarettes smuggled into Canada from the United States. Ciboulette, the youngest of the group and the only female, is in love with Tarzan, but does not reveal this despite Tit-Noir's urging, as she is worried it will ruin the business. Tarzan risks capture by crossing the Canada–US border with contraband cigarettes. While the others wait for Tarzan to return, Passe-Partout attempts to supplant as the gang's leader,[11] and disobeys Tarzan's instructions by stealing a wallet from a passerby, who is actually a detective, Ledoux. Tarzan returns to the hideout but Ledoux arrives at the gang's hideout and arrests the teenagers with a police brigade.[12]

The second act begins in the police station's interrogation room. Each member is questioned individually. During the interrogations, the police receive a call informing them that a border patrol guard was murdered earlier that day. The police chief interrogates Passe-Partout, who reveals that Tarzan had crossed the border that day. Under the impression that the other gang members have betrayed him, Tarzan confesses to the murder of the border guard.[13]

In the third act, Tarzan escapes from jail and confesses his affection for Ciboulette. Ciboulette suggests a makeshift marriage in the hideout, but Tarzan refuses, not wanting to make his believed certain death more painful than it needs to be. Tarzan wastes all of his escape time making out with Ciboulette. Tarzan runs off into the night, followed by police. Heard shortly thereafter are several gunshots, ending in silence with Roger the police officer standing over a body. The curtain closes on Ciboulette lying over Tarzan's corpse.[14]


Dubé based Zone in part on a past experience illegally crossing the Canada–US border.[15]


Zone takes place in a "squalid" environment,[16] familiar territory for Dubé, whose works often dealt with the social disorder in French Canada at that time.[17] The characters in Zone, trapped within the poverty of their social milieu, resort to "adolescent ideals"[18] in an attempt to escape. Laroche suggests that the teenaged gang members are play-acting as the characters they saw in films.[19] Dubé's characters reveal their deepest thoughts and feelings in their dialogue, reflecting their underlying helplessness.[20] The irony is that the gang, who began engaging in criminal activities to escape the societal "grey zone" they inhabit, are ultimately punished by the same society that offered them no support.[21] Although the characters in Zone work in a collective,[22] they tear each other apart through internal rivalries and betrayal, rendering them incapable of standing up to society,[23] represented in Zone by the police who interrogate the gang.[24] It also deals with the complicated romantic relationship between a 20 year old man, Tarzan; and a 16 year old girl, Ciboulette.


Edwin Hamblet criticized Zone for its "sudden and perfunctory" conclusion, finding that "Dubé tends to have trouble in ending his plays" and citing the artificiality of the plot twists.[25] In 1953, Zone was awarded the Grand Prix for the best Canadian play at the Victoria National Drama Festival.[26] Zone also won the Calvert, Sir Barry Jackson and Louis Jouvet prizes.[27]


  1. Laroche, Maximilien (1970). Marcel Dubé. Ottawa: Editions Fides. p. 97.
  2. Hamblet, Edwin C. (1970). Marcel Dubé and French-Canadian Drama. New York: Exposition Press. p. 21. ISBN 0-682-47054-6.
  3. Laroche (1970), pp. 36–37
  4. Laroche, Maximilien (1968). Zone: notes préliminaires. Ottawa: Les Éditions Leméac. p. 9. ISBN 0776100009.
  5. Hamblet, p. 63
  6. Laroche (1970), p. 22
  7. Hamblet, pp. 61–62
  8. Laroche (1970), p. 51
  9. Hamblet, p. 81
  10. Laroche (1970), p. 128
  11. Laroche (1968), p. 15
  12. Hamblet, pp. 48–49
  13. Hamblet, p. 49
  14. Hamblet, pp. 49–50
  15. Laroche (1968), p. 13. "L'idée de la construction de Zone m'est venue de façon assez bizarre. J'ai sauté moi-même les lignes il y a quelques années. Je voulais aller aux Etats-Unis pour une fin de semaine et , à la frontière, on ne m'a pas laissé passer. On m'a même donné l'ordre de retourner à Montréal. J'ai attendu la nuit et je suis passé par le bois... C'est là que j'ai trouvé l'idée de Zone: cette solitude de l'homme hors-la-loi."
  16. Hamblet, p. 53
  17. Hamblet, p. 31
  18. Hamblet, pp. 61, 64, 81
  19. Laroche (1970), p. 85
  20. Laroche (1970), p. 102
  21. Laroche (1970), pp. 50–51
  22. Laroche (1970), p.75
  23. Laroche (1970), p. 78
  24. Laroche (1970), p. 116
  25. Hamblet, pp. 49–51
  26. Hamblet, p. 37
  27. Laroche (1970), p. 9
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