Sunday, 30 June 2013
When I started reading this book I felt sympathetic towards the Marquise de Merteuil; she was acting in a way to readdress the power between genders. Society forced women to act with reserve and great virtue and 'make a good match in marriage' if they wanted to be accepted. Men, like Valmont and Prevan, could have love affairs and escape with a reputation that may be marked but they would still be accepted in society, however, the women they bed would be ruined, forced to hide themselves from the public snubs.
I read the Marquise de Merteuil's letters and thought that although she may be a touch harsh in her judgements, it was perhaps, understandable how her upbringing had caused that. As the book progressed, it becomes more apparent how cruel the Marquise can be. Not only does she have no sympathies for her fellow women, she also torments her past-lover and confident, the Vicomte de Valmont. In the end she pushes people too far and realises the consequences. I wonder if, when this happens, she remembers writing to Valmont:
If my revenge misses the mark, I agree to taking the consequences. Thus, I am quite prepared for you to try everything you can: I even invite you to do so, and promise not to be annoyed when you succeed, if you succeed. I am so easy on this score, that I shall press the point no further. Let us talk of other things.
I started feeling rather sorry for Valmont and the others she had abused. At first I did not warm to Valmont, as he was an extravagant playboy who cared not for the women he used. After seeing his thoughts and views change towards the Présidente de Tourvel, I pitied him. I did, rather cruelly, not feel sorry for Prevan; who I thought deserved the treatment he encountered from the Marquise.
There are plenty of wonderful phrases and expressions of love in these letters. I fully expect to receive something as eloquent from my boyfriend - hopefully without the devious undertone and scheming. ;)
Poor Cécile is a pawn in a game for Valmont and the Marquise; as is the Chevalier Danceny. A young couple, who had fallen in love and taken the wrong confidants. But it is not only this scheming pair that Cécile has to be wary of. At the start of the novel Cécile is brought out of her convent school as her mother has arranged her marriage to the much older Comte de Gercourt. She falls in love with Dancency but is confused as to whether it would be sinful or imprudent to allow their love to grow if she is already in an arranged engagement.
Within the book, there was also a rather piquant letter written to end a relationship:
One is soon bored with everything, my angel; it is a law of nature. It is not my fault.
If therefore I am now bored with an adventure which has claimed my attention for four mortal months, it is not my fault.
If, that is to say, my love was equal to your virtue - and that is certainly saying a great deal - it is not surprising that the one came to an end at the same time as the other. It is not my fault.
It follows that for some time I have been deceiving you, but then your relentless tenderness forced me in some sort to do so! It is not my fault.
A woman that I love madly now insists that I give you up for her sake. It is not my fault.
I quite realise that this is the perfect opportunity to accuse me of perjury: but if, where nature has gifted men with no more than constancy, she has given women obstinacy, it is not my fault.
Believe me, you should take another lover, as I take another mistress. This is good, very good advice: if you find it bad, it is not my fault.
Good bye, my angel. I took you with pleasure: I leave you without regret. I shall come back perhaps. Such is life. It is not my fault.
I found these Spark Notes interesting after I read the book. I even liked the quiz at the end, where some of the false answers made me laugh. :) I think this is also a great review of the book.