24grammata.com/ ebooks/ english
Aurtre Ètude de femme
Another Study Of Woman, Honoré de Balzac
This short story is a satirical exploration of the role of women in pre-and post revolutionary Paris. Balzac uses the setting of a private party where people can freely speak their minds to satirize the vapidity of society in general and women in particular. It is narrated in four parts.
A preamble sets the scene, claiming Paris as the capital of taste and the soirees of the two Parisienne ladies as ideal. Then different guests give their perspective.
The Prime Minister Henri de Marsay tells his tale of how he learned to be indifferent and cynical to the betrayals of women. In his youth he was passionately in love but he had a rival that the lady was seeing behind his back. A statesman, he says, does not seek revenge like Shakespeare’s Moor Othello; instead he leads the lady on so that she thinks he still loves her and will be devastated if she marries someone else, only to reveal at last that he will amuse himself with other ladies – which leaves *her* with a sense of grievance.
The journalist Emile Blondet offers a satirical eulogy for the decline of the Great Lady since the revolution. He mocks her silly dresses and abuse of power but then goes on to deride the ‘modern’ lady as The Unknown who has no rank or lineage, merely pretensions.
General de Montriveau tells a story about honour among Italians. Two captains on opposing sides are in battle and one of them is injured. He is avenged by his colonel who kills the other captain because he’s having an affair with the injured captain’s wife, Rosina. Later, when the campaign is in disarray, they meet again at the captain’s house where the colonel claims the right to sleep with Rosina because they both owe him loyalty. Next morning the humiliated captain barricades both Rosina and the colonel inside the house and sets it alight.
The tale can’t end so sadly so M. Bianchot the narrator tells the story of De Marsay’s first wife who died of consumption. Contrary to the cynical view of women that he has now, he declares that he was devoted to her. She asks on her deathbed – who will understand the busy statesman now?
Well, he seems to have moved on, eh? Summary by Lisa Hill, balzacbooks.wordpress.com