Petty Troubles of Married Life by Honoré de Balzac

Petites Misères de la Vie Conjugale
Petty Troubles of Married Life

Saintsbury comments that “Petty Troubles of Married Life” and its companion piece “The Physiology of Marriage” “belong quite apart from the action of the “Comedie Humaine”, and can only be included therein by virtue of a special dispensation on the part of their author.” Saintsbury goes on to call them “grim, almost sardonic essays”. He also comments that “At times he [Balzac] seems honestly to be trying to analyze a particular phase of his subject; at other times he appears to be ridiculing the whole institution of marriage. “ This is ironic since Balzac was not married when writing the work, though Saintsburgy gives him credit for an occasional flash of keen penetration. This summary will try to provide a flavor of the work as might be appropriate in discussing a work of essay, but it will not be comprehensive because of the nature of the work.

PREFACE PART I: IN WHICH EVERY ONE WILL FIND HIS OWN IMPRESSIONS OF MARRIAGE

Marriage is contemplated for Adolphe in the manner of purchasing a horse: Caroline’s qualifications: “good family, well bred, pretty, and three hundred thousand in her own right.” Adolphe and Caroline exchange social niceties stiffly while the real work is done by the family notaries. Adolphe is the son of a rich landed proprietor, “what sensible families most seek”, and he will “someday” have an income of 60,000. Caroline is an only daughter (and yet later Balzac says Caroline has a sickly sister age 12). Her father is age 59, mother age 42. Through careful examination Adolphe’s mother has extracted the information from Caroline’s mother that she may have passed childbearing age, at least “I really hope I have” says Caroline’s mother. Caroline is to inherit from her maternal uncle through her mother, her mother, and her maternal grandfather a total fortune of 750,000 “someday”. Combined with her father and mother’s fortune of 500,000 Caroline is the potential heir of 1,250,000 francs “which surely cannot take wing!”

The match is on. “Such is the autopsy of all those brilliant marriages that conduct their processions of dancers and eaters, in white gloves, flowering at the button-hole, with bouquets of orange flowers, furbelows, veils, coaches and coach-drivers, from the magistrate’s to the church, from the church to the banquet, from the banquet to the dance, from the dance to the nuptial chamber, to the music of the orchestra and the accompaniment of the immemorial pleasantries uttered by relics of dandies, for are there not, here and there is society, relics of dandies, as there are relics of English horses? To be sure, and such is the osteology of the most amorous intent.”

Caroline becomes pregnant and displays her condition charmingly with an innocent artfulness of a first-time condition. Her mother meanwhile tightens her corsets because, uh-oh, she too is pregnant! “It’s as bad as being robbed on the highway!” says Adolphe’s family. Caroline has a little girl who will not live while her mother has a robust, twelve-pound baby boy, the son desired for sixteen years. Such are the dangers of matches by notary.

REVELATIONS

And so married life begins for Adolphe and Caroline. Balzac declares a young woman does not exhibit her true character until two or three years of marriage when she is no longer on her best behavior and occupied with her introduction as a married woman and is preoccupied with her role of mother. One by one she casts off her natural artifices to reveal…that she is dull!!

AXIOMS

A man is entirely responsible for his wife – and her dullness – and yet “the husband does not mould the wife.” Caroline is, it turns out, a social disaster. At the home of a distinguished lady she obstinately maintains that the newest addition to that distinguished family looks not at all like the family but rather like a family friend. She advises a poet to try to write something more likely to live. She complains of slow service at houses with few servants. She speaks ill of widows who remarry before a woman who has married a third time. She babbles. Adolphe with Caroline in attendance is “like a man who is riding a skittish horse and glares straight between the beast’s two ears”.

Adolphe tries to restrict Caroline to a small circle of friends. He cannot talk sense into her, and the battle begins. To keep Caroline in some sort of control, Adolphe must find the means of flattering her many self-loves, those self-loves of a married woman. Adolphe cajoles her to win social silence by telling her how charming she is at home and how timidity in company is a sign of being witty. Congratulating himself on improving his wife, they go to a party where they play a game, a sort of charades. Adolphe is on the block as the contestant who is to guess the appropriate word selected, and he fails miserably because he can’t figure out his wife’s clues, which don’t seem to match the other clues provided. Upon questioning Caroline, he discovers she has provided clues to the wrong word, and her clues (to the wrong world ‘male’) were of questionable taste. And so Adolphe gives up his plan of enlightening his wife. She is hopeless.

THE ATTENTIONS OF A WIFE

Adolphe fondly remembers his bachelor days when he was master of getting himself out of bed in the morning. He can make strange noises, luxuriate in extra moments in the down covers, decide to be master of his fate for the day. If he decides to be late for an appointment, so be it! His servant patiently awaitshis instruction. At some point “you emerge from the bed, spontaneously! Courageously! Of your own accord!”

But the married man stupidly tells his wife he has an appointment. So she mistakenly wakes him two hours early, after which he cannot sleep. She does everything for him, he doesn’t even get credit for getting himself out of the house. And when he returns to the house five hours later, she is back in bed, exhausted from making sure he kept his appointment. She declares to one and all that without her he never would get up in the morning. Soon the married man learns to not tell all he knows to his family, to have no confidant but himself. Could it be true that the inconveniences of the married state do not exceed its advantages?

SMALL VEXATIONS

Adolphe has traded in his fine English steed for a solid Norman horse with a steady, family gait and a domestic, four-wheeled carriage. Sort of like trading a sports car for a mini-van today! He has ventured to take the family on an outing – mother, mother-in-law, nurse, two children (they now have a boy and a girl). What a price he pays to fund this luxury, which consists of driving aimlessly from one place to another looking for the prettiest landscape. They have been out for some time, and the boy declares he is hungry. Caroline complains that Adolphe thinks more of his horse than his child because he won’t urge the horse to go faster and won’t spring for dinner on the road. Caroline and her mother talk among themselves about the selfishness of men. Adolphe is not having fun– what happened t those carefree days?

THE ULTIMATUM

Caroline turns the house upside down getting ready for a ball, for she means to be the belle of it all. She twists and turns, asks over and over how she looks, and no care is too great to make sure her hair, her gown, everything are perfect. Adolphe could do better in admiring her rather than saying over and over “Let’s go”. Caroline approaches the ball, loftily, but alas when she arrives she is just one of many pretty women, some better dressed and prettier than she is. No one asks her to dance. Adolphe is oblivious and occupies his time playing cards. When he sees Caroline, she demands HER carriage. She goes home deflated, and Adolphe does nothing to help. He keep asking what the matter is – when everyone knows a husband should always know what the matter is, “for she always knows what is not”.

Adolphe could change Caroline’s temper through flattery, but he has no clue. He has the indecency to declare the ball splendid! Caroline takes herself off to bed “wrapped up in her chemise, in her sack, in her night-cap, like a ball of clocks packed for the East Indies.” It is up to Adolphe to understand Caroline’s weak points, but he fails.

WOMEN’S LOGIC

Balzac declares “Sensitive beings are not sensible beings.” Adolphe is mistaken to think he has married a creature of reason. Balzac relates a long tale of Adolphe wanting to send his six year old son Charles to boarding school and Caroline opposing it with a scattered approach of diversionary topics. A woman’s “logic is extremely simple, inasmuch as it consists in never expressing but one idea, that which contains the expression of their will. Like everything pertaining to female nature, this system may be resolved into two algebraic terms – Yes: No.”

THE JESUITISM OF WOMEN

Balzac I think is referring to “Jesuitism” as a subtle and equivocating argumentative nature. Caroline complains excessively of not having enough money for true finery – a fancy carriage, ability to give fine balls, etc. These complaints finally make an impact on Adolphe, who decides to invest money in a risky business venture in hopes of acquiring more funds to satisfy Caroline’s desires. This idea thrills Caroline, and somehow this results in Charles being sent to boarding school. Caroline brags to all her friends of the finery she will have. But when the venture fails, Caroline proclaims she was against it from the first and that Adolphe would not listen to her. It’s enough to long for the unmarried life. “O bachelors, rejoice and be exceeding glad!”

MEMORIES AND REGRETS

Marriage has become placid, nothing can move Adolphe. He is tired of Caroline, for she is not what he thought she was. He guides his wife down the street as if he “were towing a Norman scow.” (A scow is a flat-bottom boat.) Exasperated as I am with Balzac’s tunnel view of women, I admit he sometimes writes delightful description.

Adolphe sees a new woman he desires: “she would always have flattered your little vanities, she would understand and admirably serve your interests.” We have no doubt that Alodphe and indeed Balzac views women as a property whose purpose is to flatter their interests. Adolphe fantasizes an early death for Caroline and makes love to her that night more passionately than usual while thinking of the new woman he saw earlier that evening. And then it is back to the routine of marriage while Adolphe begins to think of Madame de Fischtaminel, a friend of the family.

OBSERVATIONS

The signs of disinterest in the wife number in the thousands: when she notices other men: when she leans too heavily upon your arm or doesn’t take your arm at all; when you come home and she says to guests, “It’s just my husband”; when she puts on her stockings in your presence.

THE MATRIMONIAL GADFLY

The matrimonial gadfly is Caroline when she constantly compares the husband of her friend Madame Deschars to Adolphe. Monsieur Deschars spends 400 francs on a dress for his wife, he refurbishes his wife’s chamber and he has his wife’s diamonds set in the latest fashion. When Adolphe does something Caroline doesn’t like, she suggests he take Monsieur Deschars for a model. But when Adolphe is exasperation tries to use Madame de Fischtaminel as a comparable weapon Caroline declares him a monster. It is “a delicious joke, a new jest to enliven their married life” to compare Adolphe with M Deschars, but “it is a piece of cruelty worthy a Carib, a disregard of his wife’s heart, and a deliberate plan to give her pain” to bring up Madame de Fischtaminel.

To make peace in the family now Adolphe must win his wife over again “by trying to guess at things to please her, so as to act according to her whims instead of according to [his own] will”.

HARD LABOR

So Adolphe starts treating Caroline to intimate little dinners and nights at the theatre. At first it works, Caroline is delighted, and even Madame Deschars is jealous. But then Caroline begins to gain weight from the frequent dining out, and she’s becoming bored with the theatre as no one much looks at a woman with her husband anyway. Adolphe is frustrated because things were going so well!

FORCED SMILES

Balzac gives us a ‘general rule’: “No man has ever yet discovered the way to give friendly advice to any woman, not even to his own wife.” Adolphe has the misjudgment to comment on the redness of Caroline’s nose. He further suggests that perhaps the red nose is caused by her stomach, the central communicator of the body. Caroline retorts by offering him a tonic and suggests it will help his stomach since it is the central communicator of the body. Perhaps it will act upon his heart and his tongue. Adolohe wonders at the acuteness of his wife, could she be winning the Civil War? “Marriage appears to him like an immense dreary plan, with its crop of nettles and mullen stalks.”

When Adolphe becomes sullen, Caroline explains she was only joking. Adolphe comments that when in a married couple one makes concessions and the other doesn’t get angry it means they love each other less. So then Caroline accuses Adolphe of getting angry with her to make her believe he loves her. Balzac says that “instead of discovering therein what will please Caroline and what will attach her to him, he finds out what attaches him to her.” But I don’t have a clue.

NOSOGRAPHY OF THE VILLA

Adolphe and Caroline go the country villa of the Deschars. Carline is vibrant there, and Adolphe decides to buy Caroline her own villa when she tells him how much it will please his “little girly”. After great expense, it is discovered food and servants are expensive and the country neighbors are dull. Adolphe remembers an English proverb: “Don’t have a newspaper or a country seat of your own: there are plenty of idiots who will have them for you.” (We say that in the south about a boat and a horse.) The villa will be sold, and of course Caroline says, “What an idea that was of yours, to buy a country house!”

TROUBLE WITHIN TROUBLE

Adolphe and Caroline are still at their country villa, and Caroline assaults Adolphe after an absence of seven hours. Where has he been? Has he been to Madame de Fischtaminel’s? We suspect he has, and whatever he tells Caroline she doesn’t believe him. Putting her in a country villa was a diabolical plot to get away from her! Adolphe sells the villa at a great loss, for only seven thousand when he paid twenty-two thousand for it. The villa only provided amusement for Caroline for six months.

A HOUSEHOLD REVOLUTION

In desperation Adolphe turns over all things to do with the household to Caroline. Perhaps she can find out herself what she wants. Adolphe also was curious to see just how far she would go in mismanaging their assets. Caroline is all sweetness in the ”first epoch”. Everything is done for Adolphe. The meals are superb, he has everything renewed he might need, the household articles are upgraded, and Caroline has an ambition to be an incomparable housekeeper.

Then things change in the “second epoch”. Food suddenly is dear, there are problems with the cook, Caroline is anxious about money. Men are fortunate not having a house to keep. It is women who bear the burden of innumerable details. Caroline is in debt.

In the “third epoch” food is scarce, and Adolphe’s stockings are full of holes. His personal possessions are entirely neglected. Caroline on the other hand is beautifully dressed. In exasperation Adolphe utters in Caroline’s hearing those fatal words, “Ah! when I was a bachelor!” Caroline says she has merely tried to alleviate some of Adolphe’s cares, and if he wants the money-box key back she will “go to the stage” to earn money for the necessities of life.

THE ART OF BEING A VICTIM

Adolphe regains financial control, but Caroline tries to make him regret his victory every hour. When they are to go to a ball, Caroline appears in a dress too gloomy for description and tells Adolphe she has no other dress and wouldn’t think of asking him for anything, “after what has happened”. On another occasion they have 11 to dinner invited by Adolphe. Caroline is there looking like a guest, and Adolphe finds out she gave no dinner order to the cook. Caroline says she can’t take it upon herself to give orders here. On still another occasion when Madame de Fischtaminel visits, Caroline is working on embroidering slippers. When Madame de Fischtaminel asks her about them, she tells her she sells them to the tradesman to buy herself a few luxuries. Caroline is not nearly as dull as Adolphe has claimed.

And so it goes until finally Caroline’s mother decides to fund Caroline’s clothing. She reappears in society but makes sure everyone knows her mother is funding her dress. And it seems that Adolphe has spent even more money than Caroline did on household management. Caroline suddenly bursts into tears and says she’s unhappy. Adolphe offers to return household management to her. She tells him no and to go away. Adolphe answers, “Very well, just as you like, Caroline.” It is the beginning of indifference. Caroline “sees before her an abyss toward which she has been walking of her own free will.”

THE FRENCH CAMPAIGN

Caroline is worried and plots to regain the attention of Adolphe. She begins observing her neighbor, and lovely woman who appears to be so much in love. She studies the couple and wonders if she can use them to rekindle her relationship with Adolphe. She mentions the woman to Adolphe, and he tells her he knows the man, a Monsieur Foullepointe, and how much in love he is with his wife. Adolphe agrees tol invite the couple to dinner.

Caroline pulls out all the stops for a fine dinner and invites the Deschars and the Fischtaminels, the cream of her society, to the dinner. She tells her other guests about the lovely young couple. In walks Madame Foullepointe…and a fat gentleman with thin grey hair, who is introduced as her husband. Caroline mistakes him for the woman’s father-in-law, but a month later Caroline and Madame Foullepointe are intimate friends. Balzac closes with the axiom, “Women have corrupted more women than men have ever loved.”

A SOLO ON THE HEARSE

Caroline has decided to use illness as a weapon and declares she is sick with a variety of symptoms. She says she is suicidal. Finally a doctor is called, who tells Adolphe he should not neglect his wife. Adolphe assures his wife she is not seriously ill but doesn’t have a clue she is trying to get his attention. However, he is alarmed as to what would happen if Caroline gets to be “morbidly exacting”.

PREFACE PART II

Balzac states that in Part II he will give the wife’s point of view. This should be interesting as he made it all the way through “The Physiology of Marriage” and half through “Petty Troubles of Married Life” without once providing a female point of view.

HUSBANDS DURING THE SECOND MONTH

Caroline and a boarding-school friend Stephanie talk on a balcony at a ball with a male friend listening unknown to them. They have both recently married, Stephanie supposedly to an ideal gentleman Armand. But it seems that Armand chews tobacco (he quit for the seven months of their courtship, so Stephanie was unaware of the habit). And he’s col, particular, and uncommunicative. He has seven false teeth!! Stephanie refused to make love with him once, and he threatened to cut her allowance and keep back enough for him to satisfy his “needs” without her.

DISAPPOINTED AMBITION

This section is a bit puzzling. There’s a long story about Adolphe de Chodoreille storming Paris as a writer and a journalist. He makes the second-rate tier of hack writers, has a few respectable things published but is clearly not in the inner circle of talent and of writers. His story resembles other journalist stories in “The Human Comedy”. Surely this must be the Adolphe of our book, but this is the first hint in the book that he has a profession or that he is a writer.

Then there are letters exchanged between Madame Claire de la Roulandiere and Madame Adolphe de Chodoreille. We presume this is between Caroline and her friend Claire. They share stories of their less than glamorous lives, each imagining the other better off. Clair says, “When we were children, and used to look at those pretty little white mice, in the cobbler’s window in the rue St. Maclou, that turned and turned the circular cage in which they were imprisoned, how far I was from thinking that they would one day be a faithful image of my life!” Caroline responds with information about her and Adolphe that we hardly recognize: Adolphe doesn’t make much money, he is not accepted in the best society, no one knows him, Adolphe depends on her for financial advice, they are a supportive couple, for “Adolphe is young, and a charming fellow.”

A letter is found in a casket. It was written by Caroline to a friend. She describes her life as Adolphe’s wife. She loves him dearly, is his biggest supporter, but is hurt that he is invited so many places where she is not welcome. I do not recognize this Caroline or this couple. I can only suppose they are a later incarnation of the marriage once they are settled; perhaps Caroline has adopted a new viewpoint once she decides she does not love Adolphe.

THE PANGS OF INNOCENCE

Caroline as a woman of thirty is instructing a young woman about to be married. She tells her she has lost a tooth for each child she has born. She says when she married she loved her husband. “I have got over it since and acted differently for his happiness and mine. I can boast of having one of the happiest homes in Paris.” She then tells the story of Adolphe’s encouraging her to dress more like Madame de Fischtaminel, only to find later that she can only be a poor copy of Madame de Fischtaminel, who is Adolphe’s lover. The real blow was Caroline’s saving up for an expensive embroidered handkerchief like Madame’s, only to discover that Adolphe had purchased the one Madame has. “It was…as if I had seen an edifice built by fairy crumble into ruins.”

THE UNIVERSAL AMADIS

When Caroline confronts Adolphe about Madame de Fischtaminel, he assures her “it’s altogether moral”. After many tears, Caroline picks herself up and persuades a man about town Monsieur de Lustrac to court her. When Adolphe finds them holding hands in her boudoir, Caroline assures him “it’s altogether moral.” Adolphe gets the point, and there is no more Madame de Fischtaminel or Monsieur de Lustrac.

WITHOUT AN OCCUPATION

Madame de Fischtaminel writes a letter to her mother discussing her marriage. She married her husband upon the advice of her mother because he is rich (30,000 a year), respectable, and not terrible looking. But there is a fly in the ointment: he is boring, he has nothing to do, has no interests, and a real fear of learning anything. So he follows Madame around the house day and night, never letting her out of his sight. If she tries to read a book, he interrupts her constantly asking her if she is about finished. Monsieur has no bad habits: he does not gamble, he is indifferent to women, he doesn’t drink, has no expensive habits. But nevertheless he is driving his wife mad! “Two felons pinioned to the same chain do not find time hang heavy: for they have their escape to think of. But we have no subject of conversation; we have long since talked ourselves out.”

INDISCRETIONS

Some men are too familiar with their wives in public to denote their ownership of the woman. They bestow embarrassing endearments, inappropriately touch their wives, etc. Woman have killed for less!

Balzac says, “In order to be happy in wedlock, you must either be a man of genius married to an affectionate and intellectual woman, or, by a chance which is not as common as might be supposed, you must both of you be exceedingly stupid.”

Balzac goes on to observe that as women get older they are more responsive to the indiscretion of physical love, even from their husbands. “Woman exists by sentiment where man exists by action.” He claims that “during their youth, women want to be treated as divinities, they love the ideal; they cannot bear the idea of being what nature intended them to be.” But women of a certain age “want to be treated as mortals, they love the actual: they cannot bear the idea of no longer being what nature intended them to be.”

BRUTAL DISCLOSURES

Sometimes things are discovered that seem startling, perhaps shocking. Caroline thinks Adolphe so handsome until she hears him referred to as “that fat man, dressed like a waiter I a café, frizzled like a barber’s apprentice…”.

Caroline wants to excel at something and works very hard on a short story, a feuilleton, which gets published in the local paper under an assumed name. Caroline anxiously waits for Adolphe to read it. He has no idea it is her work, and he proceeds to rip it to shreds. Caroline is devastated.

Caroline discovers a letter written by Adolphe to a friend in which he says, “I have resolved to lead my wife through paths beaten in the snow, until the happy day when infidelity will be difficult.”

A TRUCE

Caroline waits anxiously for the return of Adolphe from a several months’ journey. She can’t eat, she skips mass, she paces the floor from early morning. Each sound of horses causes her to leap up and exclaim that it is he. But he doesn’t come, and finally she falls into sleep at 3 am. Adolphe comes in, retires in the spare room, and leaves orders that he is not to e disturbed. Caroline is cross and snappish for days.

USELESS CARE

Caroline hears that her husband loves Italian-style mushrooms. She investigates mushrooms and goes to some trouble to acquire some Milanese mushrooms. Caroline waits with great anticipation serving the dish, but Adolphe doesn’t like them. They are not quite the right kind, you see. It seems poor Caroline can’t get it right.

SMOKE WITHOUT FIRE

Caroline is forever suspicious of Adolphe and leaves no stone unturned in detecting treachery. The maid discovers that Adolphe goes to see an old woman, and it turns out the old woman is the nurse of a young boy who looks a lot like Adolphe and is obviously Adolphe’s son. Caroline breathes easier because the mother of this child is obviously not on the radar screen.

THE DOMESTIC TYRANT

Women depend on their maids as spies on their husbands, but doing so makes the maid a tyrant. Caroline’s maid Justine is just that – she sleeps late, has coffee in bed, dresses well, goes out without permission, is extremely well-paid, etc. Finally Adolphe wants to dismiss her as it has become well-known that there must be some special reason she is in their service. When they try to dismiss her, Justine falls sick.

THE AVOWAL

Finally Caroline tells Adolphe that Justine is the one who found out about his natural son. They dismiss her, she goes off and marries a tradesman. Ten months later Justine writes an almost illegible note to Caroline telling her about Adolphe’s involvement with Madame de Fischtaminel. Caroline goes into a frenzy of investigation, and when she feels Adolphe has not misbehaved, she receives another letter from Justine accusing Adolphe of another affair.

HUMILIATIONS

Women will put up with a lot to save the status of their husband, for they love not only the husband but the family. Caroline goes to creditors and puts up with their trying to make sexual advances to her in order to make things easier for Adolphe.

THE :LAST QUARREL

There comes a time of the last quarrel, when the wife no longer cares Maybe she finds one note too many in her husband’s pocket. Or perhaps he calls her one time too many by the wrong name. Caroline has the last quarrel with Adolphe, and they agree to be comrades instead of husband and wife. “Adolphe thanks Caroline, and catches a glimpse of bliss; he has converted his wife into a sister, and hopes to be a bachelor again.” But the quarrel is a sort of perpetual motion as Caroline constantly refers to it in a witty manner in society and in private. She tells a lady, “We are happy…when we love each other no longer: it’s then that we learn how to make ourselves beloved.” Caroline is ready to take a lover.

A SIGNAL FAILURE

Caroline wants to take riding lessons. Adolphe doesn’t want her to do so – too expensive, too much bother. Caroline sulks and makes life uncomfortable. Caroline turns romantic and assumes that a night of lovemaking has brought her riding lessons. He tells her it does not. Upon her gaze, he thinks maybe he’d better let her take one lesson.

Caroline wants a carriage and Adolphe refuses. She pretends a dramatic sickness and the doctor (our young friend Bianchon) calls. He tells Adolphe that there is nothing wrong with Caroline but she will indeed make herself sick if she doesn’t get what she wants. Caroline listens at the door. “Even at the present day, the young doctor is obliged to clear his path of the calumnies which this charming woman is continually throwing into it.”

THE CHESTNUTS IN THE FIRE

Caroline plots with Adolphe’s women friends to keep Adolphe away when she wants to entertain her lover. They are all in this together and work well in tossing Adolphe around to fit their schedules. One day Caroline sends Adolphe off and awaits her lover, who is to join her in a sumptuous breakfast. She gets a letter saying her lover is ill. Adolphe returns unexpectedly and delights in eating the superior repast. Just for the fun of it, he tells Caroline that her lover isn’t sick, he’s been out partying. Caroline is hurt and Adolphe is amused. Caroline later in the day goes to visit her lover feeling furious, only to swoon when she find out he has been injured in a dual. “What abominable monsters men are.”

ULTIMA RATIO

After the last quarrel, things are different for men and women. “Though he no longer cares about her, she retains the right to care about him.”

COMMENTARY

freedom So we have the perfect couple who are friends and supporter of each other and allow each other the to do exactly what they want. Adolphe says “I am the happiest husband in the world. Caroline is a devoted friend, she would sacrifice everything for me, even my cousin Ferdinand [her lover], if it were necessary…You entangle yourself in your laughable ideas of dignity, honor, virtue, social order. We can’t have our life over again, so we must cram it full of pleasure.”

I find myself quite fatigued with all this cynicism, and I quite agree with Balzac’s friend, who accuses him, “You revenge yourself cruelly for your inability to write the history of happy homes.”

Read it here

Summarized by Pamela, April 2012

3 comments on “Petty Troubles of Married Life by Honoré de Balzac

  1. Lisa Hill says:

    I haven’t read this one yet, so I’m saving reading this summary till I have.

    Like

    • scamperpb says:

      Lisa, I did this one ahead of our schedule along with “The Physiology of Marriage” when I had some time last summer. I went ahead and put the summaries on the blog, but I’ll also be releasing them weekly on the yahoo site when we officially read the works. Both of these books are a bit bizarre and unlike anything else in “The Human Comedy”.

      Like

  2. scamperpb says:

    Not much to say about this work. As with “The Physiology of Marriage” I’m not fond of the subject matter, wasn’t delighted in summarizing it, and don’t much like Balzac’s views of women and marriage. Of course Balzac writes well and often draws a vivid picture, but I’m just in a different place and time.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s