Places: Thérèse

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: Thérèse Desqueyroux, 1927 (English translation, 1928)

Type of work: Novel

Type of plot: Psychological realism

Time of work: Twentieth century

Asterisk denotes entries on real places.

Places DiscussedArgelouse

Argelouse Thérèse (ahr-geh-LOOZ). Fictional small town in an isolated part of southwestern France, largely abandoned, except for some tenant farmers and two prominent families, the Larroques and the Desqueyroux. Thérèse is from the former family and her husband, Bernard, from the latter. Eventually many members of the two families live a good part of their lives in Saint-Clair, where other former Argelouse families now reside.

Much of Argelouse is falling into a state of disrepair. However, it is a heavily forested region, and resin from its pine trees becomes the source of Thérèse’s income. In her late years, Thérèse learns that most of Argelouse’s pine trees have been cut down and that the town has become an even more desolate place.

Argelouse becomes Thérèse’s “prison” after she is acquitted in her trial for attempting to kill Bernard, who confines her to her room for years. Bernard’s main interest in the place derives from its being a good place for duck hunting. He returns there only for duck-hunting season.

Saint-Clair

Saint-Clair (sah[n]-klehr). Market town six miles from Argelouse, In her younger days, Thérèse often travels between the two towns, which are connected by a neglected road on which nothing more modern than a wagon can travel. However, Saint-Clair is an important stop on the railway and has a station that anyone going to Argelouse finds necessary to traverse. It serves as a milestone in the book.

Because there is no church in Argelouse, Thérèse attends Sunday Mass in Saint-Clair, which she finds a welcome respite. However, Bernard decides that Mass has no meaning for Thérèse, whom he forbids from going to Saint-Clair, which eventually becomes the site of Thérèse’s death.

*Paris

*Paris. Capital of France in which Thérèse lives after Bernard permits her to leave Argelouse. Alone in the great city, Thérèse tries to make a new life for herself, but without success. The sense of sin she carries with her perverts all of her attempts to find happiness. As the years pass, she retreats more and more into herself.

During her first years in Paris, she lives on Ile Saint-Louis, a small island in the Seine River. In her declining years, Thérèse lives in an apartment in an old house on the rue du Bac, on the Left Bank of the Seine that crosses the larger boulevard Saint-Germain, where Thérèse feels a temporary relief from the oppression that is usually her lot.

BibliographyFlower, John E. Intention and Achievement: An Essay on the Novels of François Mauriac. Oxford, England: Clarendon Press, 1969. In his analysis of Thérèse, Flower links it to other novels by Mauriac with characters who seem increasingly saturnine and enigmatic. Flower contends that Thérèse is a powerful figure of alienation who stands out as an unconventional literary heroine.Flower, John E., and Bernard C. Swift, ed. François Mauriac: Visions and Reappraisals. Providence, R.I.: Berg, 1991. A lucid presentation of Mauriac’s fortunes. Evaluates Thérèse as an approximation of a Colette figure.Landry, Anne G. Represented Discourse in the Novels of François Mauriac. New York: AMS Press, 1970. The section on Thérèse emphasizes the austerity of Mauriac’s language and examines the dramatic flow of the novel’s structure between central action and flashback.Smith, Maxwell A. François Mauriac. New York: Twayne, 1970. Contains many perceptive observations about Thérèse based on Smith’s interview with the author. Mauriac defends himself against critical reactions that are overly pessimistic about Thérèse’s destiny. He insists that he has merely presented an isolated study of oppression and confinement. Smith connects Thérèse with Mauriac’s other literary achievements.Speaight, Robert. François Mauriac: A Study of the Writer and the Man. London: Chatto & Windus, 1976. An overview of Mauriac’s career, which concludes that Thérèse is a poetic tour de force.
Categories: Places