English Title: A Remembrance of Things Pastor In Search of Lost Time
A Novel by Marcel Proust (1871-1922)
Study Guide Prepared by Michael J. Cummings...© 2010
.......The title of French author Marcel Proust's most famous work, À la recherche du temps perdu, has found its way into English as A Remembrance of Things Past and as In Search of Lost Time. The French idiom à la recherche de means in search of.Du temps means of time, and perdu means lost or wasted. A literal translation of the title thus yields In Search of Time Lost or In Search of Time Wasted. Scotsman Charles Kenneth Scott Moncrieff (1889-1930) decided to bestow poetry on his English translation of the title of the work, using a phrase from the second line of Shakespeare's Sonnet 30.When to the sessions of sweet silent thought
I summon up remembrance of things past.......British scholar Dennis Joseph Enright (1920-2002) translated the title as In Search of Lost Time in a 1992 revision of the Moncrieff translation of the novel.
.......À la recherche du temps perdu is a roman-fleuve, a long novel in several volumes (or a series of novels) centering on a single character or several characters, succeeding
generations of a family, or an epoch in history. Other examples of this genre include Honoré de Balzac's Comédie humaine (1834-1876) and Romain Rolland's Jean-Christophe (1904-1912).
.......Most of the action in the novel takes place in Paris and in two small French towns, Combray and Balbec, between the late 1870s and 1925. Combray, about fifteen miles southwest of Chartres, is the fictional name of a town known as Illiers in Proust's time. In 1971, the one hundredth
anniversary of the birth of Proust, it was renamed Illiers-Combray. Balbec is the fictional name of Cabourg, a town near the sea in the Basse-Normandie region of France. Proust spent the summers of 1907 and 1914 in the Grand Hôtel at
.......Most novels present a story with events that unfold sequentially. In Proust's novel, the narrator presents a story with impressions, events, and episodes that are sometimes out of sequence. For example, a passage centering on his childhood might follow one centering on his adult
.......The narrator, Marcel, presents most of the novel in first-person point of view. However, he alternates between first- and third-person point of view when telling the story of Charles Swann's relationship with Odette de Crécy. This relationship began and ended before Marcel was born. A question arises here: How could Marcel recount events that took place before his birth? He answers that question in the following passage:And so I would often lie until morning, dreaming of the old days at Combray, of my melancholy and wakeful evenings there; of other days besides, the memory of which had been more lately restored to me by the tasteby what would have been called at Combray the 'perfume'of a cup of tea; and, by an association of memories, of a story which, many years after I had left the little place, had been told me of a love affair in which Swann had been involved before I was born; with that accuracy of detail which it is easier, often, to obtain when we are studying the lives of people who have been dead for centuries than when we are trying to chronicle those of our own most intimate friends, an accuracy which it seems as impossible to attain as it seemed impossible to speak from one town to another, before we learned of the contrivance by which that impossibility has been overcome. All these memories, following one after another, were condensed into a single substance, but had not so far coalesced that I could not discern between the three strata, between my oldest, my instinctive memories, those others, inspired more recently by a taste or 'perfume,' and those which were actually the memories of another, from whom I had acquired them at second handno fissures, indeed, no geological faults, but at least those veins, those streaks of colour which in certain rocks, in certain marbles, point to differences of origin, age, and formation.The Narrator's Name
The narrator of the novel identifies himself only as "M." However, the narrator suggests that his name is Marcel, as the following paragraph in the fifth volume (The Captive) indicates.The uncertainty of awakening revealed by her [Albertine's] silence was not at all revealed in her eyes. As soon as she was able to speak she said: "My" or "My dearest" followed by my Christian name, which, if we give the narrator the same name as the author of this book, would be 'My Marcel,' or 'My dearest Marcel.'Main Characters
Marcel: The narrator and protagonist. As a child, he suffers from sleep problems but looks forward to the good-night kiss of his mother. He is very attached to her and his maternal grandmother. Marcel aspires to become a writer and is an avid reader. He is also a keen observer of the people and events around him. But,
like most people, he has trouble recalling the details of these events in his adult years. Occasionally, external stimuli help him to remember his past vividly so that he can make it central part of the novel he plans to write.
Volume 1: Du côté de chez Swann (1913)
C. K. Scott Moncrieff's Translation:Swann's Way
Volume 2: À l'ombre des jeunes filles en fleurs (1919)
C. K. Scott Moncrieff's Translation: Within a Budding Grove.
Volume 3: Le Côté de Guermantes (1920)
C. K. Scott Moncrieff's Translation: The Guermantes Way.
Volume 4: Sodome et Gomorrhe (1921)
C. K. Scott Moncrieff's Translation: Cities of the Plain.
Volume 5: La Prisonnière (1923)
C. K. Scott Moncrieff's Translation: The Captive.
Volume 6: Albertine disparue or La Fugitive (1925)
C. K. Scott Moncrieff's Translation: The Sweat Cheat Gone.
Volume 7: Le Temps retrouvé (1927)
Stephen Hudson's Translation: Time Regained.
Based on the original French text and on C. K. Scott Moncrieff's Translations of Volumes 1-6 and Stephen Hudson's Translation of Volume 7
.......The main character, Marcel, writes the story of his life and the world in which he lives. He begins his story as an adult looking back on his life.
.......Marcel recalls a time at Combray when he was older and was out walking with his family. Outside Swann's house, they encountered his wife, Odette, who was with her daughter, Gilberte, and a friend of Swann, Baron Charlus de Guermantes. Marcel was captivated by Gilberte. But in locking the memory of her in his mind, he mistakenly gave her blue eyes even though he clearly saw her black eyes.
.......Meanwhile, another neighbor, the pianist Vinteuil, became terribly disappointed in his daughter when another woman moved into his home as the lover of his daughter, whom he had always doted on. In a short while, he died of a broken heart. One day, while walking by their house, Marcel saw Mademoiselle Vinteuil's friend making advances toward her. Mademoiselle ran off, and and then they began to chase one another about the room, scrambling over the furniture, their wide sleeves fluttering like wings, clucking and crowing like a pair of amorous fowls.
.......When Mademoiselle Vinteuil saw her father's portrait on a table, she called her friend's attention to it. The latter proposed that they spit on it. Marcel observed that Mademoiselle Vinteuil's indifference to the suffering she caused her father was the same kind of indifference he saw in other people and that it was the one true, terrible and lasting form of cruelty.
.......The novel flashes back to a time long before Marcel first visited Combray to tell the story of Swann.
.......At the Paris residence of Monsieur and Madame Verdurinambitious social climbersSwann cultivated a relationship with a woman named Odette de Crécy. He was unaware of her reputation as a courtesan. She made advances. At the time, however, he was keeping company with a seamstress and avoided becoming overly friendly with Odette. But she persisted and won his attentions. One of the little tricks she used was to have a musician play a sonata that he enjoyed.
.......At first, he did not regard her as particularly attractive. But later, after comparing her to the image of the daughter of Jethro in a Botticelli painting, he thought her exquisitely beautiful. They became lovers. Meanwhile, Odette's promiscuous nature led her into the arms of other men, including the Comte de Forcheville. Swann married Odette. Baron de Charlus learned of her infidelities and informed Swann of them in an unsigned letter. Swann realized he should never have married Odette, lamenting, "To think that I have wasted years of my life, that I have longed for death, that the greatest love that I have ever known has been for a woman who did not please me, who was not in my style!"
.......Many years later, Marcel fell in love with Gilberte, the daughter of Swann and Odette. In time, though, she became bored with him and he abandoned his relationship with her. About two years later, he fell in love with Albertine Simonet, a young woman he met while sojourning with his grandmother at the Grand Hôtel de la Plage in Balbec, in northwestern France near the English Channel. He grew cool toward her, though, when she appeared to prefer only a platonic relationship with him.
.......At Balbec, Marcel became reacquainted with his old friend Bloch (the one who introduced him to Bergotte) and made a new friend, Robert de Saint-Loup, a charming, personable military officer. Meanwhile, Marcel continued to witness the follies and pretensions of social climbers.
.......As a young man, Marcel entered Parisian society under the aegis of one of the grande dame of the Parisian upper class, the wealthy Madame Guermantes, who lived in an elite section of Paris, Faubourg Saint-Germain. Before gaining entry to Madame's social circle, Marcel had idealized it as a refined and lofty niche in the haute monde. But after attending many dinners at her residence, he began to see that the high society of the Guermantes was just as vulgar and prosaic as life in the salons of bourgeois social climbers. During this time, his grandmother died.
.......In time, Marcel renewed his relationship with Albertine, who no longer held platonic relationships in high esteem. The Dreyfus Affair became a topic of conversation all over France, including the social affairs Marcel attended, and exposed the anti-Semitism running through much of society. From time to time, Marcel saw Swann at dinner parties. To the detriment of his reputation, Swann defended Dreyfus. And to the detriment of his health, he became ill with cancer. He had wanted to introduce his wife, Odette, and daughter, Gilberte, at the Guermantes' social gatherings but did not gain Madame's approval before he died.
.......Meanwhile, Marcel became obsessed with Albertine and began to suspect her of having lesbian relationships. Oddly, his desire for her became intense only when she strayed from him. At this time, he became a regular in the social circle of the Verdurins. So did Baron de Charlus, who had been active in the homosexual underworld with a tailor named Jupien. Jupien acted as a procurer of young men for Charlus. Charlus latched onto a violinist named Morel. Like Marcel's preoccupation with Albertine and her behavior, Charlus became obsessed with Morel.
.......As Marcel kept a close watch on Albertine, he considered marrying her and made her a virtual prisoner in his Paris residence when his mother was away caring for a sick relative. Although he gave Albertine gifts and pledged to marry her, she ran away one day and completely vanished. He later learned that she had died falling off a horse. A foreshadowing of her death occurred when Marcel and Albertine left Balbec for Paris.On the first day, at the moment of leaving Balbec, when she saw how wretched I was, and was distressed by the prospect of leaving me by myself, my mother had perhaps been glad when she heard that Albertine was travelling with us, and saw that, side by side with our own boxes (those boxes among which I had passed a night in tears in the Balbec hotel), there had been hoisted into the 'Twister' Albertine's boxes also, narrow and black, which had seemed to me to have the appearance of coffins, and as to which I knew not whether they were bringing to my house life or death. (The Captive).......Marcel eventually became interested again in Gilberte. She and her mother, Odette, by this time had been deemed acceptable in Faubourg Saint-Germain society. However, their father, Swann, was forgottenthe memory of him obliteratedby the salon crowd that knew him.
.......Marcel and his mother vacationed in Venice. While there, he received a letter informing him that Gilberte had married Robert Saint-Loup. Not long after the latter's marriage, Robert began practicing homosexuality. In fact, he had been a homosexual all along. His various encounters with women and his marriage to Gilberte were designed merely to disguise his homosexuality.
.......After the First World War broke out, and Robert died in battle. The decline and fall of the French aristocracy became complete when Madame Verdurin, whose husband had died, became the Princesse de Guermantes. Charlus, meanwhile, continued his old ways, roaming Paris for male companions.
.......Marcel attended a party at which he realized the shallowness of life in the salons and, because his health was declining, made a decision not to put off any longer the pursuit of a writing career and the production of a work of art that captured his remembrances of things past.
.......The climax occurs in the final volume of the novel, Time Regained, when Marcel realizes the shallowness of life in the drawing rooms and decides to write his book. He observes,Finally, this idea of Time had the ultimate value of the hand of a clock. It told me it was time to begin if I meant to attain that which I had felt in brief flashes on the Guermantes' side and during my drives with Mme de Villeparisis, that indefinable something which had made me think life worth living. How much more so now that it seemed possible to illuminate that life lived in darkness, at last to make manifest in a book the truth one ceaselessly falsifies. Happy the man who could write such a book.
.......Like a knight of old, the narrator of Proust's book sallies forth on a quest. But he rides into an inner world, the labyrinth of the mind, to find what he seeksburied memories. They are not easy to resurrect. But when he succeeds in bringing them to life with the help of sensory stimuli associated with themsuch as the taste of the madeleine (Swann's Way)he comes away with vivid mental pictures of his past and the people and places who occupy it. He uses these pictures to piece together a portrait of himself and society.
.......Marcel witnesses and records the decadence and degeneration of French middle- and upper-class society. In the final book, he speaks of this degeneration in relation to the Guermantes family........Thus in the faubourg Saint-Germain the apparently impregnable positions of the Duc and Duchesse de Guermantes and of the Baron de Charlus had lost their inviolability as everything changes in this world through the action of an interior principle which had never occurred to them; in the case of M. de Charlus it was the love of Charlie who had enslaved him to the Verdurins and then gradual decay, in the case of Mme de Guermantes a taste for novelty and for art, in the case of M. de Guermantes an exclusive love, as he had had so many in his life, rendered more tyrannical by the feebleness of old age to which the austerity of the Duchesse's salon where the Duc no longer put in an appearance and which, for that matter, had almost ceased functioning, offered no resistance by its power of rehabilitation. (Time Regained)Inevitability of Change
.......Many people go through life believing that things will always be as they are now. There is a certain comfort in living as if the world will always be as it is. Marcel makes the point, however, that change will occur even when people are certain that it will not: "Thus the face of things in life changes, the centre of empires, the register of fortunes, the chart of positions, all that seemed final, are perpetually remoulded and during his life-time a man can witness the completest changes just where those seemed to him least possible" (Time Regained)
Memory and Time
.......Adopting the ideas of philosopher Henri Bergson (1859-1941), Proust presents the view that the conscious mind tends to inhibit the ability to recall past events. This is a problem for the narrator, Marcel, since he plans to become a writer who brings the past alive. The past is there, of course, waiting to be
tapped. As Bergson wrote in Creative Evolution, "In its entirety, probably, it [the past] follows us at every instant; all that we have felt, thought and willed from our earliest infancy is there, leaning over the present which is about to join it, pressing against the portals of consciousness that would fain leave it outside."
.......Marcel's grandmother believes that the past holds lessons for people in the present. In this regard, she almost always gives antiques as gifts teach the recipients about bygone days. "Even when she had to make some one a present of the kind called 'useful,' when she had to give an armchair or some table-silver or a walking-stick," Marcell recalls, she would choose "antiques,"as though their long desuetude had effaced from them any semblance of utility and fitted them rather to instruct us in the lives of the men of other days than to serve the common requirements of our own" (Swann's Way).
.......In following the ideas Bergson in the novel, Proust suggests that time is a continuously flowing duration (durée, as Bergson called this phenomenon in French) rather than as a sequence of seconds or a chronology. Bergson believed that duration was indivisible and that past and present are both real in the here and now. Scientists such as Albert Einstein, believed that time was divisible and therefore measurable in mathematical units. The consensus among thinkers in the early twentieth century was that Einstein was right and Bergson wrong.
.......In presenting his ideas on memory and time as themes in À la recherche du temps perdu, Proust may have been attempting to demonstrate that the way the human mind functions and perceives reality has as much a bearing on a person's life as the events that unfold around that person.
.......Throughout the novel, the narrator calls attention to the hypocrisy he sees in French society and even in his own family. The following paragraph, for example, centers on this theme. Here is the situation: Monsieur Vinteuil, Marcel, and other members of his family have a conversation with Swann while they are out on a walk. After Swann leaves, Marcel observes,.......And then, so strong an element of hypocrisy is there in even the most sincere of men, who cast off, while they are talking to anyone, the opinion they actually hold of him and will express when he is no longer there, my family joined with M. Vinteuil in deploring Swann's marriage, invoking principles and conventions which (all the more because they invoked them in common with him, as though we were all thorough good fellows of the same sort) they appeared to suggest were in no way infringed at Montjouvain. (Swann's Way)Promiscuity and Debauchery
.......The narrator notes that promiscuity is commonplace in French society. Odette was a prostitute before her first marriage and organized and participated in orgies. Her second husband, Swann, receives a letter saying that "Odette had been the mistress of countless men (several of whom it named, among them
Forcheville, M. de Breaute and the painter) and women, and that she frequented houses of ill-fame" (Swann's Way). Marcel's Uncle Adolph is a womanizer even into his old age. Baron de Charlus roams Paris for homosexual lovers. The Marquis de Vaugoubert, an acquaintance of Charlus, is obsessed with desire for men. Jupien the tailor, a friend of Charlus, opens a male brothel at the behest of
Charlus. While married to Gilberte, Robert de Saint-Loup has liaisons with other womenand men. Marcel learns that Albertine had once teamed with Morel to recruit young girls for brothels.
.......Jealousy motivates several characters in the novel. The odious Verdurins, for example, are jealous of the social success of others and strive to climb over them. But this theme is most apparent in Marcel's relationship with Albertine. Jealous of anyonea man or a womanwho exhibits an interest in Albertine, Marcel takes her to his residence in Paris and makes a virtual prisoner of her to keep her from seeing others. But his jealousy continues to torture him, as he reports in the following paragraph about Albertine's activities when she is not with him.Even in the first days after our return to Paris, not satisfied by the information that Andrée and the chauffeur had given me as to their expeditions with my mistress [Albertine], I had felt the neighbourhood of Paris to be as tormenting as that of Balbec, and had gone off for a few days in the country with Albertine. But everywhere my uncertainty as to what she might be doing was the same . . . with the result that I returned with her to Paris. In leaving Balbec, I had imagined that I was leaving Gomorrah, plucking Albertine from it; in reality, alas, Gomorrah was dispersed to all the ends of the earth. And partly out of jealousy, partly out of ignorance of such joys (a case which is rare indeed), I had arranged unawares this game of hide and seek in which Albertine was always to escape me. (The Captive)Writing Style
.......Proust dresses much of his prose in evocative detailsspiced with allusions to art, literature, and historyin order to create vivid portraits of people, places, and things. Louis Cazamian says the author "reveals himself in two different moods."The one chiefly apparent in the initial volume, Du côté de chez Swann, and parts of the others, is a warm, lovely, wistful evocation of scenes, landscapes and characters from the enchanting book of years, and of moments of emotion in the life of the hero. At such times the style is glowing and impressionistic, full of charm and poetry. But, and with increasing frequency as the work proceeds, the writer's attitude changes and becomes one of cool, disillusioned, and somewhat bitter interest in the vagaries of the world and the complexities of conduct. Here it is no longer the poet who speaks, but the analyst of thought and behaviour, whose object is not to move, but to instruct. The style is forceful, precise, and rather austere, animated only by a kind of subdued excitement, akin to that of the impassioned moralist. In spite of their interest, these argumentative digressions will strike many readers as somewhat heavy. (A History of French Literature. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 1959, page 434).......The language in the novel is specific, and the sentences are often long, labyrinthine adventures into rhetoric. For example, the following passage from volume 5 (La Prisonnière) consists of three hundred twenty words in just two sentences in its translated version.
.......But all of a sudden the scene changed; it was the memory, no longer of old impressions, but of an old desire, quite recently reawakened by the Fortuny gown in blue and gold, that spread itself before me, another spring, a spring not leafy at all but suddenly stripped, on the contrary, of its trees and flowers by
the name that I had just
One of Proust's strong points is his ability to capture specific details in vivid language, as in the following passage. (The original French passage follows the English translation of it.)At the hour when I usually went downstairs to find out what there was for dinner, its preparation would already have begun, and Françoise, a colonel with all the forces of nature for her subalterns, as in the fairy-tales where giants hire themselves out as scullions, would be stirring the coals, putting the potatoes to steam, and, at the right moment, finishing over the fire those culinary masterpieces which had been first got ready in some of the great array of vessels, triumphs of the potter's craft, which ranged from tubs and boilers and cauldrons and fish kettles down to jars for game, moulds for pastry, and tiny pannikins for cream, and included an entire collection of pots and pans of every shape and size. I would stop by the table, where the kitchen-maid had shelled them, to inspect the platoons of peas, drawn up in ranks and numbered, like little green marbles, ready for a game; but what fascinated me would be the asparagus, tinged with ultramarine and rosy pink which ran from their heads, finely stippled in mauve and azure, through a series of imperceptible changes to their white feet, still stained a little by the soil of their garden-bed: a rainbow-loveliness that was not of this world. I felt that these celestial hues indicated the presence of exquisite creatures who had been pleased to assume vegetable form, who, through the disguise which covered their firm and edible flesh, allowed me to discern in this radiance of earliest dawn, these hinted rainbows, these blue evening shades, that precious quality which I should recognise again when, all night long after a dinner at which I had partaken of them, they played (lyrical and coarse in their jesting as the fairies in Shakespeare) at transforming my humble chamber into a bower of aromatic perfume. (Swann's Way)
A cette heure où je descendais apprendre le menu, le dîner était déjà commencé, et Françoise, commandant aux forces de la nature devenues ses aides, comme dans les féeries où les géants se font engager comme cuisiniers, frappait la houille, donnait à la vapeur des pommes de terre à étuver et faisait finir à point par le feu les chefs-d'uvre culinaires d'abord préparés dans des récipients de céramiste qui allaient des grandes cuves, marmites, chaudrons et poissonnières, aux terrines pour le gibier, moules à pâtisserie, et petits pots de crème en passant par une collection complète de casserole de toutes dimensions. Je m'arrêtais à voir sur la table, où la fille de cuisine venait de les écosser, les petits pois alignés et nombrés comme des billes vertes dans un jeu; mais mon ravissement était devant les asperges, trempées d'outremer et de rose et dont l'épi, finement pignoché de mauve et d'azur, se dégrade insensiblement jusqu'au pied,encore souillé pourtant du sol de leur plant,par des irisations qui ne sont pas de la terre. Il me semblait que ces nuances célestes trahissaient les délicieuses créatures qui s'étaient amusées à se métamorphoser en légumes et qui, à travers le déguisement de leur chair comestible et ferme, laissaient apercevoir en ces couleurs naissantes d'aurore, en ces ébauches d'arc-en-ciel, en cette extinction de soirs bleus, cette essence précieuse que je reconnaissais encore quand, toute la nuit qui suivait un dîner où j'en avais mangé, elles jouaient, dans leurs farces poétiques et grossières comme une féerie de Shakespeare, à changer mon pot de chambre en un vase de parfum........Following are examples of figures of speech from the above paragraphs.Alliteration: (1) putting the potatoes to steam; (2) still stained a little by the soil
Hyperbole: preparing food with "all the forces of nature"
Metaphor: comparison of Françoise to a colonel
Metaphor: comparison of the peas to platoons of soldiers
Metaphor: comparison of "little creatures" to vegetables
Simile: comparison of the peas to "little green marbles"
Allitération: (1) comme cuisiniers; (2) collection complète de casserole
.......To support his narration in À la recherche du temps perdu, Proust uses hundreds of allusions and direct references to literature, history, philosophy, myth and other subjects. Following are examples from Swann's Way.
Abraham: First patriarch of Israel in the Old Testament (Genesis) and forefather of the Hebrews.
.......Proust frequently compares and contrasts idyllic nature scenes with the artificial scenes in buildings and cities or to make a transition from one activity to another. Following are examples from Moncrieff's translation of the novel.Sometimes in the afternoon sky a white moon would creep up like a little cloud, furtive, without display, suggesting an actress who does not have to 'come on' for a while, and so goes 'in front' in her ordinary clothes to watch the rest of the company for a moment, but keeps in the background, not wishing to attract attention to herself. (Swann's Way)
Often the sun would disappear behind a cloud, which impinged on its roundness, but whose edge the sun gilded in return. The brightness, though not the light of day, would then be shut off from a landscape in which all life appeared to be suspended, while the little village of Roussainville carved in relief upon the sky the white mass of its gables, with a startling precision of detail. A gust of wind blew from its perch a rook, which floated away and settled in the distance, while beneath a paling sky the woods on the horizon assumed a deeper tone of blue, as though they were painted in one of those cameos which you still find decorating the walls of old houses. (Swann's Way)
The moon was now in the sky like a section of orange delicately peeled although slightly bruised. But presently she was to be fashioned of the most enduring gold. Sheltering alone behind her, a poor little star was to serve as sole companion to the lonely moon, while she, keeping her friend protected, but bolder and striding ahead, would brandish like an irresistible weapon, like an Oriental symbol, her broad and marvellous crescent of gold. (Cities of the Plain/Sodom and Gomorrah, transitional sentences)
My walks, that autumn, were all the more delightful because I used to take them after long hours spent over a book. When I was tired of reading, after a whole morning in the house, I would throw my plaid across my shoulders and set out; my body, which in a long spell of enforced immobility had stored up an accumulation of vital energy, was now obliged, like a spinning-top wound and let go, to spend this in every direction. The walls of houses, the Tansonville hedge, the trees of Roussainville wood, the bushes against which Montjouvain leaned its back, all must bear the blows of my walking-stick or umbrella, must hear my shouts of happiness, blows and shouts being indeed no more than expressions of the confused ideas which exhilarated me, and which, not being developed to the point at which they might rest exposed to the light of day, rather than submit to a slow and difficult course of elucidation, found it easier and more pleasant to drift into an immediate outlet. (Swann's Way).......The following passage precedes a scene in Swann's house. I could see from afar in the Swanns' little garden-plot the sunlight glittering like hoar frost from the bare-boughed trees. It is true that the garden boasted but a pair of them. The unusual hour presented the scene in a new light. Into these pleasures of nature (intensified by the suppression of habit and indeed by my physical hunger) the thrilling prospect of sitting down to luncheon with Mme. Swann was infused . . . . (Within a Budding Grove).......Here is a passage that mixes nature imagery with the noise of urban life.The first sounds from the street had told me, according to whether they came to my ears dulled and distorted by the moisture of the atmosphere or quivering like arrows in the resonant and empty area of a spacious, crisply frozen, pure morning; as soon as I heard the rumble of the first tramcar, I could tell whether it was sodden with rain or setting forth into the blue. And perhaps these sounds had themselves been forestalled by some swifter and more pervasive emanation which, stealing into my slumber, diffused in it a melancholy that seemed to presage snow, or gave utterance (through the lips of a little person who occasionally reappeared there) to so many hymns to the glory of the sun that, having first of all begun to smile in my sleep, having prepared my eyes, behind their shut lids, to be dazzled, I awoke finally amid deafening strains of music. (The Captive).......Sometimes nature imagery inspires Marcel in regard to his plan to become a writer. Here is an example.I used to dream that Mme. de Guermantes, taking a sudden capricious fancy for myself, invited me there, that all day long she stood fishing for trout by my side. And when evening came, holding my hand in her own, as we passed by the little gardens of her vassals, she would point out to me the flowers that leaned their red and purple spikes along the tops of the low walls, and would teach me all their names. She would make me tell her, too, all about the poems that I meant to compose. And these dreams reminded me that, since I wished, some day, to become a writer, it was high time to decide what sort of books I was going to write. (Swann's Way)Dramatic Irony
.......Readers of À la recherche du temps perdu will discover many instances of dramatic irony in the novel. For example, the Verdurins and their followers are unaware of how foolish they appear as they pursue social ascendancy. Meanwhile, the Guermantes and other members of the upper classes are unaware that they are living in a world of degeneration and decline. Even the astute Swann is a victim of his own ignorance in regard to Odette's history of reprehensible behavior.
Study Questions and Writing Topics
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