Le roman pistolaire caract rise ses personnages par leur maniement du langage Essay example

Submitted By Edward-Horner
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“Le roman épistolaire caractérise ses personnages par leur maniement du langage, par ce qu'ils en attendent et par la façon dont ils se laissent entraîner par les mots.” Discuss with reference to Les Liaisons Dangereuses.
The epistolary novel was seen, up until Laclos’ Les Liaisons Dangereuses, as a mainly mono-vocal form of literature. The epistolary novel allowed the reader to imagine the events being described, and, in some cases, the replies of other (unheard) characters in the narrative. However, in Les Liaisons Dangereuses, Laclos creates an intricate web of letters, sent between multiple persons, each with their own knowledge of the events which are purported to occur within the narrative. This approach to the epistolary novel also affords Laclos the luxury of allowing the reader to create the text, in that we can make up our own minds about the characters’ actions, and their personalities than if the text was merely mono-vocal. If the only letters which the reader was permitted to see were those of Cécile to Danceny, we would gain a very coloured, and thoroughly incomplete version of events. The introduction of multiple points of narration also avoids the necessary repetition or obvious omission of important information pertaining to the narrative. However, Laclos can now overcome this stylistic obstacle by merely stating (in the guise of the ‘Rédacteur’) that a letter has been lost, or deemed unnecessary for the reader’s understanding of the story. Indeed, he explains in letter VII how “Pour ne pas abuser de la patience du lecteur, on supprime beaucoup de lettres de cette correspondance journalière.” In this way the epistolary novel is capable of subverting the expectations of the reader as well of the characters. The language of the character (or characters) in a traditional epistolary novel must always be in doubt, especially in the mono-vocal tradition of writing, as the reader can have no information about the writer of the letters, or the circumstances in which they were written other than that which the writer himself reveals. In Les Liaisons Dangereuses however, we can see how the writers of certain letters compose them, and in one infamous case (that of letter XLVIII), where and how they are written. In this way the novel (or collection as the ‘Rédacteur’ would have us believe) is extremely self-reflexive. If we consider Madame de Merteuil’s letter to Cécile in which she instructs her how to write a proper letter “Vous voyez bien que, quand vous écrivez a quelqu'un, c'est pour lui et non pas pour vous: vous devez donc moins chercher à lui dire ce que vous pensez, que ce qui lui plait davantage.” Here we gain an insight into both the personalities of Merteuil and Cécile, an insight which in a traditional novel, or a mono-vocal epistolary novel, would have had to have been laboriously explained or merely overlooked, and the reader left to make up their own opinion about the motives of the writer. The epistolary novel as Laclos presents it however, allows language to become the focus of the characters’ personalities. Everything the reader, and the other characters knows about them or how they view them, is a direct result of their manipulation of language, and how they use it to control the other characters. Valmont’s letter to La Présidente de Tourvel seems like merely another letter professing his love for her, until we learn in his letter to the Marquise de Merteuil that he wrote it whilst not only in bed with the courtesan, Emilie, but whilst using her back as his writing desk. This information, which would normally have been unknown to the reader, adds an entirely new level of sadism and arrogance to Valmont’s character, and the wordplays which he employs throughout the letter (using ‘elle’ to refer to the “pupitre” and also Emilie) become apparent, and permit the reader a deeper insight into the depths of the depravity Valmont and Merteuil inhabit. Tourvel however has no knowledge of these