Well into Babette’s sumptuous meal, General Loewenhielm makes a speech that captures the story’s main theme. In this celebratory feast, he says, “righteousness and bliss shall kiss one another.” By this he seems to mean that spirituality can be achieved in this world as well as in the next and that spirituality may be closely related to human pleasure without lapsing into sinfulness.
In dedicating their lives to spirituality, Martine, Philippa, and the other members of the sect have denied themselves the wonders and delights of this world. For example, both Martine and her sister have forsaken excellent chances for earthly romance. Martine’s spurned lover, Loewenhielm, is more than a victim of her rigorous self-denial. According to a legend in his family, another Loewenhielm married “a female mountain spirit of Norway,” thereby gaining “second sight.” When Loewenhielm met Martine during his youth, she appeared to him to be the embodiment of the family legend and suddenly “there rose before his eyes a sudden, mighty vision of a higher and purer life.” Frightened by this possibility, Loewenhielm felt uncharacteristically inadequate in Martine’s presence, so he returned to France, where he chose worldly pleasures and advancement over “second sight.” He then rose as a military and court figure until his chance return to Norway for the feast in 1883.
Anticipating seeing Martine again, the now aging Loewenhielm is plagued...
(The entire section is 461 words.)