Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
When Germinie Lacerteux is left an orphan at the age of four, her sisters take care of her. At the age of fourteen, she is sent to Paris to live with an older sister who has settled with her husband in the city. Not wishing to pay for all the expenses of the child from their own meager income, the sister and her husband find Germinie a job as a waitress in a café. She has been working in the café for several months when she becomes pregnant. Germinie suffers many indignities at the hands of her relatives because she will not tell them that she has been raped by one of the waiters; they think she must have invited seduction. Her child is born dead, and giving birth almost kills Germinie. Finally, a retired actor takes pity on her and hires her as a maid and companion. For Germinie, this is a step up in the world, but the old actor dies within a few months. Germinie then fills a host of positions as maid to kept women and boarding school mistresses.
One day, Mademoiselle de Varandeuil’s maid dies suddenly. Through the influence of her sister, Germinie is given the position. Mademoiselle de Varandeuil is an old maid whose father prevented her from being anything but a servant to him until his death, so that she now has few friends and acquaintances. Other members of her family have died, and she is an old woman. She has a sufficient income to live fairly comfortably, but she cannot afford many extravagances. In her old age, she needs someone to look...
(The entire section is 1246 words.)
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