Restless Heart opens near midnight in a rundown café. The stage is dominated by a bandstand, where Monsieur Tarde’s small, third-rate orchestra is finishing a set. The group is tense as they await the arrival of Florent France, a world-famous and very wealthy pianist, who has asked Thérèse, his mistress, to marry him. Monsieur and Madame Tarde are anxious about telling Gosta, the pianist, the news. Although Gosta has been Madame Tarde’s lover for thirteen years, he is in love with Thérèse. Because he has been drinking and has a terrible temper, they are afraid that he will ruin everything: Madame Tarde does not want to lose him, and Monsieur Tarde expects to take advantage of his daughter’s good fortune.
Thérèse is “la sauvage.” She accepts her sordid background, for it has determined who she is and what she understands of the world; she does not lie, and she does not pretend to be other than what she is. She loves Florent for his decency and goodness. He offers her marriage and happiness—a key thematic concept; however, she can accept his gift only by forgetting her past. Because Florent has always been wealthy and secure, he does not understand the effects of poverty upon the human soul. Florent’s friend Hartmann does, and he functions as an observer and interpreter of both worlds. He comments on the actions of the play and interprets their significance for the audience.
Act 1 depicts Thérèse’s sudden realization of the unbridgeable gap between her world and that of Florent, a recognition which has been suppressed by her love. Although it is the evening of her twentieth birthday and she is looking forward to Florent’s arrival at the café, her parents and Gosta become embroiled in a series of arguments, all centering on her betrothal and their place in her new life. Her parents are coarse, loud, and greedy. Gosta is drunk and angry. Through it all, Thérèse remains in control, seemingly untouched by the conflict. As Florent will say of her background, “It could have made...
(The entire section is 832 words.)