Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

“The Suicide Club” is an interesting representative of the so-called sensational fiction of the nineteenth century, in which peculiar circumstances and exciting action sometimes replaced narrative and psychological realism. As a result, the story lacks some of the more intensely conceived ideas and themes that mark other, perhaps more serious, fiction in the period. In this story, one recurrent idea appears in all three sections as a unifying motif: the idea of personal honor. Florizel’s situation, as Geraldine frequently reminds him, requires that the prince consider not only his own interest but also the interest of Bohemia, the throne of which he is to inherit.

In the exciting events of the story, the prince is thus constantly placing himself at risk, and he seems to depend on his wit, strength, and honor to defend him. In the first and third parts, however, the prince is actually in danger of sacrificing his life for the sake of his honor, the result being that his personal virtue will remain intact, although his country will then be without a fitting successor to the crown. Geraldine, as the active partner in this relationship, is always having to place his own interest and safety at the disposal of the prince. As the story develops, one may reasonably ask whether the continual reference to and discussion of honor is not a device by which the author ironically points out the ephemerality of honor in the kind of extreme behavior that the prince both confronts and represents.