After their first carnal union, Saint-Preux writes to Julie, "Have you not followed nature's purest laws? Have you not entered freely into the holiest of engagements?" (Julie; or, The New Heloise, part 1, letter 31) and suggests that all they have to do is get married officially. What representation of nature and "natural" love does this development imply? And can we say that Rousseau's novel validates this representation? Do we find the same representation of nature and carnal love in the novels The Story of the Chevalier des Grieux and Manon Lescaut by Prévost and Dangerous Liaisons by Laclos?

Julie and Saint-Preux's view that they are married in the eyes of heaven implies that society is corrupt in trying to thwart the natural desires of the young lovers.

Expert Answers

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One of the most interesting elements of Julie, or the New Heloise is that the young lovers do not consider their sexual relationship in any way immoral. Because their union is marked by love rather than pure lust, the two view themselves as married in spirit, if not in the eyes of God. That the state and the church do not recognize them as married only serves to show the corruption of society, especially in regards to its relationship with the individual.

In general, Rousseau believed that society corrupts the inherent goodness of human beings. For Julie and Saint-Preux, society is a prison designed to keep them apart for arbitrary reasons of class, since Julie is noble-born and Saint-Preux is a commoner. By following their hearts in being together until Julie is compelled to marry the suitor her parents have chosen for her, they are defying a system that serves to thwart humanity's natural desires. In fact, after marrying de Wolmar, Julie is eventually torn apart by her conflicting desire to be faithful in her official marriage and her desire to be faithful to her true love. Had she and Saint-Preux been allowed to marry by the social forces hanging overhead, such a conflict need not have occurred.

As for comparisons with the presentation of ideas regarding nature and sexual love in Dangerous Liasions and Manon Lescaut, Julie is more akin to the latter than the former. Dangerous Liaisons operates very much within social structures, even as its characters behave abominably by society's agreed-upon standards. Manon, like Julie, presents a man versus society narrative, and its society-defying lovers are shown in a sympathetic light. Even when the lovers in that novel seek to find legal union in New Orleans, society still deigns to keep them apart.

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