How does the relationship between Therese and Bernard affect the flow of the novel?

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François Mauriac offers a portrait of a very unhappy marriage. As the events unfold, the reader learns how miserable both husband and wife have become. Although the novel opens at a critical juncture in their marriage, as Thérèse has been accused of poisoning her husband, the author also pays attention...

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François Mauriac offers a portrait of a very unhappy marriage. As the events unfold, the reader learns how miserable both husband and wife have become. Although the novel opens at a critical juncture in their marriage, as Thérèse has been accused of poisoning her husband, the author also pays attention to events that occurred before the point when she contemplated, or actually attempted, poisoning the man who made her so miserable. Both husband and wife have strong personalities, but Bernard is too haughty and proud to see Thérèse’s point of view. He embodies the patriarchal ideals of elite, regional French society.

After his wife tried to kill him, Bernard might have acknowledged that they are incompatible. Instead, he imagines that he can save face by controlling her every move and prohibiting her from having any social life. Thérèse becomes a prisoner rather than a wife. The period she spends shut up in the house has a timeless quality, as the days are basically the same. The harshness and futility of his plan make it likely to fail because he had not considered obligations that his cherished social position will demand. Once Thérèse is seen in public in her deteriorated condition, Bernard is forced to make a change. The event of the engagement party prompts the ensuing turn of events that leads to her freedom.

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