What are the main ideas, plot, characters, and message of Les Belles-sœurs by Michel Tremblay?

Les Belles-sœurs by Michel Tremblay centers on a stamp-pasting gathering hosted by Germaine Lauzon and comments on ideas like jealousy, betrayal, entitlement, generational conflicts, class distinctions, ambition, and religion. The characters are presented as having inner thoughts that do not match their words but that influence their attitudes and behavior.

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The plot of Michel Tremblay's play Les Belles-sœurs is simple, yet it allows for plenty of ideas and character development. Germaine Lauzon, a working-class woman in Quebec, has won a million trading stamps that must be pasted into stamp books before they can be traded for merchandise to decorate her home. Germaine calls thirteen other women to help her paste the stamps, and her younger sister Pierrette also shows up (uninvited), making a party of fifteen. Several of the women, who are supposedly friends of Germaine, are extremely jealous of Germaine's good luck, and they begin to steal her stamps, at first little by little but by the end quite openly. Germaine finally realizes what is going on and is devastated by her friends' betrayal.

Through this simple plot, the play explores ideas like jealousy, betrayal, and entitlement. Many of the women present feel that they are more deserving of the stamps than Germaine, so they fail to be happy for their friend and actually ruin her happiness in the end. The play also looks at generational differences. The oldest woman present is in her eighties; the youngest are Germaine's daughter and her friends. The younger women question the customs and ideas of their elders while the older women look down upon the younger and criticize them.

The play further comments on class distinctions and ambition. All of the women belong to the working class, but some are desperately trying to move upward socially. Lisette de Courval, for instance, tries to speak "proper" French rather than the women's dialect, and she pretends to be wealthy when she really is not. What's more, the play deals with religious issues. These women all claim to be religious and are quick to express their claims externally. Yet they also allow their envy to control them, and many of them even steal Germaine's stamps, showing that their faith has not much influenced their attitudes or behavior.

The play's main character is Germaine Lauzon, and she is joined by fourteen other women, including her daughter, Linda, and her sister Pierrette. Each of these women has her own set of hang-ups and stresses. Pierette, for instance, works at a nightclub, and many of the other women look down on her for it. Rose Ouimet is highly unhappy with her husband. Thérèse Dubuc chafes under the stress of caring for her mother-in-law. Des-Neiges Verrette is having an affair with a traveling salesman.

The message of Les Belles Soeurs may well be that appearances do not always match reality. Each of the women in the story has an inner life that does not correspond with her words but that often drives her attitudes and actions.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on
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