The Charterhouse of Parma

by Marie-Henri Beyle

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Last Updated on September 5, 2023, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 315

The Charterhouse of Parma is a novel about a young Fabrizio del Dongo, son of a nobleman who grows up on Lake Como in the lake district of Italy. He decides he wants to become a soldier in the French army and so travels north with a false passport, and the only only money that he has are the diamonds that Gina, his aunt, gave to him.

He is apprehended once, but his charms allow him to be released, despite his imperfect French. He finds himself fighting in the famous Battle of Waterloo, with only a horse he purchased en route. A general whose horse has fallen takes Fabrizio’s, and, while on foot, Fabrizio kills a Prussian soldier. The novel then follows his aunt,Gina (his father’s sister), as she accepts the advances of Count Mosca. This young Count convinces Gina to marry a wealthy man whose prolonged absence as a politician allows her to carry on with Mosca in the court of the Prince of Parma. Fabrizio encounters a girl, Clelia, and her father who are traveling to Milan when he is arrested on false passport charges. Fabrizio gives them a ride, when, after their arrest, they are compelled to walk. Gina sends Fabrizio to a theological seminar in Naples, but this calling is not enough to distract him from falling for an actress, Marietta. In an accident of mistaken intentions, Fabrizio kills Marietta and escapes from Parma. Nevertheless, he is apprehended and sentenced to imprisonment in Parma’s Farnese Tower. Gina finally sneaks him out, but the jailer’s daughter, Clelia, becomes Fabrizio’s new love interest. Back in Parma, Fabrizio is appointed archbishop and is a popular preacher. Clelia takes a wealthy husband, but eventually takes Fabrizio as a lover and has his child. Both soon die, and Fabrizio lives a quiet, retired life at the titular Charterhouse of Parma.

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