Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


*Paris. France’s capital city is an essential ingredient in the story of Chéri. In this novel, Colette creates a portrait of Paris in the early twentieth century. During that era, France enjoyed a time of prosperity, progress, and brilliant cultural achievements. Pleasure reigned, and the city was filled with cafés, cabarets, and music halls, as well as the famous Folies Bergère. The construction of the Eiffel Tower in 1889 seemed to inaugurate this period of peace and prosperity, becoming a symbol of Parisian accomplishment. In this atmosphere of gaiety, frivolity, and creativity, the different classes of Paris mixed together freely and amused themselves with a variety of entertainments. This free-spirited and imaginative period helped create the legend of the French as a race who loved life and knew how to enjoy it. Glamorous Parisian women piled their hair under huge, decorative hats and met with friends and lovers at fine restaurants for gourmet meals, gossip, and intrigue. A general atmosphere of liberality and leisure permitted largesse to be grandly lavished on expensive cocottes and handsome gigolos. Much of the appeal of this novel comes from its evocation of this elegant and hedonistic era. This era in France is remembered by Colette as a shimmering golden time before the onset of the problems of modernity, as demonstrated by World War I and its aftermath. It is in this period that Colette herself was a young woman, enjoying success as a writer and actress. Her novel is based on memories of the era that are both bitterly...

(The entire section is 640 words.)