Form and Content

(Masterpieces of Women's Literature)

Gigi is Colette’s fairy tale of a young girl who grows up and marries her Prince Charming. Like the stereotypical fairy-tale princess, Gigi becomes the wife of a “prince” at the end of the story and will presumably live happily ever after; unlike the pristine storybook characters, Gigi is surrounded by sexual innuendo of which she is highly conscious. Indeed, she becomes the recipient of an indecent proposal herself before she takes control, shifting the balance of power away from others and into her own hands.

It is no surprise that Gigi has translated so well to the stage and screen. The novella is composed largely of dialogue revealing the interaction between people rather than the private thoughts and interior journey that usually constitute the focus of the novel. Because of this, Colette’s novella is sometimes called superficial; however, the conversations not only explore social customs and values but also reveal how off-center the customs and practices of this particular family of courtesans are. These women speak their minds to one another. They talk honestly and without euphemism so that the reader is able to become part of a web of relationships that centers on planning the future of Gigi.

As a family friend, called Tonton (“uncle”) by Gigi, Gaston Lachaille is charmed and amused by Gigi, who speaks without guile. It is through their repartee that he becomes enamored of her; it is what he does not say...

(The entire section is 580 words.)


(Masterpieces of Women's Literature)

Gigi is not a fairy tale for children. It is a book about the potency of women’s sexuality and is replete with sexual metaphor. The matriarchal fortress serves to protect Gigi’s virginity: “Don’t get to know the families of your school friends, especially not the fathers who wait at the gates to fetch their daughters home from school.” When Gaston innocently offers to take Gigi skating, Madame Alvarez forbids it, explaining that Gigi will be perceived by society to have been compromised. Gigi is told to “keep your knees close to each other, and lean both of them together,” but she complains that it is too uncomfortable and that she would rather have her skirts lengthened because “with my skirts too short, I have to keep thinking of my you-know-what.” Madame Alvarez explains that if Gigi’s skirts were longer people would perceive her to be older and that would ruin her mother’s career. In other words, her mother is still singing in the chorus not because of her great talent but because she is believed to be sexually vital. Although Gigi is still a virgin, she playfully asks Gaston to bring her “an eau-de-nil Persephone corset with rococo roses embroidered on the garters.” Gigi, who was expected to be virginal nevertheless, was reared to be acutely aware of her sexuality. As Madame Alvarez instructed her, “You can, at a pinch, leave the face till the morning, when traveling or pressed for time. For a woman, attention to the lower parts is the first law of self-respect.” A classmate of Gigi’s is given a solitaire by a baron. Her grandmother immediately understands what this implies and forbids Gigi to remain her friend. Gigi has been made to know that the sexual power of women can be their most important asset. She considers falling into the trap set by the generations of women in her family but is saved from having to repeat history when Gaston asks her to marry him. At once, she has also saved her family and becomes their new matriarch, their heroine. Her potential for self-fulfillment becomes the happy ending.

Literary Techniques

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Gigi was Colette's adieu to fiction; she never wrote another story. The work, done when the author was nearly seventy, returns in its...

(The entire section is 304 words.)

Related Titles

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Gigi is set in "the period of the early Claudines; Colette has returned to her point of departure," comments Elaine Marks. There is no...

(The entire section is 83 words.)


(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

The first film adaptation of Gigi, released in 1948, was written by Pierre Larouche, with dialogue by Colette. Several characters are...

(The entire section is 242 words.)


(Great Characters in Literature)

Cotrell, Robert D. Colette. New York: Frederick Ungar, 1974. Contrell provides a thorough biography of Colette and undertakes the task of applying her life to her various works. He also studies the symbols and tendencies prevalent in these works.

Lottman, Herbert. Colette. Boston: Little, Brown, 1991. Lottman’s biography is an informative account of Colette’s rise to fame and her life among the international set. Contains rare photographs of Colette’s family.

Richardson, Joanna. Colette. New York: Franklin Watts, 1984. A comprehensive and well-researched book that studies the life and work of Colette in a most factual and methodical way.

Stewart, Joan Hinde. Colette. Boston: Twayne, 1983. Stewart sees Colette’s theme as the shift of power away from men to women. Gigi is about a young woman who creates a new world where love is important, destroying an old order where sexuality was a commercial commodity.

Ward Jouve, Nicole. Colette. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1987. Ward Jouve discusses the theories of psychiatrist Sigmund Freud in relation to Colette’s female characters and looks at the writer’s singular contribution to the small list of women writers who, she claims, are neglected in school curricula.