Themes and Meanings
The main theme is the triumph of love and innocence in an elegantly corrupt world. Despite her careful upbringing in demimonde decadence, Gigi prefers the integrity of possibly penurious but bourgeois virtue to a richly compensated promiscuity, only to gain love, money, and respectability. Incredible? Yes. Beguiling? Also, yes.
The double surprise of both the man and the woman finding themselves in love and willing to marry is beautifully fashioned as the compact climax and resolution of a tautly controlled and tightly written short novel. Colette concentrates on quickly establishing her world’s turn-of-the-century manners and morals. Dialogue dominates; descriptions are employed only to promote the plot; and the tone is mordantly witty and biting for the sisters, exuberantly bubbly for Gigi.
Another, underlying theme also deserves notice, that of advice, which pervades many of Colette’s works. Advice becomes the agenda of Gigi, with both grandmother and great-aunt showering the girl with sententious, often sound, directions as they supervise her maturation. Madame Alvarez, faced with their apparent failure as guardians, cannot resist the sally, “You’ll never be able to say you didn’t have good advice, and the very best at that.” Her older sister sagely stops her: “Don’t meddle any more. Can’t you see she is way beyond us?” The child’s instincts have proved wiser than her protectors’ knowledge. Gigi is a parable on the nature of love, whose wisdom cannot be taught.