Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 579
Héloïse is a gothic tale. In it, the author builds up to the situation human beings fear most: the defeat of good by evil. The author cleverly intensifies the horror of her story by using a coldly indifferent observer as the narrator. The effect is also heightened by the fact that the novel is set primarily in two enclosed places. One of them is the sinister, unoccupied apartment described in the short first chapter. The other is the Paris metro system, with its network of underground passages.
As the second chapter begins, two young lovers, Christine and Bernard, are celebrating their engagement at the country house of Christine’s parents. Their future seems secure. Bernard has given up poetry in order to study law; Christine is a ballet student. They are deeply in love. By offering to pay their expenses while they complete their studies, Christine’s parents have made an immediate marriage possible. On their trip home, the lovers are blissfully happy.
However, after Christine gets off the metro, Bernard hears a woman singing. After a brief breakdown underground, Bernard notices that a beautiful, pale woman is staring at him. She leaves with a man who seems to have asthma. After his law lecture, Bernard meets Christine, but he keeps looking for the stranger. Finally he does catch a glimpse of her, and he hears her companion call her “Héloïse.” When Bernard and Christine arrive at the apartment the two of them chose together, he insists on canceling the lease. The next day, Bernard and Christine begin looking for another place to live. Passing himself off as a rental agent, Héloïse’s companion, Xavier Bottereau, takes them to the apartment described at the beginning of the novel. Despite Christine’s protests, Bernard insists on renting it.
Though Bernard no longer loves Christine, he goes ahead with the wedding. Bernard is so happy in the apartment that he refuses to leave it. Worried, Christine persuades him to go with her to visit her aunt. However, at a stop on the metro, Bernard hears Héloïse singing and jumps out, leaving Christine behind, and to his delight, Héloïse sets up a nighttime meeting at the Jardin des Plantes. The night of their assignation, Christine has scheduled a housewarming party; however, Bernard walks out. When Héloïse appears, he notices that she looks well-fed; the author has just informed us that one of the fawns in the nearby animal enclosures has been bled dry. Héloïse does not linger long with Bernard, but she assures Bottereau that she still intends to complete her task. Back at their apartment, Christine tells Bernard that he must see a doctor. Meanwhile, until they move, she will be living with a friend.
Two nights later, Héloïse appears, embraces Bernard, slashes his throat, and drinks his blood. However, she spares his life. In the hospital, Bernard finally realizes that Héloïse is evil, that his only hope of life lies in allegiance to Christine. Once again, Héloïse promises Bottereau that she will acquire Bernard; in turn, Bottereau offers to take care of Christine. When Bernard returns to the apartment, he finds Christine’s body, her throat slashed, and he goes to the metro, planning to shoot Héloïse. However, his will is broken. He joins her, Bottereau, and Christine in the unfeeling company of the dead and the damned.