Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


*Paris. France’s capital city is the setting for the major part of the novel. Marivaux’s novel examines the life available to a woman in the eighteenth century, when Paris was the center of society. All rules of social conduct and moral values were developed there and imitated elsewhere. Paris is definitely the place for Marianne’s life to unfold. The story deals in a conventional manner with aristocratic society, which was the proper subject of novels at the time. Marianne gravitates toward this society. Although her origins are cloaked in mystery, she has a strong sense that her unknown parents were members of the upper class. By chance and good fortune, Marianne finds herself included in this society. Thus, Marivaux’s novel conforms to the dictates of other novels of the period. As an observer and recorder of human experience, Marivaux was, however, intrigued by those who were not members of the aristocracy and took great pleasure in creating characters from other social milieus.

By setting his novel in Paris, Marivaux also affords himself the opportunity of including characters from other classes. His aristocrats and Marianne herself interact with the shopkeepers, coach drivers, and various other people of the city in such a way that Marivaux creates a wonderful panorama of characters not found in other novels of the period. At the shop where Marianne is employed for a short time, the reader meets the merchant Madame Dutour, a character almost as...

(The entire section is 611 words.)


(Great Characters in Literature)

Greene, E. J. H. Marivaux. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1965. Detailed, sensitive reading of The Life of Marianne, examining Marivaux’s artistic intentions, his handling of characterization, his adroit use of sentimentalism, and his hardheaded analysis of a corrupt society. Speculates on reasons the novel was never finished.

Haac, Oscar A. Marivaux. New York: Twayne, 1974. General survey of the writer’s achievements. Discusses The Life of Marianne as an early example of the psychological novel. Pays special attention to Marivaux’s development of major characters in the work.

Jamieson, Ruth Kirby. Marivaux: A Study in Sensibility. New York: Octagon Books, 1969. Examines The Life of Marianne as one of the works that reveals Marivaux’s contributions to the “novel of sensibility”; contrasts it with the extremely sentimental works of some of his contemporaries. Asserts that Marivaux balances reason and emotion in telling his story.

Laden, Marie-Paule. Self-Imitation in the Eighteenth-Century Novel. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1987. Extended analysis of The Life of Marianne focuses on Marivaux’s handling of narrative voice. Explains how he gives emotional and moral perspective to Marianne’s adventures by having the heroine serve as both protagonist and commentator, since she writes as an older woman about her life as a younger ingenue.

Rosbottom, Ronald C. Marivaux’s Novels: Theme and Function in European Eighteenth Century Narrative. Rutherford, N.J.: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1974. Devotes two chapters to an analysis of The Life of Marianne. Focuses on the accommodations Marianne must make to succeed in society and the limits beyond which she cannot compromise her principles.