Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 223
Mad Shadows displays a turbulent family dynamic—one characterized by a mother’s obsession with her son; by a daughter’s resentment of her mother and jealousy of her brother; and by a son’s undeniable beauty and lack of intelligence.
Physical beauty (and to a lesser extent wealth) drives the conflict between the main characters. Louise is overly and somewhat erotically consumed with her son Patrice’s beauty and does not recognize his mental dependency as an issue. Isabelle Marie is quite unattractive; consequently, she is neglected by her mother which causes resentment and envy to boil within her, driving her ruinous nature.
Later, Louise is attracted to the gorgeous Lanz. Louise’s love for Lanz causes her to neglect Patrice who, in order to win back his mother’s attention, kills Lanz. Isabelle Marie marries Michael, who is blind. Once Michael regains his sight, he realizes Isabelle Marie is ugly and leaves her and their daughter.
Many situations in Mad Shadows seek to illustrate how beauty influences the world, albeit somewhat excessively. The novel is an amoral tale that demonstrates how love is a superficial thing, limited by fixations on beauty and wealth. Mad Shadows could be viewed as a social commentary that cautions society against its own follies.
Themes could include love, beauty, self-interest, family, violence, and destruction, among others.
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