(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

A mighty syndicate of financiers wishes to exploit the untouched deposits of oil under the streets of Paris, and they ignore humanity, beauty, and truth in the process. The free souls of Paris oppose the men and eventually triumph by literally removing the syndicate from the scene.

On one side are the President, the Prospector, the Baron, the Press Agent, the Broker, and the Ladies of the Street. On the other side are the Waiter, the Little Man, the Street Singer, the Flower Girl, the Shoelace Peddler, the Ragpicker, and other folk. In the middle, and significantly devoted to the gentle souls, is the Madwoman of Chaillot, aided by her compatriots, the Madwomen of Passy, St. Sulpice, and La Concorde. The capitalistic forces function as well-oiled machinery; they are devoid of characteristics that set them apart or elicit for them the least bit of empathic reaction. The people of Paris are all recognizable types, but each possesses some quality of individuality.

The Madwoman encounters the President, the Baron, the Prospector, and the Broker at a sidewalk café in the Chaillot district. Her friends are all aware that something terrible is afoot and inform her of the plot to drill for oil beneath the streets. The Prospector sends his agent with a bomb to destroy the city architect, the only obstacle to the drilling. Pierre, the young assassin, is rescued by the Policeman as he is about to throw himself into the river rather than carry out his task. He is revived and convinced by the Madwoman that life is really worth living.

It is apparent to the Madwoman that the only way to combat the materialistic...

(The entire section is 669 words.)