(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

The young Chevalier des Grieux, a student of philosophy in Amiens, becomes friendly with a fellow student named Tiberge. One day, he stands idly with his friend and watches the arrival of the Arras coach. Among the passengers is a beautiful young woman, who attracts the chevalier’s attention. Politely introducing himself, he learns that her name is Manon Lescaut and that she has come to Amiens under the protection of an elderly man. Against her will, she is to enter a convent. She accepts the chevalier’s offer to set her free from that fate, and after skillfully and untruthfully disposing of her escort, she accompanies the young student to an inn. They plan to flee to Paris the next day. Tiberge argues with his friend against this folly, but the chevalier is hopelessly infatuated. In Paris, he and Manon take a furnished apartment, where for three weeks they are absorbed in each other.

The idyll ends when the young lover discovers that his mistress has also bestowed her affections on Monsieur de B——. The chevalier’s love for Manon is so great, however, that he forgives her. Then three lackeys, sent by the chevalier’s father, come to the apartment and take the young man home. There his father tries in vain to persuade him that Manon has behaved treacherously. Finally, the father locks his son in his room for six weeks. During this time, Tiberge visits him, bringing him news that Manon is being kept at the expense of Monsieur de B——. Tiberge persuades the young man to enroll at the Seminary of Saint-Supplice as a student of theology. With his father’s permission, he enters the school and becomes an outstanding student. Manon is present to hear his declamation at the public disputation at the Sorbonne, and after the ceremonies she visits him. A single passionate embrace makes him forget his future in the Church. The chevalier escapes from his school without money, and Manon furnishes the funds for them to set up quarters at Chaillot, outside Paris.

Then begins a life of extravagance and riotous living far beyond their slender means. In Paris, they meet Manon’s brother, Monsieur Lescaut, of the Royal Guards, who does not scruple to install himself in their house. When a fire destroys all of their money and possessions, the brother suggests that Manon sell her charms to some freehanded nobleman. The chevalier rejects this proposal but consents to become a professional gambler to support Manon. He borrows enough money from Tiberge to begin his career as a card cheat. For a time his luck holds, but their period of prosperity ends when a maid and a valet flee with all the valuable possessions of the new household. Urged by her brother, Manon consents to become the mistress of the old and wealthy Monsieur de G—— M——, who had promised her a...

(The entire section is 1138 words.)