Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


*Paris. Capital of France. In the worldview of the roman feuilleton, Paris is not a city but rather the city—the archetype of modern civilization. As well as providing a rich spectrum of individual settings for the plot, Paris is, in a sense, the main character in the story: both a human hive buzzing with progressive industry and a cauldron of corruption in which civilization is coming to the boil.


Mint. Network of narrow streets, profusely supplied with dens of vice, distributed between the Palais de Justice and Notre Dame Cathedral (the principal landmark of Paris-set popular fiction, thanks to Victor Hugo). It is here, in the “White Rabbit” in the rue aux Fèves, that Eugène Sue’s story begins with the symbolic meeting of several not-so-distinct worlds, represented by various exemplary characters whose fates are inextricably entangled. The heavy irony which Sue deploys in naming his characters (such as La Chouette—the Screech-Owl—and the Schoolmaster), drinking-dens featured (such as the Bleeding Heart and the Dredger’s Arms), and imaginary streets (such as the Allée des Veuves—Widows’ Alley—and Brasserie Passage) echoes a tacit irony in certain real Parisian place-names, which he gleefully appropriates, especially the Champs Élysées [Elysian Fields].


Bouqueval (bew-kay-val). Village outside Paris, east of the woodlands surrounding the Château Ecouen. It functions within Sue’s scheme as the great city’s humble antithesis, a kind of rustic paradise. It is the site of the farm in which Rudolph establishes La Goualeuse after...

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(Great Characters in Literature)

Atkinson, Nora. Eugène Sue et le roman-feuilleton. Paris: A. Nizet & M. Bastard, 1929. In the absence of any in-depth study in English, this is perhaps the most useful French source.

Chaunu, Pierre. Eugène Sue et la seconde république. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1948. A compact study of Sue’s life and works.

James, Louis. Fiction for the Working Man 1830-1850. New York: Oxford University Press, 1963. The Mysteries of Paris and other Sue works are discussed in chapter 8, “Fiction from America and France.”

Palmer, Jerry. Thrillers: Genesis and Structure of a Popular Genre. London: Edward Arnold, 1978. The Mysteries of Paris is discussed in part 3, subsection 3, in “The Literary Origins of the Thriller.”