Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


Clarens. Fictional estate of Monsieur de Wolmar, located in Switzerland. Clarens is a rational utopia based on Monsieur de Wolmar’s philosophical ideas. It is isolated and has no political or social connections to any exterior groups or institutions. Wolmar leads the little community assembled there with benevolent paternal authority. Life at Clarens is the ideal life admired by the economically ordered middle class. Order and reasonableness are the bases for all activity and for relationships between people. Clarens is imbued with happiness, order, and peace based on devotion to virtue. The Julie whom the reader meets at Clarens is a different Julie than the passionate young woman of the early parts of the novel. She is a model of virtue and marital fidelity. Julie de Wolmar, wife and mother, is the center of life at Clarens, where there are no disquieting thoughts or happenings. Reason and religion exist in harmony in the little community. Although Wolmar is not a believer, he respects and encourages religious devotion.

Clarens is also a place for healing. It is the scene of Wolmar’s great experiment. In this idyllic setting, where reason and virtue reign supreme, Saint-Preux is to be cured of his passion. The husband, the wife, and the lover are to live in harmony founded on virtue. Reason is to prevail and devotion to virtue is to be the guide. However, Saint-Preux’s presence changes Clarens. Clarens is little by...

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