Places Discussed

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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 little transformed into the home of not only Julie de Wolmar but also Julie d’Etange. The utopia of reason is no longer viable; it is in danger of collapse. Clarens has been transformed from a place of healing and safety to a place of danger and disaster.

D’Etange estate

D’Etange estate (day-TAHNZH). Fictional place created by Rousseau. It is here that the passionate love affair between Julie and Saint-Preux begins. The family home is also the scene of Julie’s seduction by Saint-Preux and of her marriage to Monsieur de Wolmar.


*Paris. France’s capital city is the center of French society. Rousseau found never-ending fault with French manners and morals. Saint-Preux’s sojourn in Paris provides Rousseau with the opportunity to criticize and condemn this lifestyle, which he detested. In Paris, Saint-Preux discovers all sorts of vices and the most dissolute ways of living—the theater, gambling houses, illicit sexual activity. Rousseau devotes a considerable amount of his novel to castigating the French.

Nature settings

Nature settings. Woods, groves, lakes, mountains, gardens. Nature has a powerful effect on the characters. Their emotional states are always heightened by views of the natural world. Julie kisses Saint-Preux for the first time in the grove at the d’Etange estate. Saint-Preux writes in his letters to Julie of his intense pleasure in seeing the mountains.

Lake at Clarens

Lake at Clarens. Saint-Preux is tempted to kill himself and Julie on a sailing excursion. Rousseau foreshadows Julie’s death; she will sacrifice...

(The entire section contains 726 words.)

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Critical Essays