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Last Updated on August 6, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 550

The Nun (originally published in French as La Religieuse) by Denis Diderot is about a young woman sent to a convent to become a nun. It was written in 1760 and published in 1796.

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The novel is written in the form of a request for help to the Marquis de Croismare. Suzanne is a talented musician and singer who lives with her parents and two sisters. They're comfortable, and Suzanne's father is a lawyer, but she feels her parents don't love her as much as her sisters. When her sisters' suitors show interest in Suzanne instead of her sisters, her parents decide to send her to a convent. Suzanne isn't happy about it; however, she believes that it's a temporary situation and that she'll be sent home soon.

As time goes by, she realizes that everyone's actual intention is for her to become a nun. She realizes that she's not going to be allowed to say no when she tries and is refused. Suzanne agrees to go through the process and, at the end of it, says no to the vows she'd have to take to officially become a nun.

Later, she finds out the reason she's being forced into becoming a nun is that her mother had an affair and she's the product of that affair. Father Seraphin at the convent says she has to become a nun to help her mother be forgiven and that she still has to keep the affair a secret.

Suzanne still doesn't want to become a nun. Her mother tries to convince her that she must do so and points out that no one will be able to marry her because she doesn't have a dowry and no one will let her give up her inheritance. The only option, according to her mother, is for Suzanne to become a nun or tell her husband that she's illegitimate.

When Suzanna agrees and goes to the convent at Longchamp, she becomes the favorite of the mother superior. This keeps life at the convent happy; unfortunately, the mother superior dies and things take a turn for the worst. The new mother superior thinks Suzanna contributed to the insanity of her predecessor that led to her death.

She's tortured by the new mother superior and ignored by the other nuns. They lock her in her bedroom, don't allow her to have clothing, and make her walk over broken glass. Suzanne is close to death when she's finally allowed to transfer to a new convent, thanks to the efforts of a lawyer working to help her stop being a nun.

The new convent sees her once against favored by the mother superior; she's a lesbian who's attracted to Suzanne, though Suzanne doesn't realize it even when the mother superior slips into her bed and caresses her or kisses her neck and part of her breasts. Once Suzanne finally escapes the convent, she's placed in a brothel that she has to escape. She finds a job and contacts a member of the peerage for help getting out of her situation. She's waiting on a reply and hoping he can help her find a good and respectable job when she stops writing. Letters between the lawyer and the Marquis at the end of the novel indicate that she fell ill and died.

Summary

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 931

Suzanne Simonin is one of the three daughters of M. and Mme Simonin; throughout her childhood and adolescence, her parents prefer her sisters although Suzanne is superior to them in every respect. When it is time for marriages to be arranged for the sisters, Suzanne is preferred by the suitors. However, when she tells her mother of the attention paid to her, she is sent off to a convent.

At first, Suzanne thinks that she is to remain in the convent just until her two sisters are married. Then, Father Séraphin visits her and explains that her parents have decided that she will become a nun. Suzanne objects but is convinced by the mother superior to begin her novitiate. During this time, Suzanne is very well treated, but on her second day she sees an apparently...

(The entire section contains 1481 words.)

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