Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 344
Themes in The Passion include various kinds of love, the horror of war, and the magic of the world that affects the characters.
There are two major loves experienced by Villanelle, who is one of the main characters in the novel. The first is for the Queen of Spades. It is a romantic, passionate love that completely consumes her life. Villanelle literally loses her heart to her. It is a love that causes her to be unable to love anyone else the same way. However, she also loves Henri, and he loves her. They escape from Napoleon's army together and travel from Russia to Italy. He steals her heart back and helps her murder her ex-husband to keep her safe. They have a child together. Still, Villanelle is so taken by her love for The Queen that she refuses to marry Henri even after she gets pregnant with their child.
The horror of war is another major theme in the book. Henri sees many of his friends and fellow workers killed in Napoleon's army. Even when they make advances, they lose people, and nothing ever seems to change for the better. This is why he, Villanelle, and Patrick eventually escape the army in Russia to make a better life in Italy even as the Russian winter kills Napoleon's plans. This does not work for anyone, however. Patrick dies on the way, and Henri's eventual fate mirrors that of Napoleon; he is imprisoned for life on an island after committing murder.
The magic of the world is another theme. Spirits appear quite frequently, including the spirit of Patrick after his death, who appears to Henri when he is in jail. Henri also sees the spirit of his mother. Villanelle is able to walk on water with her webbed feet, which is the result of her being the daughter of an Italian boatman. When Henri explores Venice, Jeanette Winterson describes the city as if it is living and ever-changing. Henri has to journey to steal Villanelle's heart back from the woman she was in love with.
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