The Play

(Survey of Dramatic Literature)

Restless Heart opens near midnight in a rundown café. The stage is dominated by a bandstand, where Monsieur Tarde’s small, third-rate orchestra is finishing a set. The group is tense as they await the arrival of Florent France, a world-famous and very wealthy pianist, who has asked Thérèse, his mistress, to marry him. Monsieur and Madame Tarde are anxious about telling Gosta, the pianist, the news. Although Gosta has been Madame Tarde’s lover for thirteen years, he is in love with Thérèse. Because he has been drinking and has a terrible temper, they are afraid that he will ruin everything: Madame Tarde does not want to lose him, and Monsieur Tarde expects to take advantage of his daughter’s good fortune.

Thérèse is “la sauvage.” She accepts her sordid background, for it has determined who she is and what she understands of the world; she does not lie, and she does not pretend to be other than what she is. She loves Florent for his decency and goodness. He offers her marriage and happiness—a key thematic concept; however, she can accept his gift only by forgetting her past. Because Florent has always been wealthy and secure, he does not understand the effects of poverty upon the human soul. Florent’s friend Hartmann does, and he functions as an observer and interpreter of both worlds. He comments on the actions of the play and interprets their significance for the audience.

Act 1 depicts Thérèse’s sudden realization of the unbridgeable gap between her world and that of Florent, a recognition which has been suppressed by her love. Although it is the evening of her twentieth birthday and she is looking forward to Florent’s arrival at the café, her parents and Gosta become embroiled in a series of arguments, all centering on her betrothal and their place in her new life. Her parents are coarse, loud, and greedy. Gosta is drunk and angry. Through it all, Thérèse remains in control, seemingly untouched by the conflict. As Florent will say of her background, “It could have made...

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Dramatic Devices

(Survey of Dramatic Literature)

The dramaturgy of Restless Heart, an early Anouilh play, exhibits both the naturalism and beginnings of the theatricalism that came to be trademarks of Jean Anouilh’s later, more mature plays. He utilizes set and language here to underscore the radical differences between the world of the poor and that of the wealthy. The rundown café of act 1 contrasts with the paneled library with a view of the grounds of acts 2 and 3. Anouilh also uses the nuances of language to indicate class differences. The Tardes use vulgarisms, clichés, and lower-class vocabulary to express themselves; Florent and his aunt, on the other hand, speak well. In accordance with her role, Thérèse uses more metaphors to express her feelings. Her intensity and complexity are thus reinforced by the nature of the language that she uses.

Structurally, each act builds to a climax, consisting of a dramatic image that reasserts visually what has been discussed in the act. The tableaux are effective devices for emphasizing the elements of theme. Act 1 closes with the Tardes on their knees, picking up the money Florent has thrown down to demonstrate how little it means to him. Thérèse is in his arms, while Hartmann watches and comments. At the end of act 2, Thérèse is again in Florent’s arms, this time “transfigured” by his shedding a tear. The play ends with Thérèse’s wedding dress lying on the couch, “a dazzling patch of whiteness in the gloom,” as Hartmann...

(The entire section is 523 words.)


(Great Characters in Literature)

Sources for Further Study

Archer, Marguerite. Jean Anouilh. New York: Columbia University Press, 1971.

Della Fazia, Alba. Jean Anouilh. New York: Twayne, 1969.

Falb, Lewis W. Jean Anouilh. New York: F. Ungar, 1977.

Lenski, B. A. Jean Anouilh: Stages in Rebellion. Atlantic Highlands, N.J.: Humanities Press, 1975.

McIntyre, H. G. The Theatre of Jean Anouilh. Totowa, N.J.: Barnes & Noble, 1981.