Sarrasine

by Honoré Balzac

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

Sarrasine is a novella by the French novelist Honore de Balzac. It was part four of a continuing series he had called Comedie Humaine. In order to understand the general summary of the plot while you’re writing your assignment, it helps to note that the story was written in 1830, so it’s not a modern tale.

The basic plot of the story is told by a narrator who is also in the story himself. He is telling the story to a character named Madame Rochefide, in order to get in her good graces. The story opens up with a man coming into a room where the narrator and Madame Rochefide are currently sitting during a ball. The Madame wants to know about the man, and so the narrator obliges.

The story the narrator tells is focused on an artistic boy named Ernest-Jean Sarrasine, who falls in love with a character he sees at a Roman opera named Zambinella. He starts thinking of her as the ideal woman and even plans to kidnap her until Zambinella finally admits to being a castrato, or a man who has had his manhood removed as a child in order to sing better.

Sarrasine is enraged and tries to kill Zambinella but is stopped by men sent to protect the opera singer. The old man from the beginning turns out to be Zambinella at the end. There’s certainly a lot to cover in Sarrasine, so it helps to hit the major plot points about Sarrasine pursuing Zambinella and then fill in extra details based on what else you need.

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