Themes

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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 139

A primary theme of Sarrasine is the paradoxes of love, in its cruelties and bliss. The suffering that La Zambinella endured because of castration includes Sarrasine’s rejection and his family’s unkindness. The narrator, however, and his beloved seem so wrapped up in each other that, although they acknowledge the story’s...

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A primary theme of Sarrasine is the paradoxes of love, in its cruelties and bliss. The suffering that La Zambinella endured because of castration includes Sarrasine’s rejection and his family’s unkindness. The narrator, however, and his beloved seem so wrapped up in each other that, although they acknowledge the story’s harshness, their faith in love is unshaken. The de Lantys had suffered from rejecting their kinsman, but extend their affection to their own children.

Another important theme is the fleeting nature of beauty as symbolized by the form of Adonis. As an artist, Sarrasine was devoted to his passionate pursuit of beauty in form. He let it blind him to the qualities that actually matter in life. La Zambinella’s beauty, which has faded in real life, endures only in the painting for which he modeled.

Themes and Meanings

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 265

In Sarrasine, Balzac primarily concerns himself with the search for happiness and love on the part of the novella’s eight principal characters. Only the narrator and the young dancer are satisfied with their existence, and they may attain true happiness in their love for each other. These sympathetic lovers, however, were not influenced in any way by Sarrasine’s cruelty or by the castration of Zambinella. Sarrasine illustrates very powerfully the long-term and unintended effects of the injustice done to Zambinella almost sixty years before this evening reception at the Lantys’ residence.

Zambinella has been scarred both physically and emotionally by his castration. Since he is so profoundly different from other men, Zambinella believes that he is “condemned to understand happiness, to sense it, to desire it, and, like so many others, to see it disappear at every moment.” He never suspects that his grandniece, Marianina, also a talented opera singer, will feel an equally keen sense of frustration. The Lantys, in turn, are ashamed of Zambinella’s castration. For this reason, they left their native Italy and spent years trying to suppress their past suffering. Feelings, however, can never be fully suppressed. Their profound and long-lasting unhappiness is revealed to others by their obsessive attempts to hide their background and family history from the public. In contrast, Sarrasine’s bitterness can be attributed to his selfish and unpleasant personality. Balzac’s readers, however, regret that Sarrasine’s cruelty toward Zambinella has prevented the Lantys from attaining happiness. Despite their repeated efforts, the Lantys cannot free themselves from the damage done six decades earlier.

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