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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 313

Thérèse Desqueyroux was written by French author Francois Mauriac and published in 1927. It was published in English in 1928.

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The story is set in rural southwest France and opens with the dismissal of a court case. The novel’s main character, Thérèse Desqueyroux, was being tried for poisoning her husband Bernard with Fowler’s Solution—a medicine which contains arsenic. But, despite there being plenty of evidence against her, the case has been kicked out. Even her husband testified in her defense. Although, Therese soon realizes that this is only to save his family from scandal. Neither Therese nor Bernard love each other.

As she travels back home we learn more about what has led Therese to this point as she reflects on her life. But, no concrete reason is given for her deciding to poison her husband. Therese is also hoping that now that the case is over she will be able to leave Bernard and move on. However, Bernard takes control of her and moves her into his family’s isolated home. She is kept semi-confined to her bedroom. The only people she sees are the servants, and she is not even allowed to see her daughter. Bernard tells her that he will have her sent to prison if she does not do as she is told. Therese takes to her bed and survives on wine and cigarettes.

When Bernard’s sister Anne becomes engaged, he and Therese are invited to an engagement party. The other guests at the party are shocked when they see Therese’s skeletal appearance. Bernard realizes that he cannot stop the scandal and that, after Anne’s wedding, he needs to let Therese go. He assists her in her physical recovery and after the wedding takes her to Paris. He gives her an allowance and, despite there being no divorce, she is free.

Summary

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 964

In the little French town of Argelouse, where she has spent the first part of her life, Thérèse Desqueyroux is known not so much for her beauty as for her charm. Her wit and independence of mind make her conspicuous in the stifling and inbred atmosphere of her native province, and she inspires in her friends and relatives as much disapproval as admiration. Left to her own devices by a father more intent on his political career than on the problems of fatherhood, Thérèse spent her girlhood in isolated brooding. Her one friend has been Anne de la Trave, the half sister of Bernard Desqueyroux, to whom Thérèse is now married.

Thérèse can remember little of her youth and the days before her marriage. For the most part, her memories are clouded by the confusion in her own mind caused by her intense love of life and desire for experience joined to provincial willingness to sacrifice self to tradition. She sees her marriage to Bernard Desqueyroux as the natural culmination of a social cycle, but her honeymoon is not yet over before Thérèse begins to feel acutely the loss to herself that her marriage represents. She discovers in Bernard all that is worst in the provincial character: a fanatical pride of family and material possessions. To a fatal degree, he lacks the insight and imagination to understand his wife. For her part, Thérèse is disgusted by the marriage.

During the honeymoon, Bernard receives a letter from his family informing him that his half sister, Anne, has fallen in love with a penniless young man named Jean Azévédo. To preserve the family name and honor, Bernard prevails on Thérèse to try to help stop the affair. Thérèse returns to Argelouse and persuades Anne to go on a trip. After Anne has gone, Thérèse meets Azévédo and discovers in him that intensity and individualism she misses in her own life. Azévédo admits that he is not really in love with Anne, and he readily agrees to write to her to tell her his true feelings....

(The entire section contains 1277 words.)

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