Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


*Paris. Sections of the city that are seen most in The Vagabond include Renée’s apartment on the avenue du Ternes quarter, near the Arc de Triomphe; Montmartre, the legendary center of bohemianism and artistic activity; and the Bois de Boulogne and residential areas surrounding it. The Bois de Boulogne, a vast wooded area on the west side of Paris, is traditionally a place to which the wealthy and the bourgeoisie go to see and be seen.

Renée’s work as a dancer and mime in Parisian “café-concerts” where the mostly male audiences can smoke, drink, and enjoy the shows, is set mainly in the Empyrée-Clichy, on the southern border of the Montmartre area. In these theaters, Renée spends a good deal of time in her dressing rooms. She also finds a certain excitement in looking through theater curtains from the backstage to watch the audiences.

Occasionally, for relaxation, Renée and her friends frequent the cafés on the hill of Montmartre. But Renée does not really feel comfortable there because the neighborhood is too seedy and rough.

Dressing rooms

Dressing rooms. The rooms in which Renée prepares for her performances are important refuges that shelter her from the outside world and the people who pursue her. Her dressing rooms are surrounded by those of her colleagues, who form a comforting family for her. At her dressing tables, Renée makes up her face, creating the theatrical masks that offer another means of hiding and escape. However, her makeup work also requires her frequently to consider herself in mirrors, in which she finds the reflections of an aging, lonely woman frightening.

Renée’s Empyrée-Clichy dressing room is the scene of her first meeting with a very important character,...

(The entire section is 739 words.)

Literary Techniques

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Colette's fictional pieces are notable for their uncomplicated plots; their interesting, though usually not highly gifted or brilliant,...

(The entire section is 638 words.)

Social Concerns

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Clearly, one of the most important social phenomena of the early years of the twentieth century was an old one: the subordinate and often...

(The entire section is 504 words.)

Literary Precedents

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Balzac was a strong literary influence on Colette. One commentator has counted no fewer than fifty-five references to the great...

(The entire section is 312 words.)

Related Titles

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Nearly all of Colette's full novels, as well as many of the novellas — such as Gigi — can be related to The Vagabond,...

(The entire section is 160 words.)


(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

The Vagabond was turned into a quite successful play by Colette and Leopold Marchand, with whom she collaborated on several dramas, in...

(The entire section is 136 words.)


(Great Characters in Literature)

Cottrell, Robert D. Colette. New York: Frederick Ungar, 1974. Discusses and evaluates The Vagabond with emphasis on themes of freedom and sexuality. Important starting place for the reader of Colette’s works.

Phelps, Robert, ed. Earthly Paradise. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1966. Delves into the myths created by Colette in her life and in her works. Chapters on her early marriage and her music-hall years, which were the basis for The Vagabond.

Sarde, Michele. Colette: A Biography. New York: William Morrow, 1980. Quotations from The Vagabond illuminate Colette’s life. Reflects on the major themes of that fictional work. Bibliography.

Stewart, Joan Hinde. Colette. Boston: Twayne, 1983. Places The Vagabond in the context of Colette’s career as a major writer. A good starting place.

Ward, Nicole Jouve. Colette. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1987. Analyzes structures, tropes, themes, and characters in Colette’s work and has illuminating sections on The Vagabond.