The Idle mind is the Devil’s workshop
I think that’s the perfect quote to describe this book. This book takes prior right before the French Revolution. The nobles have too much time. So what do they do- seduce people! The reprobates! This is exactly why everybody should have gone to college back in that day. I believe the author meant the work as a commentary on the decadence of the pre-revolution French society.
We have two nobles, the Marquise de Merteuil and the Vicomte de Valmont use sex as a weapons to degrade and destroy others for their own amusement. La Marquise wants to destroy Cecile de Volanges, a young girl recently brought out of the convent, because she is betrothed to one of de Merteuil’s former lovers. Vicomte de Valmont is determined to seduce the virtuous Madame de Tourvel the wife of a barrister who is staying with his aunt.
A deal is made between the two. If de Valmont seduces Cecile, Merteuil vows to become his lover again. Well what these two won’t do in order to get what they want. At fist de Valmont refuses. But Madame de Volanges (Cecile’s mother) writes to de Valmont’s aunt telling her of his reputation. Valmont decides to revenge himself on the mother as well as make Cecile’s future husband a cuckhold to please Merteuil. There is a slight snag in the operations as de Valmont actually ends up falling in love with Madame de Tourvel. In a jealous rage, Merteuil reneges on her promise to de Valmont. Valmont in retaliation helps Cecile get together with her love Danceny, the music teacher. Merteuil decides a full out war in necessary and reveals to Danceny that de Valmont seduced Cecile. The two men duel and de Valmont is fatally wounded. Before he dies, he gives Danceny letters proving Merteuil’s involvement in the whole affair. As you can imagine, Merteuil’s reputation is ruined by this revelation. It also destroys her health. Her illness scares her face so badly that those who meet her afterwards say that her face matters her inner being. As far as de Valmont’s victims- Cecile returns to the convent. As for Madame de Tourvel, she dies of a broken heart.
This story is a good example of an epistolary novel, meaning that the story is told through writing letters rather than the typical prose. The one good thing about epistolary novels is that they give you excellent insight into the character’s pysche. Characters innermost thoughts can be on one hand thoroughly entertaining, but on the other hand quite frightening. Reese Withspoon fans will find this story quite familiar. Cruel Intentions was based upon this book. I was quite taken back with the vindictiveness of the two main characters. I mean I can understand hell hath no fury and all that, but why must you destroy three innocent people in the process. It’s senseless. Well all cruelty is senseless! Hmm well if I ever meet a de Valmont or de Merteuil, I will make sure I run far and fast in the opposite direction.