Short summary - Histoire du Chevalier des Grieux et de Manon Lescaut - Abbé Prévost - Antoine François Prévost d'Exiles

French literature summaries - 2021

Short summary - Histoire du Chevalier des Grieux et de Manon Lescaut
Abbé Prévost - Antoine François Prévost d'Exiles

The story takes place in the era of the Regency (1715−1723), when the customs of French society were distinguished by extreme liberty. Under the cheerful and frivolous regent Philippe Orleans in France, a reaction to the "lean" spirit that reigned under the aged king immediately began. French society breathed more freely and gave free rein to the thirst for life, fun, pleasure. In his work, Abbot Prevost treats the theme of fatal, all-consuming love.
At the behest of the writer, the story is conducted on behalf of the Chevalier des Grieux. At seventeen, the young man finishes a course in philosophy in Amiens. Due to his origin (his parents belong to one of the most noble families of P.), brilliant abilities and attractive appearance, he attracts people to himself and acquires a real devoted friend in the seminary - Tiberzh, who is several years older than our hero. Coming from a poor family, Tiberge is forced to take ordination and stay in Amiens to study theological sciences. Des Grieux, having passed the exams with honors, was going to return to his father to continue his studies at the Academy. But fate decreed otherwise. On the eve of parting with the city and parting with a friend, the young man meets a beautiful stranger on the street and starts a conversation with her. It turns out that the girl's parents decided to send her to a monastery in order to curb her addiction to pleasure, so she is looking for a way to regain her freedom and will be grateful to someone who will help her in this. Des Grieux is defeated by the charm of a stranger and readily offers his services. After a short reflection, the young people find no other way than to escape. The plan is simple: they have to deceive the vigilance of the guide, assigned to watch Manon Lescaut (that is the name of the stranger), and head straight to Paris, where, at the request of both lovers, the wedding will take place immediately. Tiberge, privy to the secret of a friend, does not approve of his intentions and tries to stop des Grieux, but it’s too late: the young man is in love and ready for the most decisive action. Early in the morning, he brings the carriage to the hotel where Manon is staying, and the fugitives leave the city. The desire to get married was forgotten in Saint-Denis, where lovers broke the laws of the church and became spouses without hesitation.
In Paris, our heroes rent furnished rooms, des Grieux, full of passion, and forgot to think about how upset his father is by his absence. But one day, having returned home earlier than usual, des Grieux learns about Manon's betrayal. The well-known tax farmer, Monsieur de B., who lived in the neighborhood, probably not for the first time pays the girl a visit in his absence. The shocked young man, having barely regained consciousness, hears a knock at the door, opens and falls into the arms of his father's lackeys, who are ordered to bring the prodigal son home. In the carriage, the poor man is lost in conjectures: who betrayed him, how did his father know his place of stay? At home, his father tells him that M. de B., having struck a close acquaintance with Manon and finding out who her lover is, decides to get rid of his rival and in a letter to his father informs about the young man's dissolute lifestyle, making it clear that drastic measures are needed. Thus, Mr. B ... is doing Father de Grieux a perfidious and selfless service. The Cavalier des Grieux loses consciousness from what he heard, and waking up, he begs his father to let him go to Paris to his beloved, since it cannot be that Manon would cheat on him and give her heart to another. But the whole six months the young man has to spend under the strict supervision of the servants, while the father, seeing his son in constant anguish, supplies him with books that help a little to calm the rebellious soul. All the feelings of a lover are reduced to the alternation of hatred and love, hope and despair, depending on the form in which the image of his beloved is drawn to him. Once Tiberge visits a friend, deftly flatters his good disposition and inclines him to the idea of giving up worldly pleasures and accepting the tonsure. Friends go to Paris, and des Grieux begins to study theology. He shows extraordinary zeal, and soon he is already congratulated on his future rank. Our hero spent about a year in Paris, not trying to find out anything about Manon; it was difficult at first, but the constant support of Tiberge and his own reflections contributed to the victory over himself. The last months of study passed so calmly that it seemed a little more - and this captivating and insidious creature will be forever forgotten. But after the exam at the Sorbonne "covered with glory and showered with congratulations" des Grieux unexpectedly visits Manon. The girl was in her eighteenth year, she became even more dazzling in her beauty. She begs to forgive her and return her love, without which life is meaningless. Touching repentance and oaths of allegiance softened the heart of des Grieux, who immediately forgot about his life plans, about the desire for fame, wealth - in a word, about all the benefits worthy of contempt if they are not associated with his beloved.
Our hero again follows Manon, and now Chaillot, a village near Paris, becomes the haven of lovers. For two years of communication with B ... Manon managed to draw out of him about sixty thousand francs, on which young people intend to live comfortably for several years. This is the only source of their existence, since the girl is not from a noble family and she has nowhere else to wait for money, des Grieux does not hope for the support of her father, since he cannot forgive him for his connection with Manon. The trouble comes suddenly: a house in Chaillot burned down, and during the fire a chest with money disappeared. Poverty is the lesser of des Grieux's trials. Manon cannot be counted on in trouble: she loves luxury and pleasure too much to sacrifice them. Therefore, in order not to lose his beloved, he decides to hide the loss of money from her and borrow it from Tiberge for the first time. A devoted friend encourages and consoles our hero, insists on breaking with Manon and without hesitation, although he is not rich himself, gives des Grieux the necessary amount of money.
Manon introduces his beloved to his brother, who serves in the king's guard, and Mr. Lescaut persuades des Grieux to try his luck at the gambling table, promising, for his part, to teach him all the necessary tricks and tricks. For all his aversion to deception, cruel necessity compels the young man to agree. Exceptional dexterity so quickly increased his fortune that two months later a furnished house was rented in Paris and a carefree, luxuriant life began. Tyberge, who constantly visits a friend, tries to reason with him and warn him against new misfortunes, since he is sure that the dishonestly acquired wealth will soon disappear without a trace. Tiberge's fears were not in vain. The servants, from whom the income was not concealed, took advantage of the gullibility of the owners and robbed them. The ruin leads the lovers to despair, but the proposal of his brother Manon inspires even greater horror in des Grieux. He tells about Monsieur de G ... M., an old voluptuary who pays for his pleasures, sparing no money, and Lescaut advises his sister to go to him for maintenance. But the cunning Manon comes up with a more interesting option for enrichment. The old red tape invites the girl to dinner, where he promises to give her half of the annual allowance. The adorable woman asks if she can bring her younger brother to dinner (meaning des Grieux), and, having received consent, rejoices. As soon as at the end of the evening, having already handed over the money, the old man started talking about his love impatience, the girl and her “brother” were blown away. Monsieur de G ... M ... realized that he had been fooled and got both of the fraudsters arrested. Des Grieux found himself in the prison of Saint-Lazare, where he suffered terribly from humiliation; the young man for a whole week is unable to think about anything except his dishonor and shame, which he has brought on the whole family. The absence of Manon, anxiety about her fate, the fear of never seeing her again were in the future the main subject of the prisoner's sad thoughts.When des Grieux finds out that his beloved is in the Shelter (place of imprisonment of public women), he becomes enraged and decides to escape from prisons. With the assistance of Mr. Lescaut, our hero is free and begins to look for ways to free his beloved. Pretending to be a foreigner, he asks the gatekeeper of the Shelter about the procedures there, and also asks to describe the authorities. Upon learning that the boss has an adult son, des Grieux meets with him and, hoping for his support, tells the whole story of his relationship with Manon. Monsieur de T ... touched by the stranger's frankness and sincerity, but the only thing he can do for him so far is to please him to see a girl; everything else is not in his power. The joy of the meeting of the lovers who experienced three months of separation, their endless tenderness for each other touched the minister of the Orphanage, and he wished to help the unfortunate. After consulting with de T. about the details of the escape, des Grieux frees Manon the next day, and the orphanage guard remains in his servants.
Brother Manon dies on the same night. He robbed one of his friends at the card table, and he asked to lend him half of the lost amount. The squabble that arose over this turned into a violent quarrel and subsequently into murder. The young arrive at Chaillot. Des Grieux is preoccupied with finding a way out of lack of money, and in front of Manon, he pretends that he is not constrained in funds. The young man arrives in Paris and once again asks Tiberge for money, and, of course, receives it. From a devoted friend, des Grieux went to M. T., who was very happy with his guest and told him the continuation of the story of Manon's abduction. Everyone was amazed to learn that such a beauty had decided to flee with the orphanage attendant. But what can't you do for the sake of freedom! So des Grieux is above suspicion and has nothing to fear. M. de T., having learned the place of stay of the lovers, often visits them, and friendship with him grows stronger day by day.
One day a young G.M., the son of the worst enemy, the old lecher who imprisoned our heroes, comes to Chaillot. M. de T. assured de Grieux, who was already grasping his sword, that he was a very sweet, noble youth. But later des Grieux is convinced of the opposite. G. M. Jr. falls in love with Manon and invites her to leave her lover and live with him in luxury and contentment. The son surpasses his father's generosity, and, unable to withstand the temptation, Manon surrenders and moves to live with G.M. De T., shocked by the insidiousness of his friend, advises des Grieux to take revenge on him. Our hero asks the guardsmen to arrest G.M. on the street in the evening and hold him until morning, while he himself, meanwhile, indulges in pleasures with Manon in his vacated bed. But the footman who accompanied GM informs old GM about the incident. He immediately turns to the police, and the lovers again end up in prison. Father des Grieux is seeking the release of his son, and Manon is awaiting either life imprisonment or exile to America. Des Grieux begs his father to do something to mitigate the sentence, but gets a decisive refusal. The young man does not care where to live, if only with Manon, and he goes with the exiles to New Orleans. Life in the colony is miserable, but our heroes find peace of mind only here and turn their thoughts to religion. Having decided to get married, they confess to the governor that they used to deceive everyone by posing as spouses. To this the governor replies that the girl should marry his nephew, who has long been in love with her. Des Grieux wounds his opponent in a duel and, fearing the governor's revenge, flees the city. Manon follows him. On the way, the girl falls ill. Rapid breathing, convulsions, pallor - all indicated that the end of her suffering was nearing. At the moment of her death, she speaks of her love for des Grieux.
For three months the young man was bedridden with a serious illness, his disgust for life did not subside, he constantly called for death. But still, healing came. Tiberge appears in New Orleans. A devoted friend takes des Grieux to France, where he learns of his father's death. The anticipated meeting with his brother concludes the story.