Short summary - Justine, or The Misfortunes of Virtue - Marquis de Sade

French literature summaries - 2021

Short summary - Justine, or The Misfortunes of Virtue
Marquis de Sade

"People who are inexperienced in the exploit of virtue may consider it advantageous for themselves to indulge in vice, instead of resisting it." Therefore, "it is necessary to present the power of examples of unhappy virtue" capable of leading to good "a spoiled soul, if at least some good principles are preserved in that soul." These aspirations are guided by the author of the novel, depicting contemporary customs in a gloomy grotesque form.

Fate puts sisters Justine and Juliette to a severe test: parents die, and the girls find themselves on the street without a livelihood. The beautiful Juliette enters the path of debauchery and quickly turns the latter into a source of income, while her equally charming sister wants to remain virtuous by all means. A few years later, Juliette, mired in vice and stained herself with many crimes, including the murder of her husband, illegitimate children and lovers, achieves everything she wanted: she is the Countess de Lorsenge, a rich widow, she has a lover, the venerable Monsieur de Corville, who lives with her as with a legal spouse.

Once, traveling with de Corville, at an inn, Juliette meets a girl who is being taken to Paris to be sentenced to death: the girl is accused of murder, theft and arson. The gentle and sad face of the beauty awakens in the countess's soul a hitherto unknown compassion, with the permission of the gendarmes, she welcomes the girl and asks her to tell her story. The girl agrees, but refuses to reveal her origins. However, the reader probably guessed that in front of him is the unfortunate Justine, so in the future we will call the girl by her real name.

Finding herself outside the gates of the monastery alone and without money, Justine decides to hire a servant, but soon she is horrified to see that she can only get a place by sacrificing her virtue. Finally, she is taken into the service of a wealthy usurer. He tests Justine's decency - forcing her to rob a rich neighbor. When she refuses, he accuses her of stealing, and the girl is sent to prison. There she meets the adventurer Dubois and escapes with her from captivity.

The robber Dubois forces Justine to join the gang, and when she refuses, he gives her up to be mocked by the robbers. Enduring moral and physical torment every day, Justine remains in the gang, but is trying with all her might to preserve her virginity. Once the robbers capture a certain Saint-Florent; Justine, out of philanthropy, helps the prisoner escape and runs with him herself. But Saint Florent turns out to be a villain: he stuns Justine, rapes her in an unconscious state and throws her in the forest to fend for herself.

The tortured Justine accidentally witnesses the unnatural connection of the Comte de Brissac with his lackey. Having found the girl, the count first intimidates her to a pulp, but then changes his anger to mercy and arranges for her to be a maid to his aunt. Despite his charming appearance, all kinds of vices live in the soul of M. de Brissac. In an effort to instill in Justine the principles of his perverted morality, he orders her to poison her aunt. The frightened Justine tells everything to Madame de Brissac. The old woman is outraged, and the count, realizing that he was betrayed, lures Justine out of the house, rips off her clothes, poisons her with dogs, and then lets her go in all four directions.

Somehow Justine gets to the nearest town, finds a doctor, and he heals her wounds. Since Justine is running out of money, she dares to write to the Comte de Brissac, so that he will return the salary due to her. In response, the count reports that his aunt died of poison, Justine is considered the poisoner and the police are looking for her, so it is in her interests to hide somewhere in a secluded place and not bother him anymore. Upset Justine confides in Dr. Rodin, and he offers her a place as a servant in his house. The girl agrees runs a.

In addition to healing, Rodinschool where boys and girls study together, all charming. Unable to understand what is the matter, Justine begins to question the daughter of Dr. Rosalie, with whom she managed to make friends. With horror, Justine learns that the doctor indulges in debauchery both with his students and with his own daughter. Rosalia takes Justine to a secret room, from where she observes monstrous orgies arranged by Rodin with his victims. Nevertheless, Justine, at the request of Rosalie, remains in the doctor's house and begins to instruct her friend in the Christian faith. Suddenly Rosalia disappears. Suspecting her father in another monstrous trick, Justine searches the house and finds her friend locked in a secret closet: Rodin decided to kill his daughter by performing some kind of surgical operation on her. Justine arranges for Rosalie to escape, but she herself falls into the hands of the doctor; Rodin puts a brand on her back and lets go. Justine is horrified - she has already been sentenced, and now she is also branded ... She decides to flee south, away from the capital.

Justine goes to the monastery, where the miraculous statue of the Holy Virgin is kept, and decides to go to pray. In the monastery she is met by the abbot Don Severino. The abbot's noble appearance and pleasant voice inspire confidence, and the girl honestly tells him about her misfortunes. After making sure that Justine has neither relatives nor friends, the monk changes his tone, roughly grabs her and drags her into the depths of the monastery: behind the facade of the holy monastery is a nest of depravity and vice. Four hermits, led by the abbot, take the girls, whose disappearance does not entail any consequences, make them participate in orgies and indulge in the most unbridled debauchery, satisfying the perverted voluptuousness of the holy brethren. Depending on the age of the girls, they are divided into four categories, each category has its own color of clothes, its own daily routine, its own activities, its own mentors. The extreme caution of the holy fathers and their high position make them invulnerable. Women who are bored with monks are released, but judging by some hints, this freedom means death. It is impossible to escape from the monastery - there are thick bars on the windows, around the moat and several rows of thorny hedges. Nevertheless, the tormented Justine, who almost gave up her spirit under the rods of libertines, decides to flee. With a file she accidentally found, she saws through the window lattice, makes her way through thorny bushes, rolls into a ditch filled with corpses, and runs in horror into the forest. There she kneels down and praises the Lord. But then two strangers grab her, throw a bag over her head and drag her somewhere.

Justine is taken to the castle of the Comte de Gernand, an elderly libertine of enormous stature, who becomes agitated only at the sight of blood. Justine will have to serve his fourth wife, who is fading away from constant bloodletting. The kind-hearted girl agrees to help her unhappy mistress - to hand over the letter to her mother. But alas! Going down the rope from the window of the castle, she falls right into the arms of the owner! Now Justine will be punished - a slow death from blood loss. Suddenly there is a cry: "The lady is dying!", And Justine, taking advantage of the commotion, runs away from the castle. Escaping from the clutches of the terrible count, she gets to Lyon and decides to spend the night in a hotel. There she is met by Saint Florent; he invites her to become a pimp, who is obliged to supply him with two virgins a day. Justine refuses and hastily leaves the city. On the way, she wants to give alms to the beggar, but she beats her, pulls out her wallet and runs away. Crying out to the Lord, Justine moves on. Having met a wounded man, she helps him. Having regained consciousness, Monsieur Roland invites her to his castle, promising a place for a maid. Justine believes, and they set off together. As soon as she approaches Roland's gloomy secluded dwelling, the girl realizes that she has been deceived again. Roland is the leader of the counterfeiting gang; first, he makes the unfortunate Justine turn the heavy gate, and then throws her into the dungeon, where he torments her in order to satisfy her lust. The poor thing is put in a coffin, hung up, beaten, thrown onto the mountains of corpses ...

Suddenly the gendarmes arrive; they arrest Roland and take him to court in Grenoble. The noble judge believes in Justine's innocence and lets her go. The girl leaves the city. At night, a fire breaks out at the hotel where she is staying, and Justine goes to jail on charges of arson. Unhappy turns to Saint Florent for help, he kidnaps her from prison, but only to torment and abuse her. In the morning, Saint Florent returns the girl to prison, where she is sentenced to death.

After hearing the story of the unfortunate woman, the Countess de Lorzange recognizes Justine, and the sisters fall into each other's arms with sobs.

Monsieur de Corville seeks the release and acquittal of the girl; Madame de Lorzange takes her to her estate, where Justine can finally live peacefully and happily. But fate decrees otherwise: lightning flies into the castle window and kills Justine. Her sister Juliette repents of her past sins and leaves for a monastery. We can only shed tears over the unfortunate fate of virtue.