Short summary - Thérèse Raquin - Émile Zola

French literature summaries - 2021

Short summary - Thérèse Raquin
Émile Zola

The novel begins with a description of a small haberdashery shop in a Parisian arcade run by Teresa Raquin and her 60-year-old aunt, Madame Raquin. They live in the same building, on the upper floors.
Before Mrs. Raken traded dry goods in Vernon, but after the death of her husband she closed the business and led the life of a hermit: she rented a house on the banks of the Seine, where she spent all the time with her son Camille and niece Teresa.
Camille was a sickly child throughout his childhood, but his mother still won him back from death. Because of a painful childhood, Camille was small, frail and frail. He could not study either, and remained an ignoramus.
Teresa was brought from Algeria by Captain Degan, brother of Madame Raken. She was two years younger than Camille. Her mother, a native, died. The girl was registered in the name of Degan, and he gave her to his sister, Mrs. Raken, for education. Teresa was cared for, and grew up a healthy girl, but she was looked after in the same way as a sick Camille. She even drank his medicine. All this made her too obedient and even indifferent.
Soon Teresa and Camille got married. They knew that this would happen from childhood. Therefore, this did not bring any changes in their lives: after the first night, which the newlyweds spend together, Camille “is still painfully lethargic”.
After the wedding, Camille decisively announced that he intended to settle in Paris. So the whole family settled in the Pont-Neuf passage and Madame Raquin reopened the haberdashery shop, in which she traded with Teresa. Camille was promoted to the management of the Orleans Railroad. Once a week, on Thursdays, the family received guests. They were visited by a longtime acquaintance of Madame Raquin, police commissar Michaud with his son Olivier, and old Grieve, who worked with Camille.
One day Camille brought his former classmate Laurent into the house. It turned out that Laurent also serves in the management of the Orleans railway. Laurent's father wanted his son to become a lawyer, but the idler Laurent, instead of classes, went out with friends. For a while he tried to paint, but nothing came of it. Laurent had to find a job. From that evening on, he became a regular Thursday guest at the Raken's.
Laurent began to paint a portrait of Camille, so he often visited his apartment. Gradually Laurent and Teresa became lovers. Laurent had selfish interests, he wanted to take possession of Teresa's money. The lovers' dates took place at the Raken's, right in their matrimonial bedroom. Soon they began to realize that Camille was only bothering them. Laurent had the idea to kill him.
One day the three of them went for a boat ride on the Seine. Laurent threw Camille overboard. Camille resisted and even bit Laurent on the neck, but still Laurent got his way: Camille drowned. Everything was arranged as if the boat capsized, and Laurent, saving Teresa, did not have time to help his friend.
At first, Ms. Raken was very grieving over the death of her son, but soon life returned to its former course, although the Thursday meetings did not even stop. A year later, Teresa and Laurent decided to get married. They made it so that the idea of their marriage was first expressed aloud by Madame Raken and her guests.
Soon, the newlyweds begin to understand that they cannot be together: they see Camille's corpse everywhere. The scar on Laurent's neck, left by the reluctant Camille, has not healed and constantly worries Teresa's new husband. Even in bed, the newlyweds think that between them lies the body of a drowned man.
Laurent again took a great interest in painting, but all the portraits of his brush are similar to each other. Laurent soon realized that all of his drawings, even those of animals, looked like Camille the drowned man. The relationship between Teresa and Laurent becomes unbearable ... Laurent often hits his wife.
Ms. Raken was paralyzed and gradually stopped moving and even speaking. From the conversations between her niece and her husband, she suddenly realized that they were the killers of her son. This horrified her. Soon, Teresa and Laurent began talking about the murder of Camille, without hesitation in the presence of Madame Raquin. Once at a traditional Thursday party, the old woman gathered all her strength, attracted the attention of the guests and with her finger traced on the table: "Teresa and Laurent at ...", but did not have time to finish writing the most important word. her strength left her, and the guests decided that she wanted to write: "Teresa and Laurent care for me amazingly."
Teresa tried to repent. For whole days she begged forgiveness from the old woman, but soon she embarked on debauchery. Teresa and Laurent didn't trust each other. They were afraid that one of them would tell the police everything. Both decided on another murder. Laurent bought a bottle of potassium cyanide, and Teresa sharpened the knife. Each noticed the other's actions. In the end, it turned out that both accomplices drank the poisoned water. “Struck down, they collapsed on top of each other, finding consolation in death. The young woman's lips touched her husband's neck, where Camille's tooth scar had remained. The corpses lay all night on the dining room floor, at the feet of Madame Raquin, gnarled, ugly, illuminated by the yellowish glow of a lamp. For almost twelve hours, right up to noon, Madame Raken, motionless and dumb, looked at them, destroying them with her heavy gaze, and could not get enough of this sight. "