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French Literature: Balzac's An episode under the terror - Essay Example

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13 August, 2011. French Literature- Balzac- "An episode under the terror" The protagonist of the story An Episode Under the Terror is the stranger who happens to be the executor of King Louis…
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French Literature: Balzacs An episode under the terror
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Download file to see previous pages He is the one that frightens the shopkeeper of the pastry shop. He provides for the priest as well as for the sisters in their home and plays the role of their benefactor or caretaker, and yet, maintains a strong sense of strangeness whenever he meets them. The second time he sees them after a whole year, the priest and the sisters greet him and offer him a warm welcome but he remains indifferent to that, like that does not matter for him. He performs the mass with the three of them and leaves, only to be found in trouble in the end by the priest. The priest is told by the shopkeeper that the stranger is the headsman of the accomplices of Robespierre and that all were to be taken to task for their crimes. The stranger’s hidden identity and silent intentions throughout the play make him all the most important of all other characters of the play. The stranger is what the play is named after. He is generally known as “The Terror”. A whole period of one year starting 5 September 1793 till 28 July 1794 is known as his reign because this was the period when The Terror killed from 18500 to 40000 individuals. This was the period in the French Revolution. Hence, he is the protagonist of this play. The French Revolution was a period in which harsh actions were taken against the people who were thought to be against the Revolution. This group of people fundamentally included priests, nobles and hoarders. In the play, An Episode Under the Terror, the author has discussed how the priests and nuns that belonged to the Catholic Church had to be very cautious in their ways, means, sayings and intentions. Balzac has maintained a mysterious attitude towards the Catholic Church in the play. This can be estimated from the old sister’s communication with the priest and the other sister, “Even though we seldom leave the house, everything that we do is known, and every step is watched. …” (Balzac). This tells that people that belonged to the Catholic Church were confined in the period of the French Revolution. Balzac has maintained a strong sense of suspense in the play, An Episode Under the Terror. It is essentially a kind of detective story with the author revealing information bit by bit and linking the successive events with the preceding ones. One does not get to identify the characters or their inter-relationships until the end of the story. One can locate two groups of details in the story, namely the historical facts and the personal information with respect to all characters of the play. The author has adopted a different approach in dealing with either of these two groups, and has given more preference to personal information as compared to historical fact, though the story also conveys a strong understanding of the various events and happenings and the general tension that prevailed in the days of the French Revolution. This can be estimated from the following lines taken from the play: The old lady’s face was naturally pale; she looked as though she secretly practised austerities; but it was easy to see that she was paler than usual from recent agitation of some kind. Her head-dress was so arranged as to almost hide hair that was white, no doubt with age, for there was not a trace of powder on the collar of her dress. The extreme plainness of her dress lent an air of austerity to her face, and her features were proud and grave. The manners and habits of people of condition were so different from those of other classes in former times that a noble was easily known, and the ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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