Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Diary of a Chambermaid Reveals Lack of Values

The novel is a very accurate representation of the French society in 19th century. The main character is called Celestine and she is a chambermaid that spent all her life cleaning in people’s houses. The book is written in the form of a diary, where the woman shares all her observations about the people she meets and the place she works comparing it with old ones. Her character is unique due to the fact she acts elegantly, with a style of a Parisian and takes care of her look, even of her job as a cleaning lady. She illustrates many stories about her experience in life, where more attention is paid to stories about sexual relations and seductions. This is due to the fact that her father died, her mother prostituted, so she was traumatized and matured in her early teenage year. An interesting point of view is how she does not judge people about their temptations. Even she shows understanding and support because according to her this is just a physical need. When she goes to the last destination- village where she works at one mansion (which owners are Lanler’s family), she realizes how different people are than from the ones from the big city. She is astounded by the lack of style and the over-weight among all women. Her detailed observations rise up her memories in order to make connections with the rest of the places she has been. The character has a pretty high self-confidence and often feels free to criticize her superiors. The most often themes she comments on are hygiene, and the pettiness and the stinginess of the mansion’s owners. A problem that all the time concerns Celestine is how even of all the money her superiors owe, they are people either with no moral qualities or “owners” of dirty humiliating stories. At the end she marries the coachman of Lanlers- Joseph and goes back to her home town at the seaside. The chambermaid feels happy with her husband working in a cafĂ©, but still readers can observe that her life continues to be devoted to the physical and primitive emotions and feelings.
The amazing fact that makes the novel even more fascinating and obsessing is that it is base on true story. It was actually written by the real Celestine R. but she looked for some help in Octave Mirbeau to polish it. The kept structure of a diary makes the book more interesting because it gives more authenticity. The chambermaid as being the narrator makes her a character that is closest to the reader. The woman may be a cleaning lady, but she has style and with this extraordinary personality the author wants to stress on the lack of it among the rich high class families. As well, the novel reveals how money does not really matter, because all of the represented wealthy people are unhappy, either they are alone or if they have partners, they do not live on good terms with each other. In conclusion, the whole book as a collection of different stories representing the experience of a chambermaid deal with the lost souls and moral values of people.

1 comment:

  1. Nat, I can see you have given this book review a lot of time and thoughtfulness.
    I like the fact that you have concentrated on major themes, conflicts, and even characterization, as hygiene and the expression of the physical in the book. In this way, you have shown that the book connects to modern issues. At the same time you have withheld important information (i.e. there are no spoilers).
    I also like the fact that you have researched the context of the book and found out that it is based on a real diary. This makes it a very interesting piece to read because it is like a look in the 19th century lifestyle.
    The only thing I was confused about is the actual author. You mention it in the second half of the review, and maybe you should have done it right in the first sentence or in the title (which, by the way, is a catchy one).
    Good job!