Lorettes and society
Class Prostitutes and the Law
Representations in Les Miserables
Realities of Authority in Paris
Brothels and Streetwalkers
The Privileged Class: Courtesans
Defining the courtesan
Courtesans in reality
Image of Jessica
Lange and Elisabeth Shue from the 1998 film adaptation of Balzac's
Cousin Bette, by
Fox Searchlight Pictures
of the decadent provacateuse, using her beauty and feminine wiles
to full commercial advantage, is an enduring one, as is shown by this
image from the 1998 film adaptation of Balzac's classic novel, Cousin
daughters of pleasure are essentially unstable beings, changing
without reason from bewildered suspicion to absolute trust. In this
respect they are lower than the animals. Extreme in everything,
in their joys, their despairs, their religion, their irreligion;
most of them would go mad if they were not decimated by an unusual
rate of mortality, and if accidents of fortune did not raise some
of them out of the mire in which they live."
- from A Harlot High and
Low by Honore de Balzac
- The above quote in
many ways sums up Balzac's impression of prostitutes. Grasping,
greedy, materialistic,without morals, and generally a detriment
to the polite bourgeoisie society which they prey upon. Though
historically we know that such an extreme view is not entirely
accurate, this was the one that Balzac encouraged with characters
such as Esther in A Harlot High and Low and Jenny Cadine
in Cousin Bette. Both are portrayed as decadent and materialistic,
and using the men they are involved with to further their own
social and economic status.
- In sharp contrast
to Hugo's archetype of the fallen woman, Balzac's decadent provacateuse
is not forced by economic conditions to turn to prostitution,
it is an active choice, brought on my greed and laziness.
- Rather than being
ruined by a man like Hugo's fallen woman, the decadent provacateuse
ruins the men she is involved with by draining their fortunes
and ruining marriages, even involving them in public scandals.
- Perhaps the most primary
of the characteristics of Balzac's decadent provocateuse is the
clear distates with which she is treated by the author. Balzac
makes mo secret of his moral and philosophical qualms with prostitution.
For information on Hugo's
archetype, click here.
For more information on Balzac, click here.