Heathcote, Owen Nigel (1974)
Images and themes in 'le Lys dans la vallee' .
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The thesis is a style-study of le Lys dans la vellee. Previous assessments of the novel's style have often been unfavourable. This derives at least in part from critics ' tendency to concentrate to on selected parts of the novel - whether to illustrate the Honore de Balzac-Felix de Vandenesse identification, or Balzac's supposedly flawed prose. The partiality of such approaches may be remedied by acknowledging the creative autonomy which Balzac has delegated to his 'creature', Felix de Vendenesse, and by seeing the novel as Felix's valiant bid for creativity, as Felix's coherent vision of his past and of the world. Balzac does, moreover, give Felix ample motivation for writing such a narrative. Although, then, an examination of the historical context in which le Lys was written confirms that many of its themes are cliches of the period, their combination, organisation, -and justification are unique. Felix's vision is epitomised in the way he establishes verbal links between experiences separated in time but related in intensity of feeling. The objects he describes are infused with his own subjective values, and become, therefore, what are called material images. These centre in groups on the four natural elements of earth, air (light and sound), fire and water, and on the various references to movement in the narrative. All these images and themes are then seen to converge on the plant, especially in the descriptions of the bouquets, which are thus at the centre of a network of correspondences whose source and brilliant internal justification are to be found in the description of Felix the poet-child-mystic. However brilliantly coherent, this vision is also the escapist fantasy of a child who never progresses from his adolescent fixations. Hence the importance of Natalie de Manerville's rejoinder. Hence, too, the originality of Balzac in composing a supremely coherent but at the same time supremely vitiated 'paradis imaginaire'.
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Institution: University of London, Royal Holloway College (United Kingdom).