Anatomy of Jealousy

The seeds of Marcel’s raging jealousy over Albertine are laid right at the beginning of his re-acquaintance with her at Balbec. The first time she sees him she tells him she wants to leave Balbec.

But on the day on which Albertine came, the weather had turned dull and cold again, and moreover I had no opportunity of hearing her laugh; she was in a very bad mood. “Balbec is deadly dull this year,” she said to me. “I don’t mean to stay any longer than I can help.” (IV,243)

Shortly after, she announces that she has changed her mind.

She informed me (contrary to what she had said the other day) that she would be staying for the whole season and asked me whether we could not arrange, as in the former year, to meet daily. I told her that at the moment I was too sad and that I would rather send for her from time to time at the last moment, as I did in Paris. “If ever you’re feeling gloomy or if you’re in the mood, don’t hesitate,” she told me, “just send for me and I shall come at once, and if you’re not afraid of its creating a scandal in the hotel, I shall stay as long as you like.” (IV,253)

Marcel notices that she has changed her mind about wanting to leave, but is left to wonder why. And, as if taking advantage of her impecunious circumstances, he treats her as a servant, to be called when he is in need of her. This belies his own professed awareness.

It would be untrue, I think, to say that there were already symptoms of that painful and perpetual mistrust which Albertine was to inspire in me, not to mention the special character, emphatically Gomorrhan, which that mistrust was to assume. (IV,252).

The “Gomorrhan” fixation is implanted by a remark by Dr. Cottard. They have just entered a casino and find there Andrée and Albertine. He abandons his plan to go on the Verdurins after being aroused by the sound of Albertine’s laughter, a sound that would arouse him by its sensuality and then pain him because it excluded him.

The fact was that I had just heard her laugh. And this laugh at once evoked the flesh-pink, fragrant surfaces with which it seemed to have just been in contact and of which it seemed to carry with it, pungent, sensual and revealing as the scent of geraniums, a few almost tangible and secretly provoking  particles….”There now, look,” [Cottard] went on, pointing to Albertine and Andrée who were waltzing slowly, tightly clasped together, “I’ve left my glasses behind and I can’t see very well, but they are certainly keenly aroused. It’s not sufficiently known that women derive most excitement through their breasts. And theirs, as you see, are touching completely.”…At that moment Andrée said something to Albertine, who laughed with the same deep and penetrating laugh that I had heard before. But the unease it roused in me this time was nothing but painful; Albertine appeared to be conveying, to be making Andrée share, some secret and voluptuous thrill. (IV,265-266)

Next day, when Albertine wrote to me that she had only just got back to Epreville, and so had not received my note in time, and would come, if she might, to see me that evening, behind the words of her letter, as behind those that she had said to me once over the telephone, I thought I could detect the presence of pleasures, of people, whom she preferred to me. (IV,267)

Proust also was tormented with jealousy for a servant, his driver Agostonelli. Note that this fear of losing a possession is completely bourgeois, afflicting Swann and Marcel, but which is not so evident in the aristocracy (think of the Duchesse’s behavior over the Duke’s infidelities), where it would be considered vulgar.









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