The Decisive Battle


Perhaps inspired by the perfectly executed Verdurin plan to separate Charlus from Charlie, Marcel launches a campaign against Albertine to insure that she remains his captive. It starts when Albertine is outraged that Marcel would go out for the evening by himself. He intuits this as a reprimand to him for not allowing her the freedom go where and when she pleases.

And so, just as she was telling me that she had never felt so affronted and when she had heard that I had gone out alone, that she would sooner have died than be told this by Françoise, and just as, irritated by her absurd susceptibility, I was on the point of telling her that what I had done was trivial, that there was nothing wounding to her in my having gone out, my unconscious parallel search for what she had meant to say had come to fruition, and the despair into which my discovery plunged me could not be completely hidden, so that instead of defending, I accused myself. “…My little Albertine” (I went on in a tone of profound gentleness and sorrow), “don’t you see that the life you’re leading here is boring for you. It is better that we should part and as the best partings are those that are effected most swiftly, I ask you, to cut short the great sorrow that I am bound to feel, to say good-bye to me tonight and to leave in the morning without my seeing you again, while I’m asleep.”  She appeared stunned, incredulous and desolate: “Tomorrow? You really mean it?” (V,459)

Marcel becomes assured that she really is content with her life with him.

The fear that Albertine was perhaps going to say to me: “I want to be allowed to go out by myself at certain hours. I want to be able to stay away for twenty-four hours,” or some such request for freedom which I did not attempt to define, but which alarmed me, this fear had crossed my mind for a moment during the Verdurin reception. But it had been dispelled, contradicted moreover by the memory of Albertine’s constant assurances of how happy she was with me. (V,465)

He is fully aware that he has put on a show to reign in Albertine.

My words, therefore, did not in the least reflect my feelings. If the reader has no more than a faint impression of these, that is because, as narrator, I expose my feelings to him at the same time as I repeat my words. But if I concealed the former and he were acquainted only with the latter, my actions, so little in keeping with them, would so often give him the impressions of strange reversals that he would think me more or less mad. (V,467)

Albertine being in more or less the same position as the reader, it is a wonder that she does not think him mad. The tide of battle shifts. Albertine reveals some of her secrets.  She reveals that she is well acquainted with Bloch’s sister Esther, that she not only knows the actress Lea but spent three weeks with her, that she lied about going to Balbec and instead spent time with a friend, which at one point involved going out dressed as a man, etc. This fires Marcel’s jealous resentment and locks him into an even more consuming desire to dominate.

I had suddenly wanted to keep Albertine because I felt that she was scattered about among other people with whom I could not prevent her from mixing. But even if she had renounced them all for ever for my sake, I might perhaps have been still more firmly resolved never to leave her, for separation is made painful by jealousy but impossible by gratitude. I felt that in any case I was fighting the decisive battle in which I must conquer or succumb. I would have offered Albertine in an hour all that I possessed, because I said to myself: Everything depends upon this battle.” (V,475)

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