by Dennis Abrams
Marcel discovers Gilberte at the Champs-Elysees, playing with a shuttlecock. Her governess compared to Francoise “…and I noticed for the first time with irritation that she had a vulgar way of speaking, and alas, no blue feather in her hat.” Playing Prisoner’s Base with Gilberte and her friends, and Marcel’s disappointment on the days she is not in the park. Marcel watches the weather in the hope that it will be good enough that Gilberte will be able to go out and play. Gilberte’s friendship with the solitary woman. “…to make whose acquaintance I would at that time have sacrificed, had the exchange been allowed me, all the greatest future advantages of my life.” A cold day when Gilberte is not there, Marcel and Francoise walk (it’s too cold for Francoise to sit still) and Marcel’s joy at seeing the blue feather of Gilberte’s governesses hat. Marcel and Gilberte play alone in the cold, until “like hesitant sparrows, her friends arrived all black against the snow.” Marcel’s happiness that Gilberte wanted him to play on her side. “For, although I no longer thought, now, of anything else but of not allowing a single day to pass without seeing Gilberte (so much so that once when my grandmother had not returned by dinnertime, I could not help saying to myself immediately that if she had been run over by a carriage, I weould not be able to go to the Champs-Elysees for a long time; we no longer love anyone else when we are in love)…”Marcel’s inability to enjoy his time with Gilberte. Gilberte’s apparent lack of feelings for Marcel. Marcel’s desire for he and Gilberte to declare their love for each other. Marcel’s need to see the live Gilberte to “refresh the images that my tired memory could no longer recapture…” M. Swann’s spice cake. Gilberte buys Marcel an expensive agate marble, and gives it to him as a “souvenir.” Gilberte sends Marcel her copy of Bergotte’s book on Racine. Marcel’s joy when Gilberte calls him by his given name.
The beginnings of obsession.
1. What age do you think Marcel and Gilberte are at this stage of the book? While it’s true they are meeting to play in the park, I think they’re older than we think they are.
2. I’ve been in China this week. Two days ago, in Beijing, I was doing a food tour of the hutongs, and my guide gave me a stick on which were empaled five red balls encased in a shiny sugar crust. They’re hawthornes, she said, it’s the classic street dessert. When I bit into it, breaking through the outer shell into the juicy fruit, I immediately thought of Marcel, looking at the wall of hawthorne flowers.
Davis: Page 420 “But in the moment itself…” through Page 429 “…and lay the foundations of a new one.”