Le Rêve (novel)  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Le rêve (The Dream) is the sixteenth novel in the Rougon-Macquart series by Émile Zola.

The novel was published by Charpentier in October 1888 and translated into English by Eliza E. Chase as The Dream in 1893 (reprinted in 2005). Other recent translations are by Michael Glencross (Peter Owen 2005) and Andrew Brown (Hesperus Press 2005).

The novel was dramatized as an opera in four acts composed by Alfred Bruneau, produced June 18, 1891, at the Opéra-Comique to a libretto by Louis Gallet.

The novel covers the years 1860–1869.

Plot summary

Le rêve is a simple tale of the orphan Angélique Marie (b. 1851), adopted by a husband-and-wife team of ecclesiastic embroiderers in the cathedral town of Beaumont, 30 leagues from Paris. Angélique is enthralled by the tales of the saints and martyrs — particularly Saint Agnes and Saint George — as told in the Golden Legend of Jacobus de Voragine. Her dream is to be saved by a handsome prince and to live happily ever after, in the same way the virgin martyrs have their faiths tested on earth before being rescued and married to Jesus in heaven.

Her dream of love and happiness is realized when she falls in love with Félicien d'Hautecœur, the last in an old family of knights, heroes, and nobles in the service of Christ and of France. His father, the present Monseignuer, objects to their marrying for reasons of his own, and Angélique refuses to elope with Félicien without the father's consent. The Monseignuer agrees at last upon realizing Angélique's purity, beauty, and innocence. Leaving the church after the wedding, Angélique kisses Félicien for the first time and dies, having reached the extreme limits of earthly happiness and ecstatic in the realization of her dream.

Relation to the other Rougon-Macquart novels

Zola's plan for the Rougon-Macquart novels was to show how heredity and environment worked on members of one family over the course of the Second French Empire. All of the descendants of Adelaïde Fouque (Tante Dide), Angélique's great-grandmother, demonstrate what today would be called obsessive-compulsive behaviors. Angélique is obsessed with the lives of the saints and with her dream of a princely marriage.

Furthermore, Angélique has a temper and experiences serious mood swings, becoming as passionate as any one of her relatives. Zola strongly implies that, without the upbringing by her adoptive parents and the influence of the cathedral and The Golden Legend, Angélique could easily have been fallen prey to her passions and ended up as a prostitute (like her cousin Nana).

In Le docteur Pascal, Zola describes Angélique as being a blend of the characteristics of her parents to such a degree that no trace of them shows up in the child. Angélique's mother is Sidonie Rougon, who plays a significant (though brief) role in La curée and appears briefly in L'œuvre. (Angélique's father is unknown.) Sidonie is unfeeling and nearly inhuman, a cold, dry woman incapable of love. She is a professional procuress, involved in every shady calling, a seller of "anything and everything."

In Le docteur Pascal (set in 1872), Zola tells us that Sidonie has become the austere financial manager of a home for unwed mothers.



Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Le Rêve (novel)" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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