The Path to Demise
Deadly, Pale Imagery In The Lost Estate
Alain Fournier’s The Lost Estate is name after a mysterious property, central to the novel, Le Domain des Sablonnieres, where Yvonne de Galais ensnares Augustin Meulnes, who fails to escape, despite his attempt to do so soon after their marriage during his first visit. Yvonne is described by Francois, the narrator, as “[T]he fairy, the princess and the mysterious love of all our adolescence”(188). Francois is vicariously in love with Yvonne, through Augustin, indicating that she was present in the story as an object meant to draw Augustin’s attention, and indirectly, Francois’. Augustin’s fascination with Yvonne is based on a series of misconceptions, indicating a deception. Yvonne has attributes enticing both to Augustin as well as to Francois. Augustin is pulled into a lifetime of misery by returning to Yvonne despite his better judgement.
Fournier implies Yvonne’s fraudulent nature early in the novel by displaying that Augustin’s initial attraction to Yvonne was based on superficial characteristics. When Meaulnes first sees Yvonne at Le Domain des Sablonnieres, he assumed was that she was in attendance at the party as an entertainer, rather than a member of the family, and thought to himself, “ ‘This must be what you’d call an eccentric young woman, perhaps some actress brought here for the party’”(64). Moments before the boat trip back to Le Domain des Sablonnieres from the day trip, Yvonne signals her menacing capacity to Augustin, when she “[S]topped and, turning towards him, gave him for the first time a long stare...Was she forbidding him to accompany her?”(67). In Western culture staring is considered a form of threat.
Augustin gets sucked into a magical world and never manages to escape, although he physically leaves Le Domain des Sablonnieres, he is metaphysically trapped there forever. Although unknown to the characters within the novel, this particular estate is known as The Lost Estate. Le Domain des Sablonnieres, or “ The Lost Estate,” is a setting with a group of characters by whom Augustin is subsequently exploited and trapped. He believes that the unique experience that he has there, is special and unique, and he perseveres in holding onto the trivial details which lead to his demise.
During his first visit to Le Domain des Sablonnieres, Augustin fools himself into being entranced by the culture and lifestyle. Le Domain des Sablonnieres is a partially abandoned castle, the ideal for the setting where Yvonne begins drag Augustin into her pointless life. Later in the story, Meaulnes’ choice to abandon his new bride is an indication that he was, in some manner, aware of the fact that he did not belong in her life. This was Meaulnes’ attempt to escape from a life that he knew was not good for him. Yvonne, “ giving up hope of getting me to go into Les Sablonnieres” (192) and then says “ How could he do otherwise than give in to temptation to escape” (193). In these passages, Yvonne blatantly admits that she has trapped Meaulnes against his will, despite the fact that he technically initiated the relationship.
There is a theme of lifelessness in Fournier’s descriptions of Yvonne and her Paris home. In a letter, Augustin tells the main character: “ Alas, the window pane is whitened only by the curtain behind it. And even if the girl from the Lost Domain were to open it, I now have nothing left to tell her” ( 132). The theme of paleness continues in the description of the setting which surrounds the place where Yvonne lives in Paris. “ I have passed once more beneath her window. The pane is still dusty and whitened by the double curtain behind it” (204). The whiteness of the curtain behind the window reinforces the concept of Yvonne’s bland villainy. The reasons that Augustin becomes obsessed with Yvonne de Galais are superficial and outdated. Traditionally, men have been attracted to women for their physicality but Fournier’s turn of the century book is a warning which contradicts traditional expectations of a woman’s beauty being relevant to her quality as a mate. Fournier demonstrates that that there is nothing profound about yet another man falling in love with yet another women based on her beauty, albeit eerie, and that it leads to the destruction of his character by the end of the novel. Augustin was enamored by Yvonne’s femininity and delicate beauty and chooses his fate based on her superficial attributes, making his condemnation acceptable to the discretionary reader.
Unlike Yvonne, Meaulnes is described in the beginning of the story by the narrator to be boisterous and healthy. Although Meaulnes himself doesn’t fall ill, the rest of his life after meeting Yvonne seems to be consumed by her weakness, which she is aware of. “ Mademoiselle de Galais stood up, the color suddenly draining from her face. And at that very moment, I remembered that Meaulnes, once, in the mysterious domain, near the lake, had told her his name...”(146). This passage initially describes Yvonne’s poor health and then Meulnes’ introduction to Yvonne, which began their inescapable acquaintanceship.
Yvonne’s hollow personality persists in the child that she has with Meaulnes. When Francois visits Yvonne and Meaulnes’ baby for the first time, it appears to him as necrotic. “ The baby asleep in her cot was very pale, quite white, like a dead child” (196-197). Babies are expected to be born with energy and life and are usually reddish in color. Meaulnes and Yvonne’s baby, however, is another manifestation of Yvonne’s lifeless nature. The infant shares the characteristics of its mother, Yvonne, rather than with its father, Meaulnes. Yvonne’s death was an agitated one, rather than peaceful one. After her death, there was“ No more fever, no more struggle. No more flushed face, no more waiting... Only silence and, wrapped in cotton wool, a hard face, white and unfeeling, and a dead brow beneath stiff, hard hair” (199). Finally, Fournier drives home his point about the danger of being seduced by shallow qualities, using the lack of color as a symbol of stagnation and death.
This book reminded me of one of my ex-boyfriends, who was a pale, controlling, and egotistical creep. After reading this book, I chose to discontinue our friendship. I saw myself in Meaulnes and realized that he was my Yvonne, destined to slowly destroy my life with his stale attitude toward life. One time, when we were both twenty-two, he interrupted intercourse to ask me if I wanted him to knock me up, and I freaked out because that would irresponsible and stupid. Since escaping from my real life version of The Lost Estate and the male version of Yvonne, I have devoted a lot more time to myself and my work which has been very satisfying.