Human Nature and a Cyclical View of History in Chantal Thomas' "Les adieux à la reine"

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date

Fall 2015


In her award-winning novel Les adieux à la reine (2002), Chantal Thomas asks essential questions about life and death, human nature, and history. She captures a moment of revolutionary angst when, just after the storming of the Bastille on July 14, 1789, news of the attack reaches the royal palace of Versailles. Thomas focuses on the three-day period of July 14 to 16 as speculation about the uprising leads to panic. A desire to live beyond the hellish Revolution and escape that charged mid-July moment motivates members at court to flee rapidly. The fragility of their ties to Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette is thus revealed. Émigrés include even many of those previously so devoted to the royal family. This study examines Thomas' nuanced presentation of human nature in Les adieux and its connection to history. In the text, human nature is portrayed as as primarily self-interested and focused on survival. Individuals may be capable of self-sacrifice, but such altruistic behavior is not the norm. Therefore, Thomas' presentation of human nature and the course of history is ultimately pessimistic.


This article is drawn from a conference presentation by the same title presented at the 20th and 21st-century French and Francophone Studies International Colloquium in New York City (March 2014). In addition, the research for this study and writing the initial version of this article was made possible by a Sacred Heart University Research/Creativity Grant.