Manon Lescaut ( by Abbé Prévost) analytical paper

The Fiction of Relationship {Coursera / Brown} – WEEK 2 HOMEWORK



Symbiotic relationships: the shortcomings of youth

Symbiosis might qualify for a true definition of the ideal love; each partner mutually depending on the other, forming a beneficial co-existence. Age and maturity substantially contribute to such a state between a couple. I would assume the alternative term, fusion, the union of two separate individuals into one entity, even on spiritual premises, was perhaps unheard of in the 18th century and highly doubtful whether it can truly be achieved even by today’s standards. Siding with a somewhat cynical approach of the novel, I am inclined to suggest that the couple’s ill-fated story was one of co-existence, taken to an extreme, but symbiotic? Hardly.

Enter Manon, a young lady, forever infatuated by new temptations to expense. (p. 72: §119) Her poorest of backgrounds didn’t allow for many choices to earn her living. Satisfied with finding affluent, funding suitors, she trespasses on de Grieux’s intense amour, callously suggesting that whom one beds is not necessarily whom one loves. Precarious words in the case of our protagonist, who foolishly believes that her figure transcends into a divine dimension, equal to that of Magdalene or – blasphemously – God himself. Manon puts her own individual self and lust for luxury above all costs, even that of her dignity.

Web. Retrieved 17 June 2013 from

His uncontrollable passion for the woman is so intense that he soon spirals into a chain of unlawful actions in order to subsidize their bond;  his newly found thousand sentiments of pleasure (p. 22: §39) drives  him in defiance of family, church, law and social order. His idea of love, sanctified in his state of mind, justifies the means to an end. Yet, how can one expect mere children of our age (p. 28: §49)  discovering sexual ecstasy for the first time – in case of the man in our story – take love seriously?

Pleasure and plenty she loved too well to sacrifice them for my sake (p.77: §128), he exclaims frantically when he faces the danger of losing her affections over his own material deficits. In a sense symbiosis here is substituted by  emotional leeching. Manon sucked on de Grieux’s feelings, he on the other hand was pumping more blood in his affective veins, nonetheless. Modern psychologists would likely call it sociopathic or a serious case of mental obsession on his behalf. It is no wonder that his only true friend, Tiberge, perhaps acting as the voice of a fictitious, wiser, older brother this time, puts aside his empathy and curses the wretched union: “…and may you yourself remain alone and deserted, to learn the vanity of these things, which now divert you from better pursuits!” (p.97:  §156)

All in all, the novel symbolizes fiction of a non symbiotic relationship, hence not reflecting a true love story but rather a doomed, youthful, carnal infatuation, which led both individuals to their demise.

Works cited:

Prévost, Abbé. Manon Lescaut. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Project Gutenberg. Web. 17 June 2013. <;.


The fiction of relationship – Week 1 assignment (Brown / Coursera)


Instructions: Respond to the following in your own words. Your response should be a single paragraph of 75-150 words. 

Paying close attention to the common dictionary definitions when talking about both ‘fiction’ and ‘relationship’ write a paragraph asking yourself this question: what is the ‘fiction of relationship’? How can one define the dimensions of this phrase? Is it a paradox? As you see it, what bearing does this phrase have on the experience of our encounter with others, the others we find not only in life but in the literature we read?


Wikipedia quotes fiction as an imaginary work of art, invented by an author [1]. Relationships on the other hand may seem real, though hardly tangible as a notion. Relationships can be interpersonal [2] or intrapersonal, leading to self reflection and awareness.

One wonders, to what extend should we allow for fictitious literature to portray the reality of relationships? Fiction might be giving the reader a mere interpretation, yet we do seem to covet the author’s  personal view on human interactions; perhaps it is through his/her imagination we attempt to explain our own insecurities or fears for the “others” – even for ourselves – endlessly trying to delve into the hero’s or heroine’s role. Every self-proclaimed literature enthusiast feels at least once the urge to identify oneself with a fictional character.

We quote fiction as artistic – a fabric of creative imagination –  but isn’t life itself a form of dynamic art? To me, attempting to understand human relationships requires a bit of fiction or at least some source of poetic / dramatic inspiration. Fiction is the truth inside the lie [3] concerning relationships.



  1. “Fiction.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 06 July 2013. Web. 09 June 2013. <;
  2. “Relationship.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 29 May 2013. Web. 09 June 2013. <;.
  3. King, Stephen. ““Fiction Is the Truth inside the Lie.”.” Goodreads. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 June 2013. <;. Quotable Quote.