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The Novel ‘Manon Lescault’


Abbe Prevost is part time cleric who has been trapped between the world of demons and angels. He puts out his story and is prepared to live it in reality. This fact raises a lot of questions on whether human life is a draft that individuals are to act on it. The major theme that comes out in this novel is the theme of passion. Passion which is depicted in the novel is so violent that it defeats reason and prevents an individual from carrying on virtues. The individuals possessed with passion do not find any good reason to live, but to follow their passions.

Theme of passion

Passion refers to affections that are aroused by agents from without. It details the condition of the mind when influenced by environmental factors. Under this condition, one may be so excited. It can be passion of adoration, hatred, envy or anger or love. The story revolves around two major characters that had a passion of love. Des Grieux and Manon met and they both felt in love, this is depicted in act one as indicated that, “he is able to maneuver her and has promised to see him later. Grieux realizes that he has fallen in love “ (Prevost 3). The author describes Manon as an individual with fewer complications. He was able to notice her in the crowd where there was a large crowd of girls tied as one. Manon loves enjoyment and pleasure. She follows her instincts without question, this depicts her passion. Des Grieux on the other hand, shows his passion when he becomes sexually attached to her despite having recognized her default.

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 In the novel, the Author tries to examine the psychology of Des Grieux. He shows Grieux reading a letter that he has received from Manon in which she was giving explanations to justify his reason for leaving him for a wealthier old man Geronte. Manon though she enjoys the luxury in the house of Geronte misses the times they spent together with Grieux. On the other hand Grieux says that he is not in a position to explain the condition that he was at that time as he read the letter and the feelings that he had in his soul. He claims that the situation he was under at that moment was unique and unexplainable to other people as they cannot understand. One cannot also be able to interpret his feelings as they have no link with any other person or any well known feeling. He claims that the feeling that he had was that of violent passion. At that moment he was filled with sorrow, envy and shame this is indicated as stated, “he is filled with an agony of impatience and uneasiness” (Prevost 107) when he was in the coach waiting for Manon. There are details on how Grieux felt when he received a letter addressed to him from Manon, he claims that he was ending any relationship with all other women, he says “I abandon her and at the same time renounce all women” (Prevost 108).

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The novel ‘Manon Lescault’ is a novel that shows the extent of unfruitful love. Grieux has been enslaved in love, where even after predicting his bad luck has not taken a step to avoid the misfortunes as he said that he was not aware of the faults that Manon had, “my love rendered me blind of all her faults” (Prevost118). He was blindly in love. He was a good thinker but didn’t have the ability to make wise decisions with regards to Manon. He has turned to be a robber, blackmailer and a killer in his efforts to satisfy the taste of Manon. Manon decided to give up his hereditary riches in exchange of his love for Manon. Manon in return loves him but she does not have true love for him. She only loves material things and enjoyment and comfort. She is not thoughtful of morality but fights to keep in herself something good which is of great help to her.

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When Grieux left Paris and settled down with his lover Manon in New Orleans where they enjoyed peace, the governor’s nephew fell in love with Manon having the knowledge that they were not married. Grieux fought in despair and thinking that he had killed the person, they both ran away from the country. This shows the depth of their love. The extent of the love that he had for Manon is described where he claims that he will only feel better if Manon will allow her to be the master of all her love. He says “I will only be happy if my dear Manon will make me master of all her affections” (Prevost 115). When Grieux finds out that Manon has been put in prison, they tried together with Lescaut his brother all that they could to ensure her release but all was in vain. Grieux decided to give himself to be imprisoned so as to be together with Manon.

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The passion for wealth is what made Manon to desert Grieux for a wealthier man after when his property was destroyed in fire. Manon always wanted to enjoy life and she did not want to live in poverty. When his brother went to visit him she was dressed in jewels and other very expensive items explains how she was showered with francs and jewels of her choice, the author puts it that “he then led her to a splendid room where the collation was served” (Prevost 116). This passion is what put her in prison as he tried to gather all her jewels before taking off. She later regretted this decision

Geronte on the other hand had a strong feeling of hatred and anger when he got the idea that Manon who is a pretty girl had run away with a poor student using his own coach. He asks her brother Lescaut to go after them and that he should not allow the poor boy to marry his sister. The passion that Geronte had was hate. He hates seeing a lady he has fallen in love with being married by another man who was penniless. He also went to an extent of referring to her as a prostitute when he finds them in his house.

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Passion also is what is making Grieux to wander in the desert with his beloved. In the desert there is neither food nor water. They are walking together, hungry and exhausted. Passion is therefore what is driving Grieux to do all that pertains to the happiness of Manon. They escaped together through the desert hoping to find rescue.

When in the wilderness the couple was faced with shortage of water, Grieux seeing that Manon was exhausted, he went all round looking for water but he could not find. He came back only to be bid farewell by Manon. He also collapsed and fell unconsciously over her body. Manon died in his arms and Grieux decided to go and become a priest as he did not want any other woman.

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Lescaut on the other hand had passion for happiness for his sister Manon. When his sister caught married to Grieux, Geronte a rich man asked Lescaut to go after them. Lescaut knew that his sister was passionate for happiness and she was not going to give himself up for a poor student. This act is shown at the end of act one. In act two, Manon confides in her brother and there, he was able to tell him that even though he was living a luxurious life he was longing for the happiness that she had when they were living together with Grieux. On hearing this Lescaut was determined to look for Grieux who will make his sister happy. He made secret arrangements for him to meet his sister if that could count to her happiness. All this actions were performed by Lescaut because of the passion of happiness that he had for his sister. 

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Grieux also had the passion for happiness. He fought all through to ensure that Manon lived a happy life. He gave up his family and material wealth having the idea that his closeness with Manon will make her happy. During the deportation of prisoners in act four he tries to rescue her but all in vain. Grieux was overwhelmed by the thought of loneliness with regards to their separation. He puts all his efforts in rescuing her but his efforts were turned down by the shove that he receives from the sergeant.  He is later given the opportunity by the captain to accompany them. Passion also is shown by the captain of the ship when he looked into the sorrows of Grieux and allowed him to board the ship. The captain was overtaken by the feeling of pity for Grieux and that is the reason why he stopped the ship and asked for the man to be allowed to board the ship this events occur in act three.

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Manon’s father also had some passion for his daughter. This is what made him to make a decision of taking her to the convent where he will not be able to undergo temptations while following her own passions. On the way to the convent is when she met with Grieux and felt in love.


In conclusion the novel ‘Manon Lescaut’ is full of passionate feelings. Passion is what drives the characters to make various decisions. The major theme that is seen in the novel is passion. Passion may be productive or destructive hence the strong feelings that the characters have in this novel produces both results. For others it was fruitful for example Grieux who got Manon for himself while the passion for wealth in the side of Manon puts her in prison.

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