May 7, 2019

Dear class,

This week’s prompt is to summarize the first part of The Lover by Marguerite Duras (also included in our resources).

I want you to pay special attention to language and tone.

Please bring your hard copies of H2G2 and The Lover to class.

Kind regards,



  1. The Lover begins by the narrator giving the reader a brief background description of her life to further explain her “ravaged” complexion. She is a white woman, living in Saigon, where the narrator is attending a state boarding school. Her mother is extremely hard on her when it comes to her studies which has led her to age, to look exhausted, with rings around her eyes. When her father comes down with an illness, her mother would fall into moods where she can no longer care for her children. The narrator steps off her ferry ride on her way to school to find a man, who was not white, looking at her through the window of his limousine. She transitions her meeting with the rich man to describe her how her family has been coping after her father had passed. Her mother opened a French-language school to help support her and her brothers. Unfortunately, her younger brother passes with bronchial pneumonia. The story returns back to the man in the limousine. They advance from car rides to school to him becoming her lover, the lover. The family meets the lover and although they do not speak to him, they accept him because of his wealth.

    1. Brianna — I really like how you talked about her expedited aging from stress. I felt like that was a very relatable start to the story and kind of foreshadowed that the narrator was about to take us through her stressful journey, which you summarized perfectly.

  2. The Lover by Marguerite Duras, begins with the narrator describing herself as an “old” person. The story is shifting in time from the past and present. This girl who is nameless in the story, is from Sadec. She lives with her mother, who is named Marie Legrand. She has 3 brothers and really only mentions the oldest brother as the evil one, and the younger brother who protects her from her mother punching her. Her mother gets upset that her daughter and the Chinese man are having sex and even calls her a disgrace that she’s her daughter. I think the mother just wants to protect her daughter from this man because he’s much older than her think he’s taken advantage of her. Her mother takes care of her husband and children, she makes dresses for her daughter when she was 15 years old. As the girl is describing her memories of her life, she mentions that her father becomes ill and also, the younger brother dies from bronchial pneumonia. I believe the plot of the story are memories as told by the author about her lifestyle and how she met the lover. When she met her lover as she was on a ferry crossing the Mekong River. I feel the narrator of the story is young but she has an old soul, because she is mature and takes care of herself, she is also independent. She said “between eighteen and twenty five my face took off in a new direction I grew old at eighteen” (p.4). the lover and her form a romantic sexual relationship and goes on for about 18 months. He takes care of her and also her family, by taking her family he invites them to dinner but there isn’t much communication, the elder brother doesn’t say a word, not a thank you or how are you? One of the parts in the novel that stood out to me was when they went on a journey , “every so often we make the journey”. This place is off the mountains of Siam. They use to swim in the river when they were kids and now that they’re grown up it’s not as important as it use to be. It’s interesting that she doesn’t see this place as important to her. This place is just looked at as a memory of her childhood and nothing else.

  3. Brianna I liked how you mentioned in the beginning of the novel as her complexion became ravaged. i also agree with that phrase because the narrator does a good job on explaining why her life became the way it is. her mother didn’t support her becoming a writer and told her to pursue her degree in math. This has become a big disappointment towards the narrator life and becomes unhappy. You did a good job on describing the novel in a chronological order.

  4. In The Lover by Marguerite Duras, it starts off with narrator describing herself as has having an old face and growing old at 18. The narrator describes her love for writing, but her mother wants her to focus on math. Her mom seems to focus and love her eldest son the most. The narrator describes herself wearing a fedora, which her mom bought at mark-down during one of her depressive states. She talks about her beautiful long hair and how she would braid it each night before bed. She recalled people saying that her hair was her prettiest feature. When she turned 23 she basically went and had her hair chopped off. They asked her if she wanted hair to take, they would wrap it up for her but she said “no”. The way the cutting of her hair was narrated it was as if, it was the one thing she had control of and by cutting it off, it was a way to get back at her mom. (That is my opinion). The story then transitions back to her on the ferry and meeting this elegant looking man in the big black limousine. It then transitions back to her mother. She tells her mom she wants to write, but her mom is against it because it is not real work. “It’s a childish idea” (page 21) As the story progresses she describes not remembering what she has written in books about her love and hatred for her mother. She describes the passing of her younger brother.
    The story then goes back to the elegant man from the limousine. He is Chinese, not white as she is. He offers to drive her wherever she needs to go in Saigon. They talk and share stories. He explains his father’s wealth. He picks her up every day at her high school and one day they end up at his estate. There is an attraction, which leads to romance. The story leads up to him meeting her family. The family never acknowledges his. They just take advantage of the expensive Chinese dinners in Cholon, but never speak to him. When her eldest brother is around she never acknowledges her lover. He does not exist to her or her family. The brothers want to go to a place called the fountain and that is the only time she acknowledges the lover as of course he would be the one to pay. The story fast forwards and she saids her mom did not know of her affair with the Chinese man in Cholon, but her mom suspects and goes into a fit of madness. Her mom beats her, smells her underwear, calls her a prostitute. She swears to her mother that nothing happened. She says how could she do something with an ugly Chinese who is weak? She says this to convince her mom and eldest brother who she knows is listening.

    1. Jenise,
      Through reading your response, I felt as if you painted a perfect picture of what happened in the first part of The Lover to someone who has yet to read it. I like how you added your own opinion into the mix. I agree with you because it seems as if she doesn’t have much control over her own life.

  5. The Lover by Marguerite Duras starts with the narrator’s interaction with man in public. He comments on her complexion as “ravaged” and his preference for it. The narrator then uses this interaction to reflect on how she sees herself and how that comes to be. She then goes into her childhood in Saigon. The narrator introduces us to her mother who we learn is raising her children alone. Her two brothers who are the opposite of one another in temperament and personality. Also, we are introduced to her lover. A Chinese man who is twelve years older than her. The narrator talks about family poverty. How her mother worked as a headmistress for a school. Her mother also purchases land to try and make more money for the family but that fails. The family are are white French. Their race and poverty effects how they are they treat the locals and others that are non-white. The mother’s struggle with poverty also effects how she treats her children. She favors the brothers over the narrator and pushes her daughter to peruse an education in mathematics. The narrator understands that she is on her own in the world and eventually after the death of younger brother feels no love for them. The narrator meets a wealthy Chinese man who falls in love with her. She freely admits to him that her attraction to him is based on his wealth. The two become lovers. The narrators family does not approve the relationship, but they willing to have the Chinese man pay for their dinner and drinks without ever thanking him. The narrator uses non-linear storying telling to talk about the different events in her life. Often alluding to the different event before she recounts them.

    1. Hi Warren- your analysis of the moms struggle with poverty in relation with how she treated her children was interesting. It does make a lot of sense. I did not make that connection when I was reading. I felt as if she wanted her family to be seen as better than. Hence her daughter wanting to be a writer not being good enough for her daughter, but being a mathematician would be perfect. I was quite confused with her mom’s behavior. She accepted the Chinese mans dinner invites and allowed him to pay but then beat her daughter when suspected there was a relationship. She did not find it weird to get these invites to begin with? Her moms behavior is as if she were mentally ill.
      PS: I always enjoy reading your comments to the stories. You always have great analytical feedback that gives me clarity on things I am confused with☺

  6. The narrator in The Lover is a young French girl living in Saigon with her family. The story begins by describing the young girl at age eighteen watching her face go through accelerated aging due to stress, then eventually slow down. From there, the narrator goes back into the past, when she was fifteen and a half. The girl is being raised by her mother who suffers from depression and mood swings, along with her two brothers. The family struggles with their finances so much so that the mother allows her daughter to leave the house dressed as a “child prostitute”. The girl begins to have an affair with a wealthy Chinese man she met one day while on her way to school. He’s enamored by her, and she’s enamored by the thought of traveling to school in a limousine rather than the bus. They continue to see each other as he drives her to and from school, and eventually to his apartment where they make love for her first time. Her family disapproves of the couple and never acknowledges his presence when he’s around and often beats her when he’s not. The girl’s mother eventually passes away, but the man’s family is equally as ashamed of their son for the relationship he’s in. Nevertheless, the couple remains.

    1. Hi Tonya,
      I liked your summary of the lover. You gave the summary of the first part without going to much into detail but stating the important parts of the story.It was very simple which i liked. I really like that you mention that the mother let her daughter walk around like a “child prostitute” and didn’t seem like she had a problem with that. But when she learn of their intimate relationship she beat her , I found it a bit ironic.

    2. Hi Tonya,
      Duras does a great job at describing the state of mind her mother is in using flashback and language. Duras frequently refers to the picture of her mother that was taken and how she could always tell what her mother was thinking before the picture was taken. I like that you mentioned that her mother let her leave the house like a “child prostitute” and how she continues seeing her lover despite her family’s views. I sense defiance in her personally, maybe a cry for help? or seeking the attention from her mother that she never received.

  7. In the first part of The Lover by Marguerite Duras we read about her childhood growing up poor and her perception of her life, her family and the world she lives in. For a book titles the lover her language is filled with resentment and despair, showing mixed feelings towards her mother. Duras states that her mother does not love her as much as her brothers, that her brothers always received the most love and aid, allowed to go off and do as they please while she is forced to study what her mother wants her to study. Duras frequently jumps back and forth between memories, speaking about when she was “fifteen and a half” and then later when she is an adult to show how her life created her. After being through so much darkens, you age. Duras often speaks about her beauty, that she could be whatever people wanted her to be, referring to herself as if she has no free will and her body was at the mercy of whomever laid eyes on her. It is a harsh pill to swallow that many girls were subjected to this in order to survive. This was a reality that she knew, accepted and worked. When she first interacts with her lover, she says he is lonely and she could never love him, but they continue on their affair. She refers to him as her lover on page 53 for the first time, when she introduces him to her family. I feel that Duras is referring to love with the absence of emotion, as I do not feel the narrator has any emotions while speaking about the events in her life. Cold hearted, scared by life, by her family, by her mother. Trying to know what love is but might never, quiet know what it feels like.

    1. I completely see the mixed message someone gets about the mother in the story. She seems to plan things out for her kids, but at the same time she was willing to make her dress as a prostitute in like a see through dress. The main character herself seems to go through her own series of emotions as well. On one page she might have the feeling of being secluded in the world because she has no one to go to, but then she craves for the affection of her Chinese lover. The talk about beauty when she locked eyes with the man in the limo, made me start to question her self esteem.

    2. Hi Rachel – I noticed that she did it did seem very coldhearted. Since her father passed away, I wonder if things were the same way. Her family doesn’t show love because they probably don’t know how to. I was thinking that is why she didn’t want to fall in love. Maybe she didn’t know how to express it because they was an emotion her family lacked most of the time.

    3. Rachel
      Your take on this story was very insightful. I had trouble piecing together much of the story due to the narrator writing in what seemed fractured. After reading your take, I understand the piece better. I also found it very interesting that the novel is named “The Lover,” yet much of her emotion is filled with despair and resentment. It is as if the concept of “love” is very contradictory to what she is feeling, and instead if void of emotion and leans more towards carnal.

  8. The first part of The Lover tells a story of a woman and her memories of the past. It starts off when she meets a man who tells her even though her face is uglier than when she was younger, he still thinks she is beautiful even thought it is “Ravaged”. The main character believes she started to become ugly about the age from 18 to 25. She thinks she got more uglier due to all the things she has done in her younger days as teenager. She brings up the fact that her family cut off the oldest brother and her mother was raising 2 brothers and her by her lone some. She also mentions that she had to hop to different schools because her mother would be relocated for work. Her mother is portrayed as being very caring and protective. The mother was hoping that her daughter will go into the mathematics field for her future. One day as she was leaving the bus she meets a man in a black limo who is just looking at her. At this point she starts to wonder why she is looking at her, she mentions the fact that some of her mom’s friends would use to hit on her while their wives were out at a sporting club or something. She seems to be very jealous of all the other women in the colonies, and tells us her point of view on beauty. She then tells us that her little brother passed away from bronchial pneumonia. After this part she says that her mother and her brothers all passed away. The man in the black limo steps out and walks up to her. After a awkward introduction, He tells her that he was a student in Paris but lives in Sadec. They start developing feelings for each other, but she is hesitant to do anything too rash. Eventually they make love and after she starts to question if their families will even approve of them being a couple or even getting married.

    1. What’s interesting is the fact that the family doesn’t even say a word to the lover even though they are experiencing something new that they never had experienced before, luxurious food. Is it because the older brother is ashamed of the daughter? That the older brother could not provide as much as the lover? That the mother understands that the child that she neglected all these years is now providing something that she didn’t expect her to? What peaks me is that the youngest brother seems to somewhat be grateful, but not even the narrator can say a word to the Chinese man. Then again, despite knowing this, why did the Chinese man continue to provide these meals and events for the family despite the fact that he knows that he will be unnappreciated.

  9. The Lover is about the narrator’s childhood’s experience with how her own mother treated her daughter. Instead of praising and inspiring the narrator, the mother wants the daughter to do exactly what she tells the daughter to do. Instead, the daughter wants to be a writer, not a mathematician, like her brother. The mother only praises the males of the family, especially the oldest, never the daughter. One day, the daughter dresses up in a new outfit and looks like a nun, of which the mother praises her. She only praises her because the daughter could potentially become a prostitute in order to earn, most importantly, money for the household. During this time, the narrator finds a rich lover of which is only accepted into the family because he’s rich. Her brother then dies of Bronchial Pneumonia, and the mother and daughter separated. They try to reunite but realize that nothing is in common, despite the fact that the daughter now has a child. The mother then dies. Then another memory comes along of which the narrator talks about a rich Chinese lover, twelve years older, and how they made love. The Chinese man was in love but the narrator wasn’t, but this affair continued for a year and a half. They then do get into a relationship and the man is introduced to the narrator’s family. The family completely disregards the Chinese man and only accepts him because he has money and can pay for the meals in high end restaurants. The story then flashes back and talks about how the mother is ashamed that the daughter is in a relationship with the Chinese man and that the daughter might have given birth to a child.

    1. Robin,
      Really good take on the story. I think we saw it similarly but you went into deeper detail. The relationship between the mother and daughter really stood out to me because it seemed like a roller coaster. Sometimes you see love and other times you dont. I agree that the narrator was not in love with the lover but instead showed him the only kind of love she seems to have.

  10. In The lover by Marguerite Duras. The story is about a woman. Who seems to have a curiosity on how time changes the features of people. Specially since she starts by describing herself as an old person. She seems to remember her life back in Saigon, she talked about how much she care about her family, but she has a strong hate for her older brother, and a strong love for her younger brother, a love as strong as the love of a mother. Her family is poor, but the way she described her household was humble . Her mother was a big impact because she had more affection to her older son, and made some bad decisions to make her family rich that didn’t work. The narrator didn’t have a good relationship with her mother, in a point when she became 23 she cut her hair to remind herself that she is in control of her life . When the narrator introduced her lover, she described him as a Chinese man of a wealthy family whom she meet one day on her way to school. They had an instant connection, and regardless the age difference they fall in love. Her family seemed to be in disapproval with their relationship and his family was also concern about who she was.

  11. The Lover by Marguerite Duras, starts by the narrator describing her physical appearance undergoing rapid aging from 18-25 years old. The narrator transitions into her childhood. Her family lives in Sadec, but she lies in Saigon at a boarding school and attends a French Highschool. The narrator gives us details of her family, where her mother is raising her and her two brothers alone because their father passed away due to sickness. Throughout the novel, she explains how her family is in poverty and that the mother worked as a headmistress for a school. The mother tries to make ends meet by purchasing land to provide for the family, but due to poverty, stress, and hardships, it is affecting the relationship between her and her children. She favors the older brother more, despite him being violent, angry, and evil most of the time and she wants the narrator to pursue an education in mathematics overlooking her passion with writing. Later in the novel, we are introduced to the narrator’s lover, who is a wealthy Chinese man. They meet as she was on a ferry crossing the Mekong River. She is not truly in love with him the same way he is in love with her, because she is attracted to him due to his wealth. The continue to be lovers and continue to interact. The family does not approve of the lover and barely acknowledges him. Her mother beats her, smells her underwear, and calls her horrible names because she doesn’t want them to be together.

  12. In Marguerite Duras ‘The lover’ she introduces herself as old and how her face has aged since she’s been fifteen and an half. She lives with her mother and her two brothers one older and one younger than her. Her mother is a headmistress at a school, however they come from a difficult financial upbring. Her mother seems to care more about her sons then her daughter and is overbearing and controlling. She wants her daughter to get a second education and a degree in mathematics. However the narrator ( Marguerite ) doesn’t want to be, she wants to be a writer to which her mother tells her that when she has her degree she can write and it won’t have to do anything with her. The narrator goes on to talk about how she meet her lover, a chinese man on a ferry. He would take her to the high school to the boarding school and she won’t have to take the bus anymore. They start a intimate relationship, in which she knows that her mother will not like at all. The man tell her that he loves her but knows that she does love him. She tells him she only came with him for his money. As they continue their relationship, he meets her family. They do not approve of him because he is chinese and not white like them. When they go out to expensive restaurants her brothers to not talk to him, do not say thank you or listen to anything that he is saying. The mother later finds about about the intimate relationship her daughter has been having with the chinese man and is disgusted by it and beats her.

  13. Marguerite Duras’s, The Lover, tells of a French woman’s life from childhood moments to adult experiences. The story often jumps the timeline from adulthood to recollection of childhood memories. It introduces the woman and puts much of the story in her perspective. The woman is fixated on her age and appearance and begins by talking about how she looks much older than what is really is and often implies that she struggles with seeing her beauty, even when other assure her of it. A man even told her she looks more beautiful as she ages. The women grew up with brothers and was raised by a mother who often did not make much money to properly support her children. As a result, the family lived in poverty, and growing up with very little had affected all their lives more negatively than positively. They moved around a lot due to the instability of the mother’s circumstances. Duras clearly mentions that the woman does not receive as much love from her mother as her brothers do, despite their actions. There is a very sad and helplessness tone is the narrator’s language and expression. She seems to have a very dry and emotionless attitude about family and her own life. Although there was unannounced family love, as they grew further into adulthood, child-like sentiments faded away as if they each became aware of reality. The character of the lover is brought up and the relationship between the woman and the lover is a almost like a reflection of how the woman suffers throughout her life. Her lover is not accepted by the family but also not completely rejected. His presence is not acknowledged and though that hurts him, the woman does not do anything to change it. She admits she loves him although it is a detached kind of love not typically seen in your average romance story.

    1. The comparison of how the lover is treated as a mirror to how the narrator was treated by her family is interesting. The narrator inability to love seems to come from the fact that she never learned how to love. I also got the detached feeling from the way the recalled events. I do not think that the narrator is helpless. She seems smarter and more driven than her boethers. She has a quiet strength to her.

  14. The Lover begins with the narrator speaking in 1st person with connecting past recollection to her now old and “ravaged” self. This ravaged face is due to alcohol, yet arose before the narrator even began to drink, foretelling of her future. The narrator lives as a French person in the colonial Indochina, where her mother, headmistress Madame la Directrice, attempts to plan her life out, yet she does not follow the route in which her mother has developed for her. She feels more of a connection to writing instead of mathematics. Throughout the story she speaks of her mother with a sense of hatred and anger, viewing her mother as mad, full of despair, and a child, which negatively affected her family. Her family is stricken with poverty, which becomes an unspoken rule guiding their lives and At this same time, her elder brother steals from the mother and she aid and abets him in his wrongful actions. Chronologically speaking, the story begins when the narrator is 15 and a half. She had just left her mother’s job as a headmaster of a school and was on a boat going to Saigon to attend her boarding school. She is dressed in gold shoes with a man’s fedora, a symbol which is used to represent her transition to a state of wholeness as well as her choice. Upon this ferry is where she meets a Chinese man, a financier who offers her a ride in his limousine to her destination in Saigon. While she is within his limousine she ponders upon how much money he has, determining that the money is his father’s who would never let his son marry a “little white whore from Sadec.” Within the limousine, the narrator comes to the realization that this was a transition period from being tethered to her family. She was now on her own in terms of what was to become of her. Her entire relationship was at her choice and depended only on her. She desires him, something which becomes apparent through her sex with him, and her willingness to go with him paired with his wealth. This desire is parallel with a deep sense of sadness which is present in both of them, yet they utilize the sex as a means of escape towards pleasure. This is where the man becomes the narrator’s “lover.” When the man finally meets her family, no one speaks to him, except the narrator to provide a message from the brother. In these meetings, the man is stripped of his title of lover, and becomes an outrage and shameful to the family, at the discretion of the brother’s silent commands. This brother is the same one who eggs the mother on to beat her for disgracing the family with her relationship with the Chinese man. To the narrator, he is filled with evil, and she sees him as a murderer with intent only to kill.

  15. The Lover by Marguerite Duras starts of with the main character in present time, she is the older version of herself. It goes back to the past. At the time she lived with her mother named Marie Legrand and her three brothers. Her father had became ill and her younger brother passed away from bronchial pneumonia. The narrator’s life takes a turn when she meets her lover when she was on a ferry crossing the Mekong River. It is a Chinese man in a limousine who offers to drive her wherever she needs to go in Saigon. He began picking her up everyday after high school. The narrator’s mother was not accepting of the relationship after finding out that it had turned romantic and sexual. The way that her mother had found out was by smelling her underwear, she suspects that they are having sex and calls the narrator a whore. Her mother was being protective and was not accepting of it since he was a lot older than her.

  16. The Lover by Marguerite Duras begins by the narrator in Ho Chi Minh City in the year 1997. She lives in Saigon, at this time Vietnam was still recovering from war, they were free of the Japanese, French, Americans, Chinese, and Cambodians. The narrator and her mother live in Saigon where her mother is the headmistress of a girl’s school. Her mother suffers from depression and never used to smile in pictures. The family isn’t doing so well financially that it’s causing so many problems. Then one day as she’s on the way to school she meets this wealthy Chinese man. Also, her younger brother passed away due to bronchial pneumonia. Ever since the passing of her younger brother the relationship between her and her mother is toxic. She continues this affair with the Chinese man they end up making love in his apartment. He is madly in love with her, however, she a bit more quiet about it. The narrator had known that if her mother had found out about this affair she would disapprove. She later invites her mother and brother to this fancy Chinese restaurant. There is not much interaction that is going on because the mother and brother are just sitting there in silence. Her brother ignores her lover just because he is Chinese.

    1. Thanks for giving historical context and than giving background information to understand the story, helped fully understand the story, explaining the pieces I missed. The story’s order was back and forth and you arranged it, in an understandable manner. Broke down the story well, amazing!

  17. The story is written in the perspective of a poor, white girl and how her life changes after meeting a Chinese rich man. The two meet in 1929, at that time she’s around 15 years old and he’s 28 years old. She was returning to Saigon, traveling in a public bus. He was arriving in the same area in a black limousine, he gets out of his limo to speak to her. He offers her a ride in his limo to Saigon. Each following day he drives to the boarding school to pick her up, which becomes a habit but he changed routes one of those days driving her directly to his apartment.
    Her family life consists of her older and younger brother and mother, all of which she doesn’t have a good relationship with. Both understand the relationship doesn’t work in terms of social class, culture and ethnicity. Both her mother and brother disapprove of her relationship during the arranged dinner, disregarding him after knowing he’s Chinese. Vice versa his dad would disapprove, only viewing Chinese girls as compatible. During the dinner the mother and her two brothers drink and get drunk, without engaging in a conversation.

    1. I totally agree it’s very sad how social class, culture, and ethnicity is a big thing at this time. It’s what is keeping these two apart. Also, the narrator does try to bond with her family during dinner. However, they seem to not even care. Overall I liked your summary of its sequence to the story.

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