n French Studies in Southern Africa - Poids et mesures des valeurs existentielles chez les protagonistes de de Prévost

Volume 2014, Issue 44
  • ISSN : 0259-0247



This paper seeks to establish that weighing, measuring and calculating - gestures associated with the physical - are present in the conceptual world of Prévost. The protagonists of Manon Lescaut have a system of calibration by which they weigh, measure and even calculate their actions: Des Grieux for love, and Manon for pleasure. A study of the "Author's note" and the profession of faith of the protagonists enables us to identify the basic elements in the scale of values for the construction of instruments by which Des Grieux and Manon weigh and gauge their actions in relation to a standard measure: happiness. We find that for Prévost, this human, fundamental and universal value consists in the moral order of the soul; for Des Grieux, it is love, conceived as a state of mind, in his relation with Manon, which is intellectually reassuring; while for Manon, it is pleasure, accessible by the flesh. If, in the physical world, weights and measures against a standard are used to elicit specific information for taking the most relevant and useful decisions on certain realities, the same goes for the social concepts studied in this paper, for which Des Grieux and Manon, interestingly, have their own scales of value and calibration system.

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