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Dangerous Liaisons

Pierre Ambroise Laclos

Part Three, Exchange Nine: Letters 88–99

Part Two, Exchange Eight: Letters 76–87

Part Three, Exchange Ten: Letters 100–111

Summary

Cécile declines Valmont's initial request that she steal the key to her room from her mother in Letter Eighty-eight. Thus, in Letter Eighty- nine, Valmont is forced to resort to trying to apply pressure on her through the Chevalier Danceny. He tells the chevalier that his affair is progressing much more slowly than necessary, and if he will only convince Cécile to trust him (Valmont), things will move along at a much faster pace.

The Présidente de Tourvel begs Valmont to go away again in Letter Ninety. She claims that his presence only makes her suffer. Valmont's response (Letter Ninety-one) is yet another strange combination of accusations and apologies. He ends by praying that she will not make him go away.

Danceny writes back to Valmont (Letter Ninety-two) to express his worries that Cécile has stopped loving him and to ask Valmont to help him secure her affections again. He then composes a letter to Cécile herself (Letter Ninety-three), in which he writes that he is very upset to hear how little trust Cécile shows Valmont. Danceny worries why she refused to see him and whether she has stopped loving him.

Cécile's reply is anguished and confused (Letter Ninety-four). She does not understand what Valmont can have told Danceny. She assures Danceny that she continues to love him and that she will do all in her power to bring about their reunion. She then writes to Valmont to tell him (Letter Ninety-five) that she consents to bring him the key to her room.

Valmont is enjoying toying with the Présidente, but he is even more excited about the deflowering of Cécile Volanges, which he has recently accomplished. He tells the Marquise (Letter Ninety-five) that he snuck into her room one night, using the key he had procured from her, and had his way with her.

Cécile, in turn, writes to the Marquise (Letter Ninety-seven) to report the incident and beg her for help. Madame Volanges also writes to Merteuil (Letter Ninety-eight) to ask for advice. However, she assumes that her daughter's unhappiness is due to separation from the Chevalier Danceny and not Valmont's nighttime activities. Volanges asks whether it would not be better to allow Cécile to marry Danceny instead of Gercourt, since it is obvious that the two young people love each other very much.

In Letter Ninety-nine, Valmont informs the Marquise that he seems to be making progress with the Présidente de Tourvel, even if little Cécile has begun to lock her door from the inside at night.

Analysis

Valmont's composition of the correspondence among himself, Cécile Volanges, and the Chevalier Danceny is extremely skilled. He places a particular vagueness in exactly the right place in his Letter Eighty-nine to Danceny. He does not specify how Cécile has passed up an opportunity to make contact with Danceny, just that she has passed up some opportunity. Naturally, Danceny must go to Cécile for greater specifics, and the Chevalier's suggestion that she may have grown somewhat relaxed in her ardor catapults her into action. Valmont gets exactly what he wants, namely the key to her room. The result is almost melodramatic: Valmont's "possession of the key to Cécile's room" is symbolically, and literally, equivalent to Valmont's "possession of Cécile."

As the supposed facilitator of Danceny and Cécile's communication, Valmont is obscuring their intentions toward one another—he even uses their intentions to accomplish what he wants. Since he recognizes that Cécile and Danceny only wish to express their affection for one another, he has only to a invent a situation in which Cécile's affection for Danceny will leave her open to his own advances. Valmont claims to play the part of a helper, but he intends to hinder as profoundly as he can.

Valmont is obsessed with acquiring power, but only the kind of power that can be acquired in social situations. He studies people's emotions intensely, often to the exclusion of caring about the human being as a whole. It is not all that strange that he should think of his own emotions as agents in their own right, as people. For example, Valmont writes in Letter Ninety-six, about the sensation of making love to Cécile. To better study the sex-act, Valmont imagines it in the form of various actors or agents. He personifies his emotions, as if they were soldiers. Just as the game through which power is acquired is often described in terms of the theater.

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