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Dangerous Liaisons

Pierre Ambroise Laclos


Study Questions

Study Questions

Study Questions

Study Questions

How is the epistolary form significant to the plot of Dangerous Liaisons?

The action in the novel depends on two characteristics of letters: that they say something and that they can be read. The situations in Dangerous Liaisons are such that only letters can communicate them. It is not so much what the characters claim to have been doing in their letters, but how they make these claims, which furthers the plot. Each letter has a purpose: it must convey some desire on the part of one of the characters, for no one would bother writing if he or she did not want something. This is evident in each letter that, at the very least, has the desire to be read written into it.

How does the Marquise de Merteuil describe herself in Letter Eighty-one?

She writes that she is her own creator. As a young girl Merteuil refused to let fate or society describe her, and began to compose herself. After her husband died, she set about educating herself and creating a reputation for herself. Since then, she has remained at the top of the heap through careful manipulation, never once letting her guard down.

Describe the role of servants in Dangerous Liaisons.

Servants are used as spies by both Valmont and the Marquise de Merteuil. Valmont's valet, Azolan, is paid not only to get information for his master, but specifically to socialize with the help at other people's estates. The Marquise's maidservant, Victoire, often participates in the little romantic dramas the Marquise puts on with her lovers. Also, servants know everything that goes on in the house where they serve, but this knowledge seldom seems to work to their advantage. The Marquise de Merteuil, for example, secured the loyalty of Victoire by arranging for her to be sent to jail and then rescuing her. If Victoire ever does something to annoy the Marquise, she will very quickly find herself in the slammer again. Thus, one could say that the most personal and human aspects of servants in this society are purchased by the masters for their own personal use.

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