Who is the Princess of Cleves, Really? I am Princess of Cleves in Marie de la Vegne de La Fayette's novel Princess of Cleves. Throughout the novel, I struggle with keeping my virtue and avoiding my passion. Other characters such as Madame de Chartres, Monsieur de Cleves, Madame Tournon, and the Duke de Nemours affect my decisions in upholding my virtue. In De La Fayette's novel, I am a reflection of victorious virtue linked with reason and passion with destructiveness in the minds of the Enlightenment thinkers.
I care for my mother, Madame de Chartres, "who was renowned for her virtue," and respect her opinions and what she wants my life to be (103). She wants the best for me. In her eyes, men can only use, deceive, and corrupt me. Because of my mother's counsel, I develop a bias against all men and follow her advice. Therefore, the only way to ensure happiness is through marrying a man of high society.
My mother "sought to marry . . . [me] to someone who could raise her above those who fancied themselves superior to her" (79). In the beginning, she felt it best for me to marry the Duke of Montpensier, but later my family decides Monsieur de Cleves would be a superior choice for a husband. Since marrying Monsieur de Cleves is a better political move for me, I marry him instead of the Duke of Montpensier. My marriage is a duty that has no basis in love for my husband.
Before we wed, I confess to Monsieur de Cleves that I do not love him, but he feels he can change my mind with his constant virtuous love for me. He holds the utmost "love and esteem" for me, but I do not appreciate him (76).