Jean Genet: Les Bonnes [The Maids]

(2696 words)
  • Clare Finburgh (University of Kent at Canterbury)

When Claire, a maid, kneels to tend to the train of Madame’s gown, Madame kicks her in the head. Clare has polished her mistress Madame’s shoes, and arranged her skirts. But rather than showing gratitude, Madame displays only disgust towards her maid who, according to her, stinks and must keep her distance (2002, 129-132). Claire can tolerate the provocation no longer, and turns on her mistress. She spits on her dress, slaps her and, as her frustration peaks, tightens her hands around Madame’s neck. An alarm clock rings, abruptly halting the assault (2002, 134-135).

This opening scene might appear to provide the reader/spectator with a clear exposition of the plot in a manner typical of classical tragedy: a servant and …

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Finburgh, Clare. "Les Bonnes". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 08 November 2008
[, accessed 26 September 2016.]