Life lessons – 7 to 9: French Literature – what can we learn?

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In the era of constant barrage and chatter about ‘mindfulness’ and ‘self-development’ I decided to dig deep and see what we could learn from our elders in classic French Literature. 

As a lover of the classics of French literature I found myself wondering:

What can we learn and apply to life today from the characters we love and feel that we know so well.”

Welcome to part three of French Literature life lessons! The characters in classic French literature have had to encounter their own life problems: oppression, crime and illness to name a few. Their situations can help us to learn from what they did right…or wrong.

What would these characters advise us to do in our day-to-day problems?

7. Life lessons: Lamiel – Do everything that makes you happy

Lamiel from Stendhal’s Lamiel is an extremely oppressed woman in her household. She is forced by her family to respect the same beliefs, including seeing books as sin. They try to control who Lamiel will be suited for, and not, what she truly wants.

Lamiel has to escape such constraints by becoming a very audacious heroine. She rebels against her oppression, reading forbidden literature outside of the home, seeing her parents as bêtes with their beliefs and seeking the men of her desires.

Although she is labelled the child of the devil, her rebellious side can teach us a lot about doing things for our own happiness.

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What life lessons can we learn from Lamiel?

  • Let’s do what makes us happy and not be forced into situations
  • Let’s read, travel and enjoy what makes us the happiest
  • Let’s surround ourselves with the people we truly want to be with
  • Let’s never be tied-down by other people, spread your wings.

Time to read?
Buy here: 
Lamiel by Stendahl

8. Life lessons: Taillefer – Be truthful

MyFrenchLife™ - - French Literature - Life Lessons - WritingBalzac’s L’Auberge Rouge presents M.Taillefer at a dinner party, listening in to a friend’s scary story – shockingly Taillefer’s own tale.  Although M. Taillefer never admits to the crimes he has committed, it is the narrator that hints that M. Taillefer has something to hind through an obsessive insight into his body actions. Even when confronted with his own story, Taillefer’s refuses to admit the truth to others, and even himself, his own actions.

The worry of the consequences takes this character into turmoil.

What life lessons can we learn from M. Taillefer?

  • Let’s always be honest with ourselves and others around us. Lying will never lead to a happy ending. Lies will always get bigger and bigger.
  • Let’s not let other people suffer as a consequence of our own actions – Taillefer’s friend did.

Time to read?
Buy here: 
 L’Auberge Rouge by Balzac

9. Life Lessons: Dr. Rieux – Teamwork makes the dream work

From Albert Camus’s La Peste, Dr Rieux begins trying to save his town from the MyFrenchLife™ - - French Literature - Life Lessons - Readingplague all alone. He grows tired of the government refusing to act upon the plague that is quickly becoming uncontrollable and sees the need for action. He continues, despite his efforts making a small impact, to battle the plague. Eventually, with the town under quarantine, he soon realises that the task is far greater than he imagined and tries to create a ‘resistance’ group, to help battle the plague together.

What life lessons can we learn from Dr. Rieux

  • Let’s always stand up for what we believe in
  • Let’s never give up, despite how big the task is
  • Let’s be part of a team – whether that is a family, a friendship group or work colleagues as this will help against life’s difficulties

Time to read?
Buy here: La Peste by Camus

NOTE: This series of articles was first published in 2017. Due to its popularity, the series has been republished


Have you learned any life lessons from any of your French books? Please share any life lessons to be learned this way? Share your thoughts in the comments box below.

Image credits
  1. La lectrice by Sylvain Courant via flickr
  2. Embracing Literature by Lacie Slezak via unsplash
  3. Notes by Bookmoma via flickr
  4. Reading by John Mark Kuznietsov via unsplash

Learn more from French literature: the characters in the classics we know well

Life lessons 1-3:
Emma Bovary  I  Gustave Flaubert  I  Marcel Proust  I  Guy de Maupassant

Life lessons 4-6:
Madame Rênal   |    Candide    |    Mâtho
Life lessons 7-9:
 Lamiel   |   Madame Taillefer   |    Dr.Rieux
Life lessons 10-12:
 Félicité   |   Julien   |    Hérodias

About the Contributor

Jessica Rushton

I'm a final year French student at University of Nottingham. I am passionate about French literature, in particular nineteenth-century French novels and love escaping to Paris for chocolat chaud. Follow me: my year abroad bloginstagram & twitter!

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