The Three Musketeers | Study Guide

Alexandre Dumas

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The Three Musketeers | Chapter 32 | Summary

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Summary

Porthos goes to dinner at his mistress's home: thin soup with crusts, not enough wine, and a tough old fowl. The clerks who join them look as if they are starving. M. Coquenard praises the "feast" repeatedly and then excuses himself to take a nap. He claims he overindulged and must take a nap. He sleeps with his feet on his money box so Porthos cannot get a peek inside.

Porthos and Mme. Coquenard discuss each piece of his military outfit. She believes she can get them cheaper, including his horse and a mule for his lackey. One of M. Coquenard's valises is offered. Finally, Mme. Coquenard agrees to contribute some cash as well.

Porthos leaves hungry.

Analysis

Dinner at the Coquenard's is a funny and sad interlude in the story. Readers can sense Mme. Coquenard's frustration as she is caught between two extremes of men. Porthos is an expensive lover: he demands the best of everything. His vanity and boastfulness must be fed fancy clothes and possessions, good food and wine. M. Coquenard, on the other hand—the source of the capital necessary to preserve her relationship with Porthos—is relentlessly stingy and cheap. The old man gets the best servings at dinner and then gives his wife backhanded compliments, saying it is such a feast and the food is so rich. His comments actually imply she served too much and spent too freely. The hungry-looking clerks demonstrate parsimony is the status quo. The money box is a symbol of not only M. Coquenard's wealth but also his pride. His wife is fair game because his health is poor, but, in contrast, he loves and protects his money.

Mme. Coquenard tries to keep Porthos on the hook, negotiating for cheaper deals on his equipment and giving him one of her husband's old suitcases. Porthos pushes for at least some cash. The conversation shows the nature of their business relationship: Porthos leaves with a nitpicked arrangement for equipment, and Mme. Coquenard likewise goes without the tender glances she expects. He gets the food, clothes, and finery; she gets the emotional intimacy. When his patience is tried, waiting for the largesse of stingy M. Coquenard, Porthos withholds the rewards from Mme. Coquenard. In this way, M. Coquenard's holding the purse strings controls the love affair of his wife.

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