Study Guide

The Miser Family

By Molière

Family

"Was there ever anything more cruel than the strict penny-pinching he forces us to live with, the unnatural parsimoniousness in which we are made to languish?" (1.2.17).

With no options left, Cléante tries to help out Mariane by borrowing money. The only reason he can borrow money, though, is because his father is rich and the lender knows that he'll be able to collect the money from the father if Cléante can't come up with the dough later on. Little does Cléante know, though, that it's his own dad who's putting up the loan.

"I have a certain widow in mind for your brother." (1.4.76)

Cléante curses his fate for being the son of a miserly old father. As far as he's concerned, it's a father's duty to give his children money, especially if he has plenty of it. This is based on Cléante's belief that money spent in youth is way more valuable than money spent in old age.

"What else can I do? This is what young men are reduced to by the damned stinginess of their fathers." (2.1.39)

When La Flèche steals Harpagon's moneybox, his first thought is to tell Cléante. Now usually, you might not tell a guy that you just stole his dad's money. But in this case, Cléante hates his father's stinginess just as much as La Flèche.

"All the same, I cannot bring myself to say that I am overjoyed at the prospect that you might be thinking of becoming my stepmother." (3.7.3)

When Élise informs Harpagon that she has promised to marry Valère, Harpagon goes ape and promises his daughter that he'll lock her up in a place for nuns before he allows her to defy him like this. His style of parenting ain't exactly lenient. He prefers the whole rule-with-an-iron-fist approach.

"Your father's strong-box. I've pinched it!" (4.6.9)

As the father of the household, Harpagon assumes that he can make his children do whatever he wants. This assumption would have been in keeping with 17th-century French society. But little does Harpagon know that his children are on the verge of rebelling against him, and the whole arranged-marriage thing will be the last straw for them.

"In future, four solid convent walls will answer for your conduct." (5.4.1)

Harpagon thinks that Cléante doesn't like Mariane because the boy doesn't want someone to replace his mother. But when Cléante tells Mariane that he's unhappy about having her as a stepmother, he actually means that he is in love with her and wants her to marry him instead of his dad. How's that for family drama?

"What? Do you claim that you are the son of Don Thomas D'Alburcy?" (5.5.20)

When Valère claims that he's the son of an Italian nobleman, M. Anselme calls him out for lying. It turns out that M. Anselme is Thomas D'Alburcy, and there's no way Valère can be his son. Unless, of course, Valère survived the shipwreck that split the family apart! And yes, he did.

"Ah! I can vouch for your word! I can confirm that you are no impostor! From what you have said it is clear that you are my brother!" (5.5.26)

It's a good old-fashioned family reunion when Mariane realizes that Valère is actually her long lost brother. Not only that, but M. Anselme is also their father. Call it a wonderful plot twist, or maybe just lazy writing on Molière's part, but this ending puts family at the forefront of this play's values.

"Yes, my daughter. Yes, my son. I am Don Thomas D'Alburcy. By the will of Heaven I was saved from the waves with all the money I had with me." (5.5.31)

It turns out that Anselme is actually Valère and Mariane's father, and the revelation couldn't come at a better time. Now that he's in the picture, he has the power to give his blessing to the marriage of Mariane and Cléante and the marriage of Valère and Élise.

"So be it. But now let us go and share our joy with your mother." (5.6.23)

When all the revelations have been made, Monsieur Anselme's first thought is to go see his wife and tell her the great news about their family reunion. This reaction lies in stark contrast to Harpagon, whose only concern is how soon he'll have his moneybox back.

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