Study Guide

The Miser Freedom and Confinement

By Molière

Freedom and Confinement

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

It's tough for Cléante to feel free when his dad is choosing his wife for him. On top of that, it doesn't even sound like his dad is choosing a great wife. That's not to say that widows can't be awesome. But when it comes down to 'widows' vs. 'true love,' 'true love' wins every time.

"And for you—I've chosen Seigneur Anselme." (1.4.76)

As he has done for Cléante, Harpagon has chosen a spouse for his daughter Élise. He wants her to marry a wealthy older man named Anselme because he assumes that Anselme will bring some wealth into their family. As far as Élise is concerned, though, this is total imprisonment. At least with her dad, she can look forward to one day being old enough to get away from him. But marrying someone she doesn't love will just keep her imprisonment going for the rest of her days.

"If you please father, I have no inclination to be married." (1.4.79)

Élise would usually never talk back to her father. But what else can she do? She loves Valère, the man who saved her life, and can't imagine being with anyone else. Worse yet, she's not all that pumped about marrying an old dude who sounds like he's close to Harpagon's age.

"I'll kill myself rather than marry a man like that!" (1.4.95)

When Harpagon shows that he's not going to back down on his marriage plans for Élise, she gets melodramatic and says she'll commit suicide if he tries to make her marry M. Anselme. Like the heartless father he is, Harpagon totally calls her bluff and basically dares her to do it. As far as he's concerned, she's his prisoner and he can do what he likes with her.

"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)

Cléante feels like he's totally imprisoned by his father's stinginess. The young man doesn't have any means of making money himself, which makes him totally dependent on his dad for money.

"What use will money be to us if it comes only when we are too old to enjoy it?" (1.2.17)

Cléante feels like he's confined by his father's miserliness. But what's worse, he can also feel himself growing older every day, and he despairs over the fact that by the time he has money, he'll be too old to even enjoy it. That's why all parents should give all their money to their kids while their kids are still young. Who's with us on this one?

"What the devil? […] That makes more than twenty-five percent!" (2.1.23)

The only way Cléante can get money (apart from The Bank of Dad) is to borrow it. But because he's desperate, he's totally confined to whatever terms the lender decides to put on his loan. In this case, the lender wants him to pay 25% interest on his loan, which is ridiculously high. But hey, what's a guy gonna do?

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

Cléante knows that he has no options at all in terms of getting money, so he has to accept whatever terms the moneylender gives him, no matter how unfair. Little does he know, though, that the brutally unfair lender behind his loan is actually his father, Harpagon.

"Oh! Wretched girl! You don't deserve to have a father like me!" (5.4.1)

When he hears that Élise has pledged herself to marry Valère, Harpagon loses his mind and tells her that she doesn't deserve a father like him. He doesn't seem to realize that he's totally overbearing and that he has made his children miserable by keeping them confined with his greed and unwillingness to let them pursue their own desires.

"I have news of your money and am here to tell you that you will get it back—on condition that you let me marry Mariane." (5.6.1)

The only real way for Cléante to be free of his father is to hold Daddy's money hostage. Fortunately, Cléante has a new person to rely on as a source of income: Mariane's father.

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