Study Guide

Thérèse Raquin Chapter 21

By Émile Zola

Chapter 21

  • Laurent enters the bedroom, where Thérèse is sitting beside a fire. 
  • He hesitantly kisses his wife's bare shoulder, but she moves away. They both feel very uncomfortable, like any chaste couple. Wait a minute, these two used to do it all the time. What's up? 
  • They try to reawaken their passion for one another, but all they can think about is Camille.  
  • They even start to imagine that Camille's ghost is sitting between them by the fire, watching their every move. Which is a sure way of not getting their own fires started, if you know what we mean. 
  • Giving up on lovemaking, they make a feeble attempt at chitchat.  
  • Laurent then asks Thérèse to kiss the scar on his neck. When she resists, he violently forces her to do it anyway. But the touch of her lips only makes the burning sensation worse. 
  • Then Laurent starts having a hallucination that he can see Camille's drowned face.  
  • As it turns out, dude is only staring at the creepy, horrible portrait he painted of Camille that one time. But Laurent is convinced that the painting has come to life. 
  • Then a strange scratching sound at the door startles the newlyweds. 
  • It's François, the cat.  
  • Still totally hung up on this ghost-of-Camille bit, Laurent imagines that Camille has entered the body of the cat, and wants to kill it. Luckily, no cats were harmed in the making of this novel
  • Neither Thérèse nor Laurent get any sleep that night. 
  • Needless to say, this wasn't how they envisioned their wedding night would be.