Throughout the text, the relationship between Raoule and Marie proves very intriguing. At the beginning of the novel, Raoule originally meets Jacques only because she is looking for Marie and Jacques explains that he must work because Marie cannot. By the end of their first conversation, Raoule has begun to develop strong feelings for Jacques. As Raoule begins supporting Jacques and Marie, Marie makes sure to remind Jacques it is because of his body, not his paintings (Rachilde, 30). Her dislike of Raoule is also noted: “When she though of that high and mighty woman, all the scenes of vice she had lived through rose like unhealthy fumes to her head” (Rachilde, 31). While Jacques immediately expresses praise and gratitude for Raoule’s kindness, Marie remains reserved and cynical.
While Marie dislikes Raoule, she is conscious of how she acts in her presence as Raoule holds both economic and social power over Marie. Marie releases her pent up anger by criticizing Jacques instead. However, even as she criticizes him, Marie must rely on Jacques and Jacques staying in Raoule’s favor for her own survival. I found it especially interesting when Raoule goes to visit Jacques and find out Marie is a prostitute. Raoule is dressed in discreet, androgynous clothing and Marie, mistaking Raoule for a man, makes a pass at Raoule in the hopes of securing a customer. Raoule realizes it is Marie and immediately displays her anger and outrage. As Marie explains her case to Jacques, she cries, “That hussy you love backward beat me up, on the pretext I was soliciting at her door. We are not in our gown home here, it seems” (Rachilde, 104).
This exchange fascinated me because it highlights the economic disparity between Marie and Raoule. Though they are both women, Raoule’s economic status allows her to buy-off Jacques and his love while Marie must prostitute herself out for money. Additionally, by supporting the household in which Jacques and Marie live, Raoule holds a power over Marie. By refusing to allow Marie to be a prostitute, Raoule takes away her economic stability and independence, a common occurrence for women throughout history. By forcing Marie to remain dependent on her money and charity, Raoule forces Marie to remain dependent on Jacques, as he is Raoule’s favorite. Though Marie is more clever and street smart than Jacques, she falls in a situation of dependence on a male (her brother rather than a husband) because of Raoule. Could this forced economic dependency be the reason for Marie’s hatred of Raoule? Does this hatred have anything to do with money? How can this relationship be defined and what does that mean for the story?