First, I want to get the small annoyances out of the way before focusing on the really good stuff:
1) I don't speak French, and I really wish I did. Perhaps I can learn French while I'm at work. It would have been optimal to read this novel in its original form because each English translation seems to be a little different from its comrades, which I know isn't unusual in foreign literature. I only noticed significant differences because this is a novel I am familiar with, and not a first-time read. However, I was a bit miffed at the Barnes and Noble Classics version...not a fan.
2) I find the chivalrous "gentleman with lifetimes of learning" attitude condescending and sexist. I can usually get over that in older novels when such attitudes were prevalent in society, but for some reason, it bothered me a lot this time. It's probably because this book has always been a favorite and I thought it was better than that. That shows you how long it's been since I've read it, doesn't it?
Now to the good stuff: literary themes!
- A person is never quits with someone who did them a favor because one always will owe gratitude
- God's place to punish and reward, and the perverted way people justify themselves in such omnipotent situations...Satan, anyone?
- Taking the place of Providence
- The idea that Gods never do evil; duality of powerful presences
- "Truly generous men are always ready to become sympathetic when their enemy's misfortunes surpass the limits of their hatred"; can you really hate someone that much?