The Charterhouse of Parma is a novel written by Stendhal in 1839 on the spur of the moment in just 52 days.
The novel deals with Fabrice del Dongo, a young visionary wanting to join Napoleon’s army. Sadly, he doesn’t realize he’s not fit for the army, being swindled and robbed by burglars and his fellow soldiers and witnessing a whole pandemonium instead of the noble battle he expected.
Some time later, his aunt and her lover, the Count Mosca, try to plan a successful life for him, so they decide to use their influences to put Fabrice in an important place of the religious hierarchy. Whether he wants it or not isn't relevant…
The book goes on, but it’s difficult to summarize it without starting to explain the whole plot. Let’s just say it involves a prison, love, political intrigue and conspiracies.
Famous for being written on a moment of inspiration by Stendhal from start to finish; that gives the novel a sense of freshness not usually found on many novels. On the other hand, it also means that plot points and characters are only introduced when the author thought about them, giving the feeling that they come out of nowhere and, obviously, showing a lack of planning.
The book provides examples of:
- Alliterative Name: Clélia Conti
- Arranged Marriage: Clélia and Marquis Crescenzi.
- Author Catchphrase: "To the happy few."
- Author Tract
- Break the Cutie: The whole sequence of Waterloo is about destroying Fabrice's romantic vision of combat.
- Call That a Formation?: The Battle of Waterloo is depicted as a complete mess, with French soldiers running to and fro, completely disorganized. Some of them don't even have interest in battling, preferring plunder instead.
- The Casanova: Fabrice.
- Coming of Age Story
- Dies Wide Open: Fabrice finds a battered corpse during the battle of Waterloo. The most disturbing thing to him is the open eye.
- Duel to the Death: Fabrice vs. the count M...
- Exact Words: Clélia swore not to see Fabrice again, so she end up meeting him in complete darkness.
- Faux Affably Evil: The Prince Ranuce-Erneste IV.
- Government Conspiracy
- The Guards Must Be Crazy: Nobody stop Fabrice at the borders for too long. When he crossed to Austria it was justified: the border guard realized the passport wasn't Fabrice's, but he was a friend of the real owner and, thinking Fabrice got the fake passport directly from the source, didn't want to put his friend in trouble raising the alarm.
- Heroic Wannabe: Fabrice, at the beginning of the story.
- Humiliation Conga: Fabrice's journey to meet and fight alongside Napoleon brings him nothing but trouble.
- Last Kiss: Subverted. Clélia thinks that Fabrice has eaten poisoned food and kisses him. He didn't eat the food, but since he knows she will stop kissing him when she knows, plays along for a couple of minutes.
- Love Dodecahedron
- May–December Romance: Between a lot of characters. In some of the cases, the age bracket is not so big though.
- Mistaken for Spies: Fabrice, more than once.
- Naïve Newcomer: Fabrice.
- No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Fabrice gives a coin to a beggar... and ends up followed by a mob that wants to see if he'd give them something more.
- Nonindicative Name: The Charterhouse of Parma only appears once in the book and adds almost nothing to the plot.
- Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: When in France, Fabrice ends up confused with a spy because of his Italian accent showing.
- Professional Butt-Kisser: Rossi.
- Properly Paranoid: Ranuce-Erneste IV, who even looks under his bed every night.
- Scare Campaign: The priests go around saying the French come with the guillotine when they conquer Milan.
- Scarpia Ultimatum.
- Shown Their Work: Stendhal not only gives us details about the usual life of the court, but also reflects the confusion of the war (Stendhal not only served under Napoleon's army, but he also was one of the survivors of the failed attempt to conquer Russia).
- Spell My Name with a Blank
- Tampering with Food and Drink
- War Is Hell