The past two evenings I've been reading about St. Loup and the mistress that he loves so much, the mistress that he wants to support in great expensive style by making an "advantageous" marriage.
Marcel, and thus the reader, finally meet the young lady (?) in question, who lives outside of Paris in a rather shabby little banlieu. Marcel is rather horrified to discover that the mistress is none other than Rachel, a former prostitute who would do anything with anyone for 20 Louis.
St. Loup suspects, rightly I think, that Rachel doesn't really love him so much as the money and jewels he provides her with.
Do we see a pattern here? Do we see Swann? Odette was a courtesan, too. Odette never loved Swann, who married here and could never be received into polite society again with his wife.
Proust notes that St. Loup would marry Rachel but once the marriage was a fait accompli, St. Loup suspects that Rachel would not be as devoted as when there are no legal bindings and he can dump her at any time without repercussions.
There are echoes of Marcel's love for Gilberte, and even the Duchesse of Guermantes, unrequited love. Is any love requited in Proust? Jealousy rears it's yellow head. And a shadowing of Marcel and Albertine. This is just too delicious.
Now what is also interesting, is that Rachel isn't really all that "common," as one would expect. She can hold her own in literary discussions, in fact can't wait to chat with Marcel about certain subjects. She has common friends, who call to her to join them for a day in Paris before they realize she has St. Loup in tow, friends whom she does not snub.
In other words, although she was a common whore, and still appears to be venal, Rachel is treated rather sympathetically. I find this intriguing. It would have been so easy for Proust in the person of Marcel to dismiss her completely, and he does not. After all, the over-infatuated St. Loup must see something in her.
It's all very intriguing, and I had forgotten all about St. Loup's mistress.