Sodom and Gomorrah begins with the Narrator discovering Charlus's homosexuality, which leads to a detailed analysis of human sexual behavior, a topic never treated with such detail and candor in a novel prior to Proust. Charlus falls in love with the violinist Morel, who has a bad character that leads to complications provoked by his scheming nature and bisexuality. During a second stay at Balbec, the Narrator becomes acquainted with the Verdurins, a very wealthy bourgeois couple, who provide a great deal of humor, and who played a major role in Swann in Love.
The Narrator resumes his love interest in Albertine, although his jealousy becomes intense when he begins to suspect her of lesbianism. He believes that his fears are confirmed when he learns that she was an intimate friend of Vinteuil's lesbian daughter and her lover. He concludes that he must marry Albertine at all costs.
Love, in all its sacred and profane manifestations—jealousy, sexual obsessions, infatuations—form a major part of our lives. Because Proust wanted to give a true picture of who we are he decided to break a major taboo and write about the continuum of human sexuality. Here is an observation from later in Sodom and Gomorrah that is applicable here: One meets in polite society few novelists, or poets, few of all those sublime creatures who speak of the things that are not to be mentioned.
reception at the princesse de guermantes
The prince de Guermantes is a convinced Royalist and anti-Semite, who, all these years has preferred to believe the rumor that Swann was not a Jew. So far as Saint-Loup is concerned, the duke is unaware, as Marcel is about to discover, that Saint-Loup’s position on Dreyfus has reversed itself. Saint-Loup tells Marcel: “I’m a soldier, and my first loyalty is to the Army.” And not only that, but he has become thoroughly disillusioned regarding literature and love.
marcel mistrusts albertine
Chapter Two opens with Marcel expressing his awareness that his grandmother “was now no more than the reflection of my own thoughts.” In spite of his earlier claim to have forgotten her, he still feels pangs of remorse whenever something reminds him of his first Balbec stay with her and of his egotistical behavior or indifference to her worries about him.
conclusion to the verdurins at la raspelière
Morel and Charlus arrive. Charlus has followed Morel to the Verdurins’ with great misgivings. In this scene and others to follow, Proust sometimes uses “a Charlus” as a generic noun to refer to male homosexuals. Marcel is surprised to hear Morel, who has never once addressed him as “monsieur,” speak to him now “words of infinite respect,” before taking him aside to ask “a very great service, going so far this time to address him in the third person.”
We have mentioned before the evolution of Charlus from the apparently virile and very discreet homosexual first seen in Within a Budding Grove to the more effeminate type that Proust depicts him as in Sodom and Gomorrah. In a later volume, we will find that another character comes to represent the manly warrior type of homosexual. This variation in the characterization of Charlus may by explained in large measure by the fact that Proust had as one of his models for Charlus’s physical traits a notorious homosexual of this variety, the baron Jacques Doäzan. Proust met Doäzan in Mme Aubernon’s salon.