At the end of Nantas (1878) by Émile Zola, the last words of the short story are Flavie's final statement:


"I love you!", she cried to his neck, sobbing, tearing this confession from her pride, from all her being tamed, "I love you because you are strong!"


« Je t’aime ! cria-t-elle à son cou, sanglotante, arrachant cet aveu à son orgueil, à tout son être dompté, je t’aime parce que tu es fort ! »

Why does Flavie announce her love for Nantas and say that he is strong?

  • (The story is available in the original French here, if anyone wants to check the text before answering.)
    – Rand al'Thor
    Mar 11, 2018 at 16:03
  • Announce is far too mild a word here! Arrachant means ripping or tearing – quite a violent metaphor. She's overwhelmed by him and is “confessing” her love, in spite of her pride and her “being tamed” which is actually a word normally used to refer to mastering an animal (e.g. subduing a wild horse!). I'll have a crack at an answer, but I'm anything but an expert on French literature :o) Mar 15, 2018 at 17:22

1 Answer 1


Warning: very much personal opinion; you should consider posting on the French Language SE for better feedback on the original text. In particular to check on the intended sense of arrachant, as I’m a little uneasy about my understanding there.

At first glance I wondered if arrachant was meant in the sense of being torn between her pride and "being tamed" could perhaps mean upbringing, but on closer examination that didn't hold up. Arrachant isn’t the right word for that sense of torn (déchiré), and dompté here is more about self-control.

I get the impression — or I think Zola is trying to give the impression — that she rather hates herself for feeling as she does about him. She’s been conquered : she’s a wild horse, he’s the rider.

In other words her confession of love is being torn from her, grating against her usual pride and, for want of a better word, poise.

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