Marie Cardinal's La Clé Sur La Porte
English Summary - First Section


Here Marie Cardinal outlines her devotion to her children. Saying that she loves them to the point of making herself ill, losing sleep and giving up all her spare time for them. Her responses can sometimes be brutal as she feels like a 'hunted beast' because of it. Above all however, she loves her children.

We also learn of her terror of being seperated from her children which she claims would be worse than death. This is because of her childhood where her mother, harrassed by work, would eat a quick snack before she shut herself away in her room without wanting to be disturbed. Whilst perhaps not being an intentionally cruel mother (she would concern herself with Marie's health, ask how she was and make sure she said her prayers before retiring upstairs,) this isolation had a huge effect on Marie. Alone she would watch the shadows from her bed fill with horrific images of devils counting her sins, armies of sorcerers, batallions of wicked faeries, Mac Miche as well as dragons, snakes, rats and poisonous toads.

Dorothée, one of Marie's children used to have similar nightmares when she was four or five years old waking up sweating eyes wide with fear. Marie would run to the room to comfort her. She would take Dorothée to her own room whilst she recounted her nightmare of foxs turning into bees having heard that Alain Adam (a friend?) had been stung and he had nearly died as a result.

La Narratrice et Sa Famille

Dorothée is pretty. She has blond hair, hazel eyes and dimples in each cheek. Her legs are long being like the 'branches of a compass'. She still has not finished growing being the youngest of Marie's children.

Marie has three children; one son: Gregoire; and two daughters: Dorothée and Charlotte. Marie raised them all alone, her husband living in America. The family spend their summers with him as well as other times, especially Easter and Cristmas. The family lives in an four roomed appartment in a suburb of Paris where many of her childrens friends also stay. She allows this as she believes there is nothing better than friendship, it being a great lesson in life. There is usually a central group of about twelve of them, who come from families that perhaps were not there for them as well as other reasons.

The children when young went to state school where skipping, rollerskating and cycling played a big part of their lifes. Since they often lost the key to the door she eventually decided to leave it in the door during the day.

La Clé Sur La Porte

Marie's children are now teenagers and some of their friends have finished secondary school, many not going to the Lycée. Some no longer return to the flat. She says that they have all made her live 'more' and happier not being encumbered with material things and petty social obligations. We realise that most of Marie's friends left the area, being against the idea of having all these children around. Marie does not understand them saying that whilst it is unsophisticated it is friendly. Anyone can eat if they are hungry and sleep if they are tired.

The oldest of the 'children' is twenty, the youngest being about fifteen. She finds them all interesting but also a big responsability. She has never wanted to remove the key from the door despite the fact that it tires her out. She does not get the chance to spend as much time as she would like with each one of them.

Gregoire is the oldest child and only son having recently turned eighteen. He is solidly built, not being tall but large and powerful. He has blond 'afro' hair. When he grew his hair once, it turned like a poodle's becoming tangled, him never bothering to brush it. She reckoned that if a grape seed was placed there it would grow. Gregoire refused to have it cut. His sisters loved it. They used to spend whole morning sessions untangling it after which he would have a red scalp. That finished when Marie found a conditioner that would untangle it for him. Gregoire has been unlucky in finding work. He is very healthy, Marie never remembers seeing him with a cold, only him having mumps when he was four. His face was swollen but it didn't stop him peddling around the house like a madman on his trike. Impossible to get him to go to bed. Gregoire has always been a poor student and since nine has wanted to become a film director. At this time he got the chance to look down the lens of a camera declaring 'what you see here is more beautiful than reality' and he has told everyone at least once that he will be a director. Marie thinks that he has an eye and the right mind for the job but theres not much, even unpaid, work. For ten happy days he made film scenery but then nothing, having to go back to menial laborious jobs. He has never since worked on film set. He writes scripts. He likes to be in the family and he loves Marie. Although he does not show it, he is unhappy with his posistion. Gregoire plays the banjo, guitar and drums and with his friends makes up an orchestra. Gregoire is brutal and tender at the same time with the ability to sleep in the midst of loud noise.

Charlotte is the middle child who will soon be sixteen. She is of average height and has proabably finished growing. She has the most beautiful eyes in the world. Marie recounts how she could loose herself in Jean-Pierre's eyes. Gregoire has similar eyes but Charlottes are even more beautiful. Charlotte could be described as a tramp by Marie who believes she could look beautiful. All her clothes are ripped, dirty and worn out. She exchanges new clothes for old ones with her friends. She has a tendancy to put on wieght. She is a dreamer, very creative, likes meditation but is not secretive. She has a taste for words. If she encounters a word she does not know she will look it up. When she was seven the word 'curriculum vitæ' caught her attention and she drafted her own surreal CV under the name 'Marie Antionette'. She is equally surprising. She works normally, sometimes well in school. She is coming to her seconde year at school. She is especially attracted by an attitude that Marie has noted in the past year taken by many of the teenagers that 'everything is stupid so why bother?'. Marie wrote the book to help these teenagers see more clearly.

Dorothée is the youngest at 13. She has brown eyes like Marie's and curly blond hair. She is sporty, clean, thorough, good looking and an excellant student. She is coming to her troisème year at school. She challenges everything. Marie imagines her as a yuppy, beatiful and intelligent, organised, obssesed by modern fashion in a well organised house. She is very secretive. She can read for hours alone in her room. She is susceptible to severe colds which 'rattle the doors'. She participates little in the lives of her sister and brother who she seems to be in competition with. She has a logical approach to sentiment which lacks nuance. She wont compromise, once she has a hold of something she will not let go. She manipulates words well making arguement with her difficult.

Marie is forty three. She loves all three of her children. She feels she could not have given birth to people more lively, beautiful, intelligent, different, and close yet independant as them. When she was pregnant she felt as though they were strangers, yet as they grew she became more and more close to each. Shes feels less and less responsible for their appearence but more and more responsible for their thoughts.

La Faillité de L'Education Bourgeoise

Marie critcises bougeoise education which emphasised material success. Marie was born bourgeoise and only really knows the middle class life. 'Once middle class always middle class'. Her husband is too. She wanted her children to decide their own political views and not needing the key to the door was her first gesture of freedom. She did not realise this would change her so much. She wanted rid of the materialist view by spending time amongst teenagers. From day to day she goes from dejection into joy, hope into despair, and doubt into confidance. She tries to participate alongside rather than impose on them. Inspite of her efforts, she will never be entirely equal as she is still their mother. When Dorothée was in septième in school, she had to write about her mother. She made up that Marie had grey hair in a bun, and would knit claiming that her teacher would like that better than hearing that Marie speeds in the car and works in advertising with strange people. Marie suspects Dorothée is ashamed of her family.