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Often described as Balzac's masterpiece, Cousin Bette is a powerful tale of love, betrayal and family breakdown.

Tropes used in Cousin Bette include:

  The peasant-woman's face was terrible; her piercing black eyes had the glare of the tiger's; her face was like that we ascribe to a pythoness; she set her teeth to keep them from chattering, and her whole frame quivered convulsively. She had pushed her clenched fingers under her cap to clutch her hair and support her head, which felt too heavy; she was on fire. The smoke of the flame that scorched her seemed to emanate from her wrinkles as from the crevasses rent by a volcanic eruption

  • Villainous BSOD: Bette, when the Hulot family reconciles, despite her best efforts. She dies of a non-specific illness shortly thereafter.
  • Virgin Power: The narrative attributes Bette's ferocity and guile ("diabolical strength, or the black magic of the Will") to her (entirely unwanted) virginity.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: If you can stomach calling Hector a hero, then yeah, he shows ever increasing levels of depravity throughout the story - culminating in his embezzling from the state and shacking up with girls who today would be considered minors. And it doesn't pass without comment from his family.
  • Woman Scorned: There are definitely shades of this in Bette's treatment of Wenceslas -- calling in his debts in hope of having him imprisoned -- once it becomes clear that he's with Hortense. Then again, it's likely that Hortense is the primary target of Bette's revenge and Wenceslas is a proxy.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: The likeliest reading of Bette. Having been plain while her cousin Adeline was beautiful, Bette was beaten and neglected while her cousin was pampered. Having failed to find a well-off suitor (the only sort for whom one could settle in those days), Bette had to do menial work for a living while Adeline led a (seemingly!) ideal life as a baroness. Bette finally crossed the Despair Event Horizon when the man she loved made clear his intention to marry her attractive young cousin Hortense (significantly, Adeline's daughter) and wants nothing but the family's destruction from then on.
  • Your Cheating Heart: Hector, Valerie and Wenceslas.
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