The novel that established Compain's career, L'Un vers l'autre, focuses on the subject of marriage. 1 It opens on the eve of Laure Prevel's marriage to Henri Deborda, when she suddenly realizes that she is going to promise to obey him. She is hastily reassured by the people around her that this is traditional but that the vow no longer has any significance. Gradually, however, Laure realizes that Henri does not see her as his equal.
The excerpts presented here show trouble beginning when Laure arranges to go once a week to a choir for working girls without consulting her husband first. Henri supports women's independence, but not for his wife. A little later, she is pregnant, and he takes it upon himself to say (without telling her) that she will not go to the choir anymore. Laure becomes furious; they quarrel; she leaves and subsequently miscarries. The translation given here also includes Laure's reflections on the power relations within her marriage, her realization of how Henri uses lovemaking to his own ends, her explanation of their situation to her father and stepmother, and her confrontation with Henri when he comes to fetch her back.
Later sections of L'Un vers l'autre show Henri spending time with his tyrannical father and coming to understand Laure's complaint better. While Laure is studying and teaching at the normal school (see part 2), Henri becomes lonely and has time for reflection. These experiences make it possible for Henri and Laure to reunite at the end of the novel, starting a new marriage with better understanding of each other, of love, and of partnership. This conclusion led Compain to use both characters in her next novel, L'Opprobre ( The Disgrace [ 1905]).