In Colette’s Chéri, the main character Léa is a lustful middle-aged woman who has become lovers with a younger fellow named Chéri. At the beginning of the novel, their relationship is portrayed as being thick with devotion and seems likely to endure forever. But by the end, the two have split indefinitely, leaving Léa with unanswered passion from Chéri. What could have caused this relationship to crumble to the point of extinction, even while their love was so strong for each other? Léa’s increasing overconfidence toward her relationship with Chéri leads to her hopeless state of naïvety. She becomes so encompassed with thoughts of only Chéri and that she would do anything for Chéri, that he ends up taking advantage of her; in the process, however, he also robs Léa of her freedom to love someone else passionately.
Since Léa is a respectable amount of years older than Chéri, she believes that it is her duty to have Chéri taken care of physically and emotionally. For one, the age difference between her and her lover secures her in this thought. She becomes so confident in retaining Chéri under her wing for six years, that she is bold enough to liken their relationship to “an adoption” (7). Léa, at times, even views Chéri as her son and herself as the mother, and the distinction in their age clearly supports her theory. She recognizes though, and is even embarrassed to admit, that their relationship has gone on longer than it should have, longer than any she has ever had (7). Here, time alone contributes to Cheri’s emerging dominance.
This blind sense of power that Léa experiences, however, leads her mind to return to a state of naïvety. Léa is once again an adolescent but Chéri is no longer her bachelor, rather, he takes on the role of her parent. At the moment that she feels as if the relationship is in her control, Léa unknowingly grants Chéri the leadership to their love. When Léa is finally secure enough to admit that their love might actually last and that she is confident in keeping the controls, this is the point where she looses her hold on Chéri, and he is instead dominant over her.
Although Léa’s naïvety leads to Chéri’s supremacy, it is also due to Chéri’s realization that he is a man capable of controlling women, especially vulnerable, older women that leads to Chéri’s dominion. Since Chéri is the younger of the two lovers, it is only natural that his sexual life will last longer than Léa’s will. Although Chéri realizes this late in the novel (page 132), he nonetheless realizes it. Chéri is married to Edmée, but is still having a fling with Léa. He does feel love and is pleased that they are “together again,” but tricks Léa into believing that that’s the whole truth (132). While Léa displays true affection toward Chéri, he in return suggests that his exchange of women between Léa and Edmée is merely a game to him, and that no matter what the outcome, he will still have a woman to love.
This plan that Chéri...