Mount Alvernia High School, Newton, Massachusetts

Audrey  Niffenegger

Chelsey  Ferstler 
Napoleon Bonaparte and His Wives

Audrey Niffenegger: The Commitment to Relationships Despite Separation

Audrey Niffenegger’s novels characterize people who are truly in love but are forced to separate from their loved ones. Her stories reveal that in relationships there are circumstances beyond an individual’s control. Niffeneger emphasizes that people must make sacrifices to be happy with the one that they truly love. Many of the characters in her novels deal with loneliness. In her novel, The Time Traveler’s Wife, Henry and Clare have to deal with making their relationship work, even though the circumstances of their relationship make it difficult for them. Henry is a time traveler, the time he spends with Clare is not within his or her control. As a result of his constant travel both he and Clare suffer. Clare reveals to the reader that, “[she] wait[s ]for Henry, not knowing where he is, wondering if he’s okay…[and that] [i]t’s hard to be the one who stays” (The Time Traveler’s Wife) . Niffenegger’s couples overcome obstacles, most often a loved one’s absence, but they come to realize that love conquers all. They are willing to sacrifice to be committed to each other.

Just like the characters in Niffenegger’s works, Napoleon Bonaparte led a lonely life when he divorced Josephine de Beauharnais, who was the love of his life. Napoleon had married Josephine, a Creole woman from Martinique, in 1796. Because he needed an heir, he had to divorce the love of his life, Josephine, and marry Marie-Louise Léopoldine, who was the daughter of the head of the House of Habsburg, the grandest ruling family in Europe. Napoleon and Marie-Louise did not have a happy marriage and rarely ever saw each other. Marie-Louise occupied herself solely with the baby Francois, while Napoleon enjoyed many affairs with other women and continued to rule his empire. While he was happy to finally have a son and heir, his marriage to Marie-Louise was disappointing. Although Napoleon continued to gain satisfaction from political and military accomplishments, he continued to miss his first love, Josephine and thought about her always.

Major Works Consulted:

Erickson, Carolly. Josephine: A Life of the Empress. New York, 1998.
McLynn, Frank. Napoleon: A Biography . New York: Jonathan Cape, 2002.
Niffenegger, Audrey. Her Fearful Symmetry. New York: Scribner, 2009.
---. The Time Traveler’s Wife . San Francisco: Macadam/Cage, 2003.
Photo Credit: Niffenegger, Audrey. Her Fearful Symmetry. New York: Scribner, 2009.