The Synopsis of "The Wandering Jew" by Eugene Sue

by Valerie Taylor

Eugene Sue based his novel "The Wandering Jew" on a medieval folktale. The legend tells of a man named Ahaseurus who was cursed to walk the Earth until the Second Coming of Christ, as punishment for mocking Jesus as he was led to the cross. Over the centuries, countless stories about the man had attempted to reveal his identity or explain his activities. The first to appear in writing was composed by a 13th-century monk. Sue was neither the first nor the last author of fiction based on the legend of the wandering Jew.

The Author

Sue (1804-1857) was a physician and seaman during a politically tumultuous period in French history. His experiences as a practicing surgeon and his time in the French navy no doubt influenced his stories. It was not until he inherited his father’s estate that Sue enjoyed wealth and the leisure to pursue a career in writing. "The Wandering Jew" was first printed in small episodes in a French magazine. After he completed the novel, Sue enjoyed worldwide acclaim. But his reputation could not prevent his exile by Louis Napoleon, who overthrew the Constitutional government and became emperor. Sue never returned to Paris.

Characters

Main characters from the Simon family include Marshal Simon, an exiled war hero and father to twin girls, Blanche and Rose. The Simons are descendants of Marius de Rennepont, who entrusted his diminished riches to Samuel, a Jewish banker, to invest . Other beneficiaries of the fortune include Jacques de Rennepont, a good-hearted pleasure seeker; Gabriel, who belongs to the Jesuit order; and Adrienne de Cardoville, who loves the Indian Prince Djalma. Monsieur l’Abbe d’Aigrigny is the sinister leader of the Jesuit order, and Rodin, his secretary who falsely befriends the Rennepont descendants. Herodias, the New Testament woman who demanded the head of John the Baptist, does not reveal her identity until the final scene.

Plot Summary

The Jesuits in Paris scheme to use the Rennepont fortune to establish their dominance over the French government. The two men act to prevent everyone except Gabriel from making a claim, because the young Jesuit has renounced wealth and will surely relinquish his estate to their order. De Cardoville is placed in a sanitarium, the twins are hidden in a convent, and Jacques de Rennepont is jailed. As Gabriel alone arrives to collect his inheritance, Herodias, disguised as an old woman, stalls the proceedings for three months.

Resolution: Spoiler Alert

Rodin pretends to befriend the heirs and gains their trust. All the while he plots destroy the Rennepont descendants as he manipulates their personal weaknesses. Though Rodin’s true purpose is revealed during a servant’s deathbed confession, the menacing secretary eliminates each benefactor except Gabriel the priest. The twins die of cholera, Jacques dies after losing his mistress, and de Cardoville poisons herself. Weary of the games people play when they grasp for wealth and power, Gabriel leaves the Jesuit order and retires with friends. The book concludes when Old Samuel the banker and the aged Herodias meet under a cross. The two proclaim an end to the curse that caused them to wander the Earth for generations.

About the Author

Valerie Taylor holds a master's degree in ancient history and a bachelor's degree in education and literature. She coauthored an article on Spartan religion for the "Journal of Sparta" in 2010 and has written numerous, history-related articles for Internet publication. Taylor enjoys hiking, gardening and running half-marathons.

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