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As preparations for the French dinner escalate, Martine shares her dread with the rest of the community, warning them that for all she knows they will be participating in a "witch's Sabbath. They will not even let themselves taste it. They will "cleanse [their] tongues of all taste and purify them of all delight or disgust of the senses, keeping and preserving them for the higher things of praise and thanksgiving. All the characters behave as if they are none the worse for their rejections, as if they are content with the decisions they have made. But they are lying.

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In a letter to the two sisters, Papin tells Philippa that he imagines her "surrounded by a gay and loving family" while he is "gray, lonely, forgotten," acknowledging that she "may have chosen the better part in life. Lorens Loewenhielm, now General Loewenhielm, has "obtained everything he [has] striven for in life," but his prosperity is "jarred" by one "queer fact": he is unhappy.

He has "gained the whole world," but is always "[feeling] his mental self all over, as one feels a finger over to determine the place of a deep-seated, invisible thorn. A dying church, beautiful women grown old, great men bemoaning the vanity of their work—these images communicate the melancholy truth: no one has chosen rightly. Everyone has made the wrong decision, and—although they may have done so helplessly—refused grace.

In this story, grace returns suddenly and almost ominously in the form of "a massive, dark, deadly pale woman," who is "haggard and wild-eyed like a hunted animal. Worst of all, she is a Papist. But as soon as she establishes herself in the sisters' home, Babette begins to move in the undercurrents of the community.

Although the sisters take her in out of pity, Babette quickly becomes invaluable to them. There is something magical, almost witch-like about her abilities. As soon as she assumes the housekeeping for Martine and Philippa, "its cost [is] miraculously reduced, and the soup-pails and baskets [acquire] a new, mysterious power to stimulate and strengthen their poor and sick. Babette's presence resurrects something of the old Dean's authority; the sisters' "troubles and cares" are "conjured away" by her presence, and gradually the whole community becomes cautiously grateful for her, if not to her.

They are distressed when she wins the lottery and is suddenly rich enough to return to France. When Babette literally demands of the sisters a favor—that she be allowed to cook a French dinner and that she be allowed to pay for it with her own money—the sisters naturally refuse, as is their habit. But Babette refuses to take no for an answer:. Babette took a step forward. There was something formidable in the move, like a wave rising.

Had she ever, during twelve years, asked. And why not?

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Ladies, you who say your prayers every day, can you imagine what it means to a human heart to have no prayer to make? What would Babette have had to pray for? Tonight she had a prayer to make, from the bottom of her heart. The sisters find that despite their reservations, they cannot refuse this woman. Reassuring themselves that, "after all. One day Martine goes into the kitchen and finds a turtle, enormous and alive. She has nightmares, and anxiously warns the Brothers and Sisters, but ultimately can do nothing but "[give herself] into [her] cook's hands.


  • The Artistry of Grace: The Touchstone Archives.
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  • Babette's Feast!

They have every reason to be afraid: Babette's feast undoes them. It is, as Lorens Loewenhielm realizes, "a kind of love affair" that marries body and soul, because both body and soul are fed. Appropriately, not only the otherworldly sect, but also the worldly Loewenhielm, by chance back in the neighborhood, sit down to this dinner. The pious who have denied their bodies and the pleasure-seeker who has denied his soul meet at the same meal. They are only shadows of what they should be; they all have barricaded hearts.

They are all transformed. It is General Loewenhielm who is actually conscious of the transformation. Because he can appreciate the physical wonder of the French dinner, he recognizes its spiritual effects; he becomes the representative of the people who have no words to describe what is happening to them. As he sets out for Babette's feast, General Loewenhielm has his heart set on one thing: still ashamed of the fool he made of himself in the Dean's home so many years ago, he is determined to impress this time, to justify himself.

Expecting to be superior and condescending, he takes a suspicious first sip of his wine; he is astounded. And the finest Amontillado that I have ever tasted. This is exceedingly strange. For surely I am eating turtle-soup—and what turtle-soup! Meanwhile, everyone else around the table, vowed to senselessness, is eating and drinking the lavish food and drink as if they eat and drink it every day of their lives. The General wonders if he is going insane, and he empties his glass over and over because "it is better to be drunk than mad. As the General gapes at his food, everyone around him is busy not tasting it and not being astonished by it; but something is nonetheless happening to them as well.

Although as a rule Berlevaag people do not speak while eating, "somehow this evening tongues [are] loosened.

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They drink what they all assume is lemonade because it "sparkle[s]," and it "[agrees] with their exalted state of mind," "lift[ing] them off the ground, into a higher and purer sphere. And they are pleased with themselves. They feel that they "no longer [need] to remind themselves of their vow" not to taste, because "it [is]. As the night and the food go on, relationships are restored.

People who slandered and wronged each other make amends with laughter. Lovers estranged by guilt come together again. General Loewenhielm once again walks to the door with Martine and tells her the opposite of what he told her when he left before: "I shall be with you every day that is left to me," he says. For tonight I have learned, dear sister, that in this world anything is possible. In the middle of the dinner, the General, gently intoxicated by "the noblest wine in the world," does indeed get up and dominate the conversation.


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  8. But rather than avoiding humiliation, he steps right into it. What he says is so new and so astonishing even to himself, that he stutters over his words; he feels that he is not consciously forming his speech, but is "a mouthpiece for a message which mean[s] to be brought forth. Man, my friends.

    The Artistry of Grace: The Touchstone Archives

    We have all of us been told that grace is to be found in the universe. But in our human foolishness and short-sightedness we imagine divine grace to be finite. For this reason we tremble. We tremble before making our choice in life, and after having made it again tremble in fear of having chosen wrong. But the moment comes when our eyes are opened, and we see and realize that grace is infinite.

    Grace, my friends, demands nothing from us but that we shall await it with confidence and acknowledge it in gratitude. That which we have chosen is given us, and that which we have refused is, also and at the same time, granted us. Ay, that which we have rejected is poured upon us abundantly.

    For mercy and truth have met together, and righteousness and bliss have kissed one another! The General with his words is imaging and embodying his words. Thirty years ago, he rejected Martine, rejected the "vision" of purity and humility that he saw in her house; he pursued instead soul-deadening pride. At the end of his life, he is given back the opportunity that he refused: the opportunity to make a fool of himself at the Dean's table and save his soul.

    This time he receives it.