“The Calvary” is a largely autobiographical novel, in which Mirbeau romanticizes his devastating affair with a woman of dubious morals, Judith Vinmer, who appears as “Juliette Roux” in the novel. The story is narrated in the first person by the main character, the antihero Jean Mintie, who has literary ambition and the potential to become a good writer, is incapable of overcoming his sexual obsessions. Victimized by a woman and reduced to a state of humiliated impotence, he tries to transform his suffering into an impulse to create. His redemptive passion is modeled on the Passion of Christ.
“The Torture Garden” begins with material stemming from articles on the 'Law of Murder' discussed in the “Frontispiece” («The Manuscript”).Clara is a sadist and hysteric, who delights in witnessing flayings, crucifixions and numerous tortures, all done in beautifully laid out and groomed gardens, and explaining the beauty of torture to her companion—the narrator. Her hysterical orgasm and resulting exhaustion is a curious exploration of pain and pleasure and made this novel a truly erotic BDSM masterpiece!
“The Diary of a Chambermaid”presents itself as the diary of Mademoiselle Célestine R., the chambermaid. Her first employer fetishizes her boots, and she later discovers the elderly man dead, with one of her boots stuffed into his mouth. Later on, Célestine becomes the maid of an upper class couple, Lanlaire, and is perfectly aware that she is entangled in the power struggles of their marriage. Célestine ends by becoming a café hostess, who mistreats her servants in turn.