First published in 1731, Manon Lescaut tells about a defrocked priest, son of a nobleman, who falls in love with a beautiful girl who is fond of wealth and pleasure. The hero was similar to the author, Abbé Prévost, who once joined the Benedictines, before writing novels.
This thin novel (155 pages) begins with the first narrator telling how he meets a young man, the Chevalier des Grieux, who is following a beautiful outcast being transported to America. Two years later, the narrator meets him again and the young man tells him his story.
The Chevalier is only a step away from entering ecclesiastical career when he sets eyes on beautiful Manon, who is to become a nun. They elope together, but he is found by his family and taken home. Separated from his mistress, he studies the religion again, only to meet her again in a seminar. They elope again, and this time, with the involvement of Manon's brother, to keep their purse full because "Economy was not Manon's outstanding quality any more than it was mine." (said the Chevalier), they plan to deceive a very rich man, Monsieur de G.M., who reports them to the police. They both get detained, but escape later. They plan a revenge to G.M.'s son, but the cunning man beats them again, and this time, Manon is chained and sent to America. The Chevalier follows her until New Orleans, but when they are to be separated, they flee to the desert, where Manon meets her doom.
Manon is a materialistic young girl and the Chevalier, who is crazy about her, does anything to keep her. His problem is he is not very rich and as he knows how Manon loves money, he becomes jealous and suspicious when she uses her charms to attract wealthy men. At first, Manon only has fun with the Chevalier, knows that his father will never give him permission to marry her, but as times flies, and realizing how much he has sacrificed for her, Manon is ready to love him with all her life.
Before meeting Manon, the Chevalier is a perfect son. "I resolved to lead a good Christian life devoted to study and religion", but his determination to keep his mistress has corrupted his moral. "What fatal power had dragged me down to crime? How came it that love, an innocent passion, had turned for me into the source of all misery and vice?".