In the late nineteenth century Paris, Briton Charles Swann, a man of wealth and culture, runs among the social set. That life is threatened when he falls in love with Odette de Crécy, a courtesan, that love all consuming in that he thinks about how he can be with her when they aren't together. He also despises himself for loving her to the extent he does in knowing that if that love is ever destroyed, he won't be able to survive the emotional pain. He is also made quite aware that if he does marry Odette, whose services he pays for while he allows her to continue with her life, he will lose his social position as most will not be able to welcome her into their house. The wealthy Verudins may be the exceptions as they are considered vulgar and gauche despite their wealth, they who have their own choice for Odette, a man named de Forcheville. The other other exception is Charles' old friend, the Baron de Charlus, who introduced the two to each other. The Baron's support for Charles regardless of what he ends up doing is because he has already reconciled himself to his own socially taboo life, that of a homosexual with a penchant for younger men.