Ten years after Jean de Florette dies and Cesar and Ugolin Soubeyran take over his farm in Provence, Jean's daughter Manon grows old enough to discover and understand their treachery, and to attempt revenge. Since her father's death, Manon and her mother have lived in a small cottage living by whatever small means they can. Manon helps by taking her herd of goats each day to feed in the pastures. Cesar, meanwhile, runs the Soubeyran farm he always wanted – very profitably with their regular carnation harvest and on-site spring. But he worries because his nephew Ugolin has never married, and he will have no descendents to whom he can pass down the farm. Ugolin, meanwhile, catches site of Manon on the nearby hillsides, and begins to fall in love. Cesar encourages him, but Ugolin has no chance; in addition to being awkward with girls, Manon still has unpleasant memories of Cesar and Ugolin taking over her father's farm. She meets a schoolteacher wandering the slopes and reading, and he has more luck, firing Ugolin's jealousy and dismay.
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One day in town, Manon discovers to what extent Cesar and Ugolin plotted to take over Jean's farm, and that they were not truly her father's friends. Her unpleasant memories combined with this information turn to rage. When she finds the source of their spring during her daily roamings with her goats, she blocks their spring – and all the town's water with it. For weeks, the town prays, seeks other sources of water locally, and seeks help externally. People don't know what to do. When the schoolteacher figures out it was Manon (though no one else knows), he pleads with her to unplug the spring for the sake of the townspeople, and Manon finally relents.
Cesar, meanwhile, has the opportunity to speak with an old lady in the village who has been there since before a war he fought in when he was young. Both know that Cesar had been interested in Jean's father, Florette. He had then gone to war, and when he returned, she was married. The old lady reveals what she believed he already knew: That Florette married because she found herself pregnant – by Cesar – and failed to either abort the baby or to obtain a response by mail from Cesar while he was at war. Both believed at the time that Cesar simply did not wish to acknowledge her situation; in reality, he had never received her letter. That baby was born with a haunched back, implying that it was Jean de Florette, Manon's father. The extent of the tragedy in both Jean de Florette and Manon of the Spring is now clear: Cesar had fatally plotted against Jean because he wanted so badly the family that Florette and Jean had both had. And yet, Jean himself was exactly the sort of determined, upbeat son Cesar would had loved to have known as such.
Ugolin, meanwhile, has bung himself after being brutally rejected by Manon in favor of her schoolteacher, and the community, knowing what they have done, has ostracized them both. Cesar no longer has the will to live. He rewrites his will so that his grand-daughter Manon will inherit the farm, and the Soubeyran legacy will in a sense be made right and continue on to the extent that it can. He then lays down on his bed, stops his watch, and dies.
Best part of story, including ending:
The revelations about Manon being Cesar's grand-daughter (and Ugolin's cousin) are quite tragic, especially since Cesar wanted his own little Soubeyran descendents so badly. It really drives home the golden rule - that you should treat your neighbor as yourself.
Best scene in story:
One of the most memorable scenes was at the end, when Cesar stops his watch and lies down to die. In a way, for me, it's also like the stopped watch represents remembering so we won't make the same mistakes as those who came before us. His own mistakes have been stopped, so that there won't need to be divisions, fighting, or revenge due to the Soubeyran legacy anymore, or due to his own ignorance.
Opinion about the main character:
Manon is set on revenge, and it takes a lot for her to stop taking revenge so that innocent people of the village won't suffer. Cesar, meanwhile, has taken so much from Manon and her family, but when he realizes that they are his family too, he tries to correct his mistake as best he can.