UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Michel Tournier et le mythe Cauville, Joëlle


The primary consideration of this study is to show that the notion of myth is central in Michel Tournier's work. His main purpose as a French contemporary writer and thinker is to affirm that human beings are "mythological animals" and since there is no reviving of myths without variation and actualization, he reinterprets the ancient myths and distorts them, until he creates his own original allegory, dealing with modern preoccupations and influenced by twentieth century trends such as psychoanalysis, anthropology, structuralism and existentialism. This thesis illustrates Tournier's mythical vision mainly by two examples drawn from two different novels: Vendredi ou Les Limbes du Pacifique (1967) and Le Roi des Aulnes (1970). A definition of myth and the mythological hero in the Introduction delimits this essay which deals mainly with the author's personal conception of literary myth. The First Chapter concerns itself with the myth of Robinson in Vendredi ou Les Limbes du Pacifique. It includes the myth of the island as "Paradise Lost", the myth of solitude of which Robinson Crusoe, a character created by Daniel Defoe in the eighteenth Century - is both the victim arid the hero - The reader of Tournier's novel shares with Robinson the destructive, yet beneficial effects of isolation. Solitude allows him to change sexually, intellectually and spiritually. The myth of the "Good. Savage" is closely intertwined with the myth of Robinson, since Friday the native, becomes the initiator, the chaman in Robinson's metamorphosis into a new human being. The Second Chapter analyses the myth of the Ogre in Le Roi des Aulnes. The plot is set in Nazi Germany full of Ogres such as Hitler and Goring.- The ambiguous figure of Abel Tiffauges, the hero, is borrowed from Saint Christopher's Story as well as from the German legend of "Erlktinig" (see Goethe's poem) - Tiffauges tries to identify with the Primitive Adam, the androgynous ancestor, through a series of trials which lead him to the "phorie": This refers to the moment of ecstasy when the hero carries a child on his shoulders and by that action fulfills his feminine side, becomes a mother-figure, in the novel, Tournier transforms himself into an Ogre- like author, closely resembling his hero; the reader is literally swallowed up by the breadth and depth of his knowledge, by the correspondences he establishes between the various episodes of his book, by the variety in his Style and tone. In the conclusion, whatever myth Tournier chooses to entertain his reader with, he always asserts that mankind is desperately looking for its former androgynous state, represented by the ideal condition of the Primitive Adam. A third novel entitled Les Meteores, which deals with homosexuality and twinship, is used in order to confirm and extend the importance of the myth of androgyny in Michel Tournier's work.

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