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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Images of women in André Gide's Les Faux-Monnayeurs : misogyny or feminism? Stein, Sharon


This study consists of an analysis of the major female characters in Andre Gide's Les Faux-Monnayeurs. The theme of insubordination, as exemplified in the personal growth of the novel's hero, Bernard, provides an important contrast to the author's portrayal of women. Bernard's refusal of subordination drives him toward disponibilite and authenticity. In Gidian terminology, to be disponible is to be receptive to the plenitude of life, to dare all. It is only after experimenting with life's excesses that Bernard arrives at a personal regie de vie that respects both his natural impulses and conventional moral standards. The discussion of the female characters focuses on the female's status in the social milieu portrayed in the novel. Society's traditions appear to encourage and maintain women's subordination and suppress the female's natural impulse for freedom; female disponibilite and authenticity seem unattainable. In analysing individual, female characters in light of their subordination and denial of authenticity, they will be classified into three categories: myths, stereotypes and archetypes. Bronja and Lilian, who are diametrically opposed personifications of good and evil, assume the roles of mythical figures. Sophroniska, Sarah and Rachel, who are typified depictions of the female "intellectual", the "feminist" and the "religious devotee" respectively, constitute stereotypes. The category of archetypes is comprised of Pauline, Marguerite, Mme Vedel, Mme de La Perouse and Laura, who are all similar in their roles as wives and mothers. They adhere to the conventional role of woman in their society. Consequently, archetypes illustrate most poignantly the problematic existence of women in the novel. After examining how the female characters are representative of their particular groups, we will attempt to ascertain why the author's portrayal of them is not only limited, but also pejorative. Conclusions will be drawn in light of the male characters' attitudes toward women. The male point of view is dominant and tends to overshadow and efface the female presence in the text. Furthermore, females are denigrated and disparaged from two distinctly different male perspectives: that of the homosexual and that of the heterosexual. The homosexual male vilifies and refuses women in their capacity as objects of male sexual desire. The heterosexual male advocates and adheres to traditional values that tend to privilege men; his deprecation of women is rooted in traditional, male chauvinism. It is from this second perspective that the feminist statement emerges. The author's deference toward the male is entwined with his sympathy for women and the plight of their existence. That the female characters are forbidden personal freedom and authenticity is never overtly stated; yet this conclusion emerges clearly from a critical analysis of the images of women in the novel and of male responses to the female characters. Exploration of the subtext produces many indications that support the notion that the author sees a potential for women's emancipation and for a resolution of the problems of female existence. The author's sympathy serves as an invitation to the reader to reconstruct the feminist statement and propose a personal solution.

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