UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Qu'est-ce que la litterature pour Simone de Beauvoir? Kempo, Olga


Simone de Beauvoir expresses conflicting attitudes regarding the purpose of her art. She has, on the one hand a rational desire to play a humanitarian role and on the other an instinctive need for self-expression. Chapter I - Le Role Humanitaire de la Littérature. Here we deal with Simone de Beauvoir's concept of the humanitarian function of literature in order to show exactly how she proposes to serve man. As a child, she discovered the possibility of transforming ignorance into knowledge while teaching her sister, and this initial success in communication eventually led to a desire to put her personal understanding of the world at the disposal of others. She has since discovered the ambiguities of human relations and consequently resolved to reveal them. As a writer, she has come to feel she should criticize and re-examine the basis of society in order to show that no absolute truth prevails. Her works of fiction enable her reader to inhabit vicariously several different worlds; she thus shows him a new image of himself by revealing his freedom to choose and even to create his own world. However, though she pursued this ideal conscientiously, she was never able to obtain complete satisfaction through its practice. Chapter II - . Le Besoin d'expression personnelle. In this chapter we examine those personal needs of Simone de Beauvoir that are satisfied by literature. During her school years our author had discovered the joys of using her own experiences as material for stories. This form of self-expression has since developed into a need to preserve her life in art. She feels a lack of purpose in her life, and writing becomes the only means of justifying her existence. In addition, writing provides a form of catharsis through which she attains moral autonomy; it frees her from past obsessions, shields her from the menaces of a hostile world, and stills the terror of death. After defining the major conflict within Simone de Beauvoir's work, we proceed to a study of three novels in the hope of determining which of these attitudes is predominant: humanitarianism or self-expression. Chapter III - L'Invitée. We find that Francoise is incapable of minimizing her personal needs. She must always dominate others and be the centre of the universe. Thus in this work the major concern is clearly the self. Chapter IV - Le Sang des Autres. A distinction is made between the public and private life of Jean Blomart. In his public life he adopts a humanistic attitude and consciously works to improve the human condition. In his private life, however, he is unable to accept the fact that someone else is as important as he is. These two attitudes are in real conflict in this novel. In the final outcome Jean Blomart chooses a humanitarian course in his public life and to some extent in his private life as well. Chapter V - Les Mandarins. In this novel the equilibrium is completely destroyed, and we feel that Simone de Beauvoir is professing the value of a humanitarian attitude. Henri Perron, perpetuating the spirit of the Resistance Movement, continues to fight for the liberation and the enlightenment of man. In his private life he quickly evolves from a position of extreme egocentricity to an attitude that admits reciprocity in human relations. Chapter VI - La Technique Romanesque. A short analysis of the techniques in the novel shows how Simone de Beauvoir tries to reveal the ambiguous nature of life by providing two or three points of view. We realize, however, that her fundamental need to show the extent of these ambiguities is not satisfied by the novel form. Chapter VII - La Victoire de 1'Individualisme. In the final chapter we see that Simone de Beauvoir's memoirs not only give her a freedom of expression not attainable within the novel, but also that the need for self-expression has definitely out-weighed the humanitarian ideal. Her original spontaneous desire to express herself has come to the fore in spite of her rational choice to play a humanitarian role. This study has not considered the philosophical or ideological positions of Simone de Beauvoir. Her work, being of a very personal nature, has been considered as an expression of a unique personality in search of its own truth.

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