Friday, May 6, 2011

Simone de Beauvoir

In 1908, Simone de Beauvoir was born on Boulavard Raspail in 1908. Her father had a great desire to work in theatre. However, because of his position in society he was expected to become a lawyer. He did so, but hated it. Incidentally, he had noble ties (although he was not considered a 'lord') which incidentally why Simone has the 'de' in her name. Her mother was a strict Catholic from a bourgeois family. People say that Simone was inspired to become an intellect because she was caught between her father's pagan morals and her mother's rigid religious standards.
When Simone was two and a half her sister, Poupette, was born. They became and stayed friends for life. Simone was content as a child and once wrote, "I thought it was a remarkable coincidence that heaven should have given me just these parents, this sister this life."
What had been an important and strong relationship with God slowly dwindled, as Simone became more and more interested in nature. She came to the realization that earthly joys are not to be given up (as her religion espoused) but instead, to be appreciated. This way of thinking changed Simone for life.

 She lived passionately and for the moment. In giving up religion she gave up the idea of living for eternity. She also developed a deep sense of aloneness, without a 'witness' or a god to talk to. This feeling lasted for quite some time as well.
When Simone was 21 she lived with her granny and studied philosophy at Sorbonne.
She joined a group of students, who, at that time, had a bad reputation. They were Paul Nizan, Andre Hermaid, and Jean-Paul Sartre. Sartre became her best friend and intellectual equal. "He would prove that he was the right one to spend time with, and he was." She said, "the double in whom I found all my burning aspiration raised to the pitch of incandescence." After meeting Sartre, she was no longer alone.
Simone's mid-life was optimistic. She had gone through the death of her best friend, witnessed the beginning of World War II, had some realizations, and began her more serious writing. It is in her second memoir.
She continued living with her Granny and taught at the Lycee. Because of this she became financially independent and really began to assert her abilities. 

Link with Sartre

When de Beauvoir was 21 she joined a group of philosophy students including Jean-Paul Sartre. Her relationship with Sartre—intellectually, emotionally, and romantically—was to continue throughout most of their lives. Sartre, the father of existentialism—a school of thought that holds man is on his own, "condemned to be free," as Sartre says in Being and Nothingness —was the single most important influence on de Beauvoir's life.
In 1929 Sartre suggested that, rather than be married, the two sign a conjugal pact which could be renewed or cancelled after two years. When the pact came due, Sartre was offered a job teaching philosophy in Le Havre and de Beauvoir was offered a similar job in Marseilles. He suggested they get married, but they both rejected the idea for fear of forcing their free relationship into the confines of an outer-defined bond. It is indeed ironic that de Beauvoir, whose independence marked her life at every juncture, was perhaps best known as Sartre's lover.
The first installment of de Beauvoir's autobiography, Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter, is the story of the author's rejection of the bourgeois values of her parents' lives. The second volume, The Prime of Life, covers the years 1929 through 1944. Written in the postwar years, she separated the events taking place in Europe that led to the war from her own, isolated life. By 1939, however, the two strands were inseparable. Both de Beauvoir and Sartre were teaching in Paris when the war broke out. Earlier she had written two novels that she never submitted for publication and one collection of short stories that was rejected for publication. She was, she said, too happy to write.
That happiness ended in the 1940s with the outbreak of World War II and the interruption of her relationship with Sartre. The introduction of another woman into Sartre's life, and then the anxiety and loneliness de Beauvoir felt while Sartre was a prisoner for more than a year led to her first significant novel, She Came to Stay, published in 1943. She Came to Stay is a study of the effects of love and jealousy. In the next four years she published The Blood of Others, Pyrrhus et Cinéas, Les Bouches Inutiles, and All Men are Mortal.
America Day By Day a chronicle of de Beauvoir's 1947 trip to the United States, and the third installment of her autobiography, Force of Circumstances, cover the period during which the author was formulating and writing The Second Sex, her feminist tract.

The Second Sex

Written in 1949, The Second Sex is blunt and inelegant like her other writing. Its power comes from its content. Her themes and method of attack in The Second Sex are also the reoccurring issues of her work. The book rests on two theses: that man, who views himself as the essential being, has made woman into the inessential being, "the Other," and that femininity as a trait is an artificial posture. Both theses derive from Sartre's existentialism.
The Second Sex was perhaps the most important treatise on women's rights through the 1980s. When it first appeared, however, the reception was less than overwhelming. The lesson of her own life—that womanhood is not a condition one is born to but rather a posture one takes on—was fully realized here. De Beauvoir's personal frustrations were placed in terms of the general, dependent condition of women. Historical, psychological, sociological, and philosophical, The Second Sex does not offer any concrete solutions except "that men and women rise above their natural differentiation and unequivocally affirm their brotherhood."
If The Second Sex bemoans the female condition, de Beauvoir's portrayal of her own life revealed the possibilities available to the woman who can escape enslavement. Hers was a life of equality, yet de Beauvoir remained a voice and a model for those women whose lives were not liberated.
The fourth installment of her autobiography, All Said And Done, was written when de Beauvoir was 63. It portrays a person who has always been secure in an imperfect world. She writes: "Since I was 21, I have never been lonely. The opportunities granted to me at the beginning helped me not only to lead a happy life but to be happy in the life I led. I have been aware of my shortcomings and my limits, but I have made the best of them. When I was tormented by what was happening in the world, it was the world I wanted to change, not my place in it."

De Beauvoir died of a circulatory ailment in a Parisian hospital April 14, 1986. Sartre had died six years earlier.
Her grave

1 comment:

  1. Second Sex was never blunt and inelegant......its true to the core. We fear to admit it to ourselves.....