La Femme Rompue

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“Monique is guilty of seeing herself and others as static”. Discuss “La Femme Rompue” in the light of this statement.

La Femme Rompue


Though Simone de Beauvoir has no doubt made her most lasting contribution to modern thought with Le Deuxième Sexe (The Second Sex), her very influential study of the female condition, and her sequence of brilliant autobiographical writings, she also has to her credit a number of novels and short stories. These are all, to some extent, reflections of both her own experience and her philosophical attitudes. "The Woman Destroyed," "The Age of Discretion," and "The Monologue" were first published in La Femme rompue in 1968.

It is clear, from the differences in narrative style between the three stories, that Beauvoir is, to some degree, experimenting with different fictional modes in an attempt to persuade us to see her three heroines' predicaments from different angles. "The Age of Discretion" takes the form of a first-person narrative by the heroine; "The Monologue" is presented as a transcript of the thoughts rushing through Murielle's head; "The Woman Destroyed" is in diary form. "The Woman Destroyed," the title story, seems at first to be a straight-forward and reliable account of Monique's experiences, but we soon realise this is not the case (Ferrier, 1512). As the heroine herself puts it, "what an odd thing a diary is: the things you omit are more important that those you put in." Monique's life has largely been one of self-deceit, and the diary narrative is a fine expression of her essential egocentricity. This explains too why the other characters in the story are seen only from her viewpoint, and remain somewhat one-dimensional. There are critics who complain about the sketchiness of the portrayal of some of the minor figures in the story, but they overlook the fact that this is a valid expression of Monique's relationships with them.

Discussion and Analysis

Beauvoir claims that one of the clues to Monique's guilt is the fact that she constantly contradicts herself, whereas 'post-modern' readers tend to see this confusion not as a sign of her stupidity or blindness but as an excellent illustration of the treacherous, deconstructive nature of all language. To the same readers, Monique's increasing epistemological helplessness does not necessarily signal her specific lack of insight, but rather a correct insight into the unstable nature of knowledge in general. 'La Femme rompue' opens with an ascent. Monique climbs the stairs of the central pavilion of the Salines of Ledoux to contemplate the 'simulacre fantastique' which they represent. Toril Moi points out how the Salines could be seen as a 'rather heavy-handed authorial metaphor of Monique's ignorance of her situation or as a first hint of the bleak final image in the book'. In fact, the final story opens with a double metaphorical ascent, since Maurice's plane takes off 'avec la brutalite d'un adieu' , an image echoed at the end of the story, as is the Salines image, by Monique's descent into Orly after her ...