I have read Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter, by Simone de Beauvoir, who is not at the first presence on the blog.
The Memoirs present her early life, from her first memories, birth, and the story of her family, until she gets the independence she wanted all her life, after graduating from Sorbonne.
The novel is not a fictional one, the author tells her story in first person, from her own perspective of the respective age, but also looking back from an older age, by having a conscientious voice in her early age diary. Her story is one of a child who had to kept her duties to her family, a story of a coming of age of an intellectual, not very restricted by parents, with a great liberty of mind and thought.
I find myself a lot in her development, starting from a prejudice early childhood, powerfully influenced by society, dogma, concepts and beliefs indoctrinated from youth. She has a profound religious crisis in adolescence, which I find very explainable. Simone has been reading a lot, understanding more and more, she begins to get fond of science, philosophy, open world concept, where the ancient gods have no place. She finds out that the God that many people worship does not have any influence on her, nor that it’s required in order to have a good life, or to respect moral principles that govern a good life. Her development as a thinker is underway. She finds comfort in books, reading many stuff that her parents bring her, censored, until her cousin Jacques starts to open her up for some new writing.
Simone has a fancy over her cousin, which she dreams to marry one day, or at least have a love intrigue. This infatuation goes to her late adolescence and her early years as a young woman, but it’s melt away because Jacques can no longer impress her as a man, with his knowledge, intelligence, or charm.
She experiences the dark side of life, pubs, drinking, flirting with older men, but she is naive and unaware of possible consequences. Lucky indeed, she manages to get away after more men pay for her drinks and demand something in return from her.
Her experiences with the early 20th century society concerning marriage are very blunt: at that time a girl couldn’t marry without a proper dowry. Because of her father’s bad businesses, he cannot give them a proper dowry for her and her sister. She is forced to pursue a career, not that she wanted otherwise, but this is a good reason for her parents to not force her into a marriage.
Unlike other teenage girls, she is not interested in her looks, trying to look more beautiful, except one episode when she thinks that her sister is much more beautiful because she didn’t hit puberty yet, and it’s not full of acne and clumsy as she is. Her main objectives are to know as much of the world as possible, and to change something into the world, by writing something that will remain after she is gone.
At a certain age, she has fear of death crisis, which I can clearly understand. Most people believe in after life, or some kind of resurrection and eternal life, but for the people who understand and are aware that this afterlife and resurrection are impossible, there are moments when death can overwhelm you. As depicted in one of her later novels, All men are mortal, Simone de Beauvoir expresses her understanding of death, and that death is somehow necessary in order to make people appreciate their limited time on earth, and that eternal life/joy is a nonsense.
Friendship is very important for Simone, as she has profound crisis about loneliness, nobody to understand her, and nobody to share her thoughts with. She doesn’t have an inclination for gender friendship, or for special relationship with a man, but treats all her friends the same, no matter if they are men or women. Her best friend Zaza depicts the struggle of the rising girl of the 20th century who fails miserably in all that she has to do: to be a dutiful daughter and to accept a convenience marriage by her parents, to achieve herself as a person, professionally and intellectually, to achieve herself as a woman, in love, by finding the man that would make her happy and tie herself to him, and to have a good life, by dying at a very young age.
On the other hand, Simone is lucky to be part of a family that allows her to become a thinker, a feminist, an opener of new ways for society, even though they are reluctant at start, Simone becomes what she wanted to be, and eventually everyone is proud of her. At the end of her studies, she finally finds the one person that she can admire, she can understand, be understood, share her thoughts, impress her, respect her, and to which to have a long life companion: Jean Paul Sartre.