Today’s topic is “She came to stay” by Simone de Beauvoir.
The original French title is “L’invitee” which actually means the invited one, in feminine gender. Obviously this refers to Xaviere, the main mistery and a very carefully created character in the novel.
Xaviere comes into the picture in a rather silent and peaceful environment, to stir up the action and make everything revolve around her. The world in the novel was stable and very well designed, with Francoise and Pierre having a nearly perfect relationship. Xaviere changes all that with her flegmatic attitude and incisive underskin intentions. From a young country girl, basing on very strong feelings, Xaviere manages to change everyone’s life and evolves into a more powerful being, capable of disrupting happiness, influencing others’ feelings, indulging remorse, pity, affection, hate, a full rainbow of sentiment.
Francoise and Pierre are both affected, in a way that would change their life forever. Francoise is torn between the affection for Pierre, and the word she gave Xaviere that will take care of her. When Xaviere’s actions split them apart, by commiting adulter against the trio, which is a mutual agreement superseding an usual man woman couple, Francoise is affectionately destroyed, having a share of non understandable feelings that put her in a very difficult position. She has to choose between disengaging her commitment to Xaviere or greatly disappointing Pierre by asking him to step over his pride and forgive something that he clearly was not up to. Xaviere on the other hand has a very egocentric position, putting herself above everyone else. She lacks understanding of many human habits that find her amusing on some part, and disgusting on the other part. She is willing to put personal vendetta as a primary goal, only because her position in the trio is not first. Actually all the three characters take turns in feeling like the third wheel to the bike. First is Xaviere, after that Francoise, and sometimes Pierre, when his sole occupation is his work, the theater, and the two women spend most of their time together.
Love is a strong emotion that is depicted throughout the novel, but without high implications. Francoise thinks herself in love with Pierre, but has nothing against accepting Xaviere into their life, to a certain point. She also has no remorse in having an affair with Gerbert. Pierre is not very affectionate, but in key moments he does prove the willing to protect Francoise. Both of them have an open relationship, which is a very interesting point to debate. They are willing to accept each other’s affair, as long as there is an intellectual and sincere communion between them. Francoise suggests herself that Pierre could have an affair with Xaviere, but inside her soul there is a moment of refrain. However she knows she can’t hold Pierre only to herself. Giving him a free will would make him eventually turn back to her. The question is, is it the same thing? Knowing that the other person in the couple has been through an affair, with all the emotion involved, does it make it in the long run ? Can she live with herself accepting that ? Only thing that matters is that Pierre is beside her, but it does not matter at all what kind of Pierre she has?
Her love to Xaviere is one purely of protection and of curiosity, she is very intrigued about her, never fully understanding her, but not willing to let her go when Xaviere proves herself that for her Pierre is more important.
Pierre on the other hand seems to be more easy hearted and does not seem to have problems with accepting Francoise as is. On the other hand, the couple from his point of view is secondary to other matters in life, and Pierre is seeking personal achievement by having success in professional life.
We could extrapolate and fill the blanks regarding the characters, as I perceive them. Francoise is the sentimentalist, willing to do anything for a balanced life and making everyone happy, thus it’s the empathic. Xaviere is the frivolous, wanting to live every moment no matter the consequences. Pierre is the intellectual who seeks mostly pleasure in social relationship, but has a completely different life that nobody can reach, in his professional work.
These characters are extremely powerful and we can clearly match Francoise with Simone de Beauvoir herself, and Pierre with Sartre, the exceptional intellectual. Xaviere remains a more dark figure in history, but this book is a tribute to a good friend and student of Simone de Beauvoir, who nearly disrupted her relationship with Sartre. Their relationship is clearly pictured here, always a couple, but always free. And still, their relationship was stronger than many other of today’s.
I didn’t like the end. Unlike other Simone the Beauvoir’s novels, which are like a symphony of orchestrated character build, She came to stay ends completely unexpected. Francoise’s act is a desperate scream against all oppression, maybe a sign of freedom, maybe a hidden will that the author herself never had the courage to do. This act brings Xaviere and Francoise on the same plane. Francoise proves to have human flaws too, while Xaviere proves she can feel pain as well. The last mirror image scene leaves the reader in total confusion, as both women are split by the same feelings, after all.