A Materialist Novel

A materialist novel.  The subtitle to this story might seem unnecessary yet it explains some of the motivations of the characters.  My experience reading left me unsatisfied because I could not connect with the characters in the novel.  I kept wondering how someone who claimed to love another person so dearly could behave in such a hideous way towards that person.  Then I realized it is because this novel is not about the love which these two people say they are experiencing, it is about the physicality of the love, the physical material that is driving this emotion.  Raoulle throughout the entire book claims she loves Jacques.  She explains to Raittolbe that she is not a woman in love with a woman but a man in love with a man.  She again explains to him that she always loves without resisting.  He claims that this is in fact love.  Yet, love as so many other stories have taught us would not have ones lover killed out of jealousy.  The love that Rachilde is presenting us with, however, is not an emotional love; it is a love of the physical and material.

Similarly, Jacques shows love for the physical and not necessarily the emotional.  ‘“Raoule,’ cried Jacques, his face convulsed his teeth biting into his lips, his arms extended as if he had just been crucified in a spasm of pleasure.  ‘Raoule, you just aren’t a man! You just can’t be a man!’ And the sob of illusion, forever dead, rose from his sides to his throat.  For Raoule had undone her white silk waistcoat and, in order to feel the beating of Jacques heart better she had pressed one of her naked breasts against him” (pg 183).  In this scene we see that Jacques in fact desires the physicality of this relationship more than the emotional side of it.  While Raoule can “act like a man” and Jacque “behave like a woman”, the reason this relationship cannot be entirely fulfilled is because of the emphasis on the material.  Neither Jacques nor Raoule value the emotional nearly as much and thus the relationship is doomed to fail at least in its current state.

At the end of the novel, however, we see a Raoule, which might in fact be happier with the final arrangement than she was during the time Jacque was alive.  She gets to enjoy the physicality of this relationship the thing that she in fact loved.  She actually acknowledged this during one of her interactions with her aunt.  Raoule states after her aunt curses her “Dear Aunt, happiness becomes more real the more it’s insane.  If Jacques doesn’t waken from the sensual sleep that I’ve insinuated in his obedient limbs, I’ll be happy despite your curse”(pg 175).  While in the end she did mourn for a short period we can extrapolate that she was happy with the outcome of her relationship.  She was able to have a very obedient and dead Jacques to serve her own pleasure, her own physical, material pleasure.  In fact, while she was not able to ever become a “full man” due to the lack of a material penis, she was able to make Jacques a “complete woman”.  She was able to keep her object of desire and pleasure without having to share it with anyone.  This shows us that this novel is actually not preoccupied with the emotional definition of love but the material and physical forms of love.  Rachilde thus presents us with characters whose emotions the reader cannot connect with because the emotion is not the aim the feelings are the not the aim.  The physical is what is important.

-Basil Hallward


1 Comment

Filed under Week 4: Rachilde's Monsieur Venus

One response to “A Materialist Novel

  1. Basil Hallaward, very intriguing questions you presents. I especially could relate to the start of your post, I too had trouble connecting with the characters in this novel. I had trouble understanding their motivations of their actions as well. I definitely agree that Raoule is motivated by the physicality of love which is well defended by your examples. Her last act especially really shows that her true love is physical and not emotional. However, with regards to Jacques, I was still on the fence about the type of love he shows until you shared the quote where Jacques’ illusion is broken, showing he had been in love with the physicality of being with a man. There is definitely an emotional component though, because I think that Jacques is partially in love with the dominating emotional relationship between Raoule and himself.

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