You’ll probably know Simone by her extraordinary, controversial book “The second sex” with which she managed to break through and make history in discussing notorious patriarchal norms, thoughts and stereotypes. However, she had other, deeply meaningful works one of which was “Women destroyed”. Having read it twice (intending to read it many more times), I’ll share with you my perspective on what this book teaches us, and why we should all read it.
The brilliance of Simone de Beauvoir, tendencies to lean on towards philosophy and existentialism, are evidently exposed in her book Woman Destroyed.
It is interesting how most people would probably give anything to be known as philosophers. Intellectually speaking, the term “philosopher” puts one in such a high pedestal, among famous historical figures such as Plato, Nietzsche, Sartre.
It means that your thinking is precious and that your perspectives can be worldly acknowledged as they help shed light towards the meaning of events, relationships, and life as a whole.
Simone De Beauvoir, however, refused to be known or called a philosopher although she pretty much fulfilled all the criteria to be one. She preferred being called an author, and her works added significant value to the fields of ethics, politics, existentialism, phenomenology and feminist theory.
Her significance as an activist and public intellectual is considered by many as a matter of record!
Written in a magnificent, very careful language, Woman Destroyed shares the lives of three different yet similar women that are past their youth and are now contemplating nature – the fact that they are growing old, that they will become dull, and left with nothing to do.
Each of the stories is told in a unique, perfect narration from women protagonists. The way they share their stories may fool you to sometimes think that things are not that bad, but truly, it takes skills to decode what these women mean through the words they express, to understand how they express their grief, meaninglessness, sadness, melancholy and boredom.
Woman Destroyed is divided into three parts, hence, three different stories and leaves you holding your breath as you walk through their lives feeling like you’re in there having a conversation with these women and becoming old yourself. That’s just the level of mastery shown through this novel.
The first part of the three novellas is the Age of Discretion. On this part, the narrator struggles with losing her son to his wife and his opposite political and social ideas rather than the ones she had raised him with.
The woman in the Age of Discretion is an intellectual, a professor of literature, an author and a researcher who has reached the age of retirement. She is disgusted by her husband who seems to have surrendered to the fact that he is getting old, and she becomes horrified to the idea that elderliness is cutting out the meaning of their former fruitful lives.
The protagonist has too much time in her hands, calculates the fact that she may no longer be needed and adored by her son, and that she will turn out to be lonely most of the time.
The second of the three novellas, The Monologue is an intense read, where you can literally not stop and take a breath as there is a major lack of commas, colons, periods and other punctuation marks that instruct you to react or pause when accordingly.
It is rather powerful and exhausting for the reader as the story is told following the style of a Joycean stream of consciousness, meaning that the narrative is of the sort that attempts to give the written equivalent of the character’s thought processes, either in a loose interior monologue or in connection to his or her actions.
The protagonist feels immense rage, as she grieves the loss of her daughter to suicide and the loss of family connections whom she perceives look upon her with remorse, including her husband.
“The first line of the story reads: ‘The Monologue is her form of revenge’.
“She knows how agonising it must be to endure the seemingly endless soliloquy, so she employs it to make a point. De Beauvoir demands the attention of the reader, challenging her to persevere through an avalanche of disarrayed thoughts and words. She claims space for herself, knowing that she deserves it.“ – Edie Fine, the Science Survey.
The last novel – The Woman Destroyed – we encounter a woman who has spent her entire life devoting to her husband and daughters, only to have reached a point where her daughters become self-sufficient adults and her beloved husband has an affair.
Having no profession, the woman on this novel falls into utter depression, and is possessed by meaninglessness, loss of will to live and with no idea what to do as she is now beyond her 50s. Her desperation causes her to accept significant submission towards her husband, as she accepts him regardless his other extra marital affair.
Now, what do all of the three novellas —The Age of Discretion, The Monologue, and The Woman Destroyed have in common? In each of the stories and the narratives, we encounter women whose sense of identity is lost, with an increased level of hysteria, cries of rage, loneliness, and despair.
De Beauvoir knows that the notion of hysteria was so badly identified with women only during history, so she plays with the notion and reclaims it. The stories shared through these women, tackle the issue of unpaid work and the housewife role that has long led women towards depression and meaninglessness.
Through this book, Simone asks for readers to feel every insecurity and emotion that these women feel, so that they understand the position of women in our daily lives, and their loss of identity once they reach an older age and realize that without care responsibilities, they are no longer needed.
Why we should all read this book? Because it’s authentically and undoubtedly feminist and revolutionary. It raises awareness, educates, and speaks about the struggles of women, their doubts, thoughts and their being – in reference to the expectations that society has for them.
And it’s still relevant up to date, as care responsibilities are still a burden that falls upon women, and their struggle towards a feminist society continues.
Want more culture? How about this one on books to get you feeling happier?
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