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Simone De Beauvoir

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A lot of things happened in Simone de Beauvoir's life, most having to do with women and the way they were treated. She was a very observant person, and her writing reflects that. Simone de Beauvoir's writings attempted to deal on paper with the vast emotions conjured by her life experiences, particularly women she knew who were "assassinated by bourgeois morality." ("Simone")

Simone de Beauvoir was born in Paris, France on January 9, 1908. She was raised by a Catholic mother from Verdun, and a father who was a lawyer who enjoyed participating in amateur theatrical productions. As family finances dwindled during World War I, Beauvoir saw the household chores that were burdened on her mother and decided that she herself would never become either a homemaker or a mother. She had found so much pleasure in teaching her younger sister, Helene, everything she herself was learning at school that she decided to pursue a teaching career when she grew up. ("Simone")

Beauvoir and her best friend, Zaza, would talk about the greatness of bringing nine children into the world, as Zaza's mother had done, and of creating books, which Beauvoir believed to be worthwhile. As the girls matured, Beauvoir saw the degree that Zaza's mother had used her daughter's love and commitment to Christianity to control Zaza's choice of career and husband. When Zaza, tormented by her parents' refusal to grant her permission to marry Maurice Merleau-Ponty died at twenty-one, Beauvoir felt that her friend had been "assassinated by bourgeois morality" ("Simone"). Many of Beauvoir's early fictional writings attempted to deal on paper with the emotions conjured by the memory of the family and of Zaza's death. ("Simone")

Despite her warm memories of going to early morning mass as a little girl with her mother and of drinking hot chocolate on their return, Beauvoir eventually pulled away from the traditional values with which Francoise de Beauvoir hoped to infuse in her. She and her sister began to rebel. ("Simone")

Weighing the good things against the bad things in this world evoked a belief in an afterlife, and the fifteen-year-old Beauvoir chose to stay with her life here on earth. Her loss of faith created a serious lack of communication with her mother. ("Simone")

Beauvoir was convinced during several years of her adolescence that she was in love with her cousin Jacques Champigneulles, who introduced her to books by such French authors as Andre Gide, Alain-Fournier, Henry de Montherlant, Jean Cocteau, Paul Claudel, and Paul Valery. These books enraged Beauvoir's mother, who had pinned together pages of books in their home library that she did not want her daughters to read. Jacques Champigneulles, however, was unwilling to make a commitment either to Beauvoir or to anything else, and the Beauvoir sisters were shocked when he chose to marry the wealthy sister of one of his friends.

Even as a young girl, Beauvoir had a passion for capturing her life on paper:

In the first volume of her autobiography, Memoires d'une jeune fille rangee (Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter), she looked back with amusement at her determination, recorded in her adolescent diary, to "tell all"; yet her memoirs, her fiction, her essays, her interviews, and her prefaces do indeed record events, attitudes, customs, and ideas that help define approximately seven decades of the twentieth century. ("Simone")

It was through Rene Maheu, a classmate, that Beauvoir first met Jean-Paul Sartre in a study group. In Sartre, Beauvoir found the partner that she dreamed of as a child:

As she remarked in Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter, "Sartre corresponded exactly to the ideal I had set for myself when I was fifteen: he was a soulmate in whom I found, heated to the point of incandescence, all of my passions. With him, I could always share everything." ("Simone")

And so she did, for fifty-one years, from the time they met in 1929 until his death on April 15, 1980.

It would be fit that the first comprehensive and widely influential feminist study of recent times should focus on the simple task of defining what a woman is in modern times. De Beauvoir provides her readers with a highly logical exercise in examining some generally accepted statements by scientists and theoreticians such as Charles Darwin, Sigmund Freud, and Friedrich Engels, whose combined efforts shaped the image of women during the first half of the twentieth century. At the same time, she establishes her own concept of women as not significannot

ly different from men biologically yet socially very distant from the superior position occupied by men. (Terras)

De Beauvoir fully agrees that the human race shares its biological differences between male and female with other species, but she also insists that membership in a species is irrelevant in human terms, because human beings create societies with set human values and impose customs, restrictive as well as supportive, on their members. (Terras)

Emphasizing the mutual need for a willed coexistence in both male and female, de Beauvoir:

rejects the psychoanalysts' view of women as alienated from their biological and psychological destiny and frustrated in a vain attempt to be men. She sees alienation for both men and women as an existential dilemma precipitated by the burden of self-determination and the exercise of free will. She rejects Engels' theory that the oppression of women is merely the result of men acquiring private property with a subsequent profit-oriented need for slave labor done by women. (Terras)

Instead, she traces women's enslavement to the invention of tools.

The invention of tools brought about a change enabling man to settle and to liberate himself from the uncertainties of his environment. The new life-style eliminated the need for women to function as the incarnation of the secrets of nature; women, however, failed to meet this function, while men created productive work for themselves. This "disturbance of a previous existing equilibrium"



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