Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter Essay - Masterplots II: Women’s Literature Series Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter Analysis

Simone de Beauvoir

Masterpieces of Women's Literature Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter Analysis

In this first volume of her autobiography, Beauvoir intends to depict the genesis of her vocation as a writer and to establish, in the re-creation of her childhood and adolescence, a coherent basis for understanding the woman she will be throughout her life. Critics have objected that such a recovery of the past, from the standpoint of a fifty-year-old woman, is necessarily flawed, since it is impossible not to interpret the past in the light of one’s later beliefs and convictions. The problem is an epistemological one that is inherent, to a certain extent, in all autobiography: how to know, accurately, a past self. Beauvoir solves the problem by evoking her younger self as the necessary foundation of her older self and by implying the coherent persistence of a unified, indestructible self. She depicts this self as a figure of great strength and determination. A network of images evoking giantlike appetites and endeavors underlies the autobiographical narrative. Like a giant, the young Simone wants to conquer and devour the world—in her case, a world of books, knowledge, and experience. Her vigor and her vitality are impetuous and immoderate, and they explain her need to escape from the narrow confines of her milieu. A certain ruthlessness is inseparable from her relentless drive toward freedom and self-expression, and conflicts necessarily arise with the warm, protective figures of the past: family, teachers, friends. The drive is, however, both motivated and justified by a strong sense of vocation: Very early on, Beauvoir decides that she wants to be an author—that is, someone who is endowed with autonomy, authority, and uniqueness. She wants to become a writer because she admires writers above all and is “convinced of their supremacy.”

The voice...

(The entire section is 725 words.)