The Prime of Life Essay - Masterplots II: Women’s Literature Series The Prime of Life Analysis

Simone de Beauvoir

Masterpieces of Women's Literature The Prime of Life Analysis

At its best, The Prime of Life is a hymn to individual freedom and to the importance of the intellect, an invaluable description of the French intelligentsia’s way of life in the 1930’s and during World War II. It lacks the unity of Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter, which succeeded in rendering the maturation of a sensitive and brilliant young girl struggling for self-definition in a repressive household. Instead, Beauvoir here uses a wide range of techniques to describe the beginnings of her career as a teacher and writer, her alliance with Sartre, the vie de bohème the pair lived until the war, and their conversion from romantic individualism to political commitment.

Beauvoir divides her narrative into chronological periods that vary from whole school years to weeks-long holidays to weekends with Sartre. She frequently summarizes her latest conclusions about life at either a chapter’s beginning or end. These are, more often than not, views that are jointly held with Sartre. Occasionally, however, she does distinguish between their temperaments: He was more at home with abstractions than she, more detached than she in expressing feelings, more devoted to literature, and indifferent to external nature.

Both agreed that, absent a God, they trusted only themselves. As for the world at large, “We counted [until World War II] on events turning out according to our wishes without any need for us to mix in them...

(The entire section is 448 words.)