In Confessions by Rousseau, Rousseau describes in detail various experiences that happened to him when he was a child. How much do you trust Rousseau’s narrative memory, given that he wrote...

In Confessions by Rousseau, Rousseau describes in detail various experiences that happened to him when he was a child. How much do you trust Rousseau’s narrative memory, given that he wrote his Confessions as an adult?

Asked on by erlin168

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I don't think that Rousseau's intent in his writing is to create a render of exact and verifiable experiences.  I think that there is a certain level of candor and openness that seems to be more at the heart of Rouuseau's narrative style than anything in terms of a precise retelling of childhood experiences.  What is taken from this is that Rousseau speaks with a style of direct and openness where he is not concerned with trying to mirror his life for others or seeking to provide some type of moral revelation for the reader.  Rousseau's narration demonstrates to us that the individual is complex, filled with a variety of emotions about how our own past and our own childhood is viewed and not necessarily with anything in terms of whether or not a specific event actually happened.  Some of the more scandalous retellings in terms of Rouuseau's amorous qualities or his propensity for cruelty would be included here.  The end result is that the reader is left to wonder about whether or not these events actually happened.  Obviously, historical research would be the only way to validate it.  Yet, the larger issue is that it becomes evident Rousseau is complex and intricate as a thinker and possesses a unique frame of reference about his past.  This conveys a spirit of openness in the narration and compels the reader to recognize that what is being read is an exercise in displaying distinct uniqueness.  This might be closer to the narrative intent of Rousseau about his childhood more than anyhting else.

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