How does Zazie, the main character, make you question traditional values and representations of the world?

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Noelle Thompson eNotes educator| Certified Educator

While skilled eNotes educators can help you understand Zazie Lalochère, what traditional values are, what representations of the world are, no one can say how Zazie might make “you” question these things. Even further, perhaps Zazie doesn't make you question either traditional values or worldly representations. Zazie should, however, make you consider your thoughts on the subjects, you might especially think about trickery and gender identity.

The trickery of Zazie and others is one thing that might make you question traditional values. Zazie often tries to convince crowds of people of someting for her own amusement. For example, when Turandot (Gabriel’s landlord) tries to offer protection, Zazie evades Turandot’s control by convincing others of an attempt to molest her. Later, Zazie herself is a victim of this trickery when the man who providers her with “blewgenes” convinces the crowd that Zazie is a thief. Is trickery, or using lies, for personal gain an honorable value?

Zazie’s innocence in regards to gender identity should tweak your thoughts about traditional values. Zazie continually wonders if her uncle, Gabriel, is a homosexual (even though Zazie doesn’t really understand what a homosexual is). This is proven by her constant questioning of his behaviors throughout the story. Although, we are meant to laugh through the farce at the gender-bending involved (especially when Zazie finds out that Marceline is really Marcel), it should make you think about the “traditional” sexual relationship between a man and a woman versus “non-traditional” sexual relationships between a man and a man or a woman and a woman. eNotes says it best:

It is clear that Queneau’s farce demonstrates the idiocy of assigning personality traits to individuals on the basis of gender.

This particular aspect should also bring up thoughts about related “worldly representations,” namely the difference between how these sexual relationships are treated in France as opposed to other places (such as the United States).

In conclusion, through Zazie’s character we are given a chance to question many things, especially lies and gender. Zazie Lalochère is quite a brash, young teen who comes to Paris, France, specifically to ride the metro (which, of course, is shut down when she gets there because of a strike). She puts her entire focus on that particular desire for adventure. Zazie is disgusted when she is unable to ride the metro, so she begins causing many difficulties for the people she is around. Thus begins Zazie’s real journey. As a result (and in grand irony), even though Zazie hasn’t gotten to experience the metro while awake, what a ride Zazie has had.

Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

"Representations of the world" refers to how societies, cultures, families and governments depict or explain and describe the world. These "representations" may be explicit (openly stated) or implicit (implied, suggested, assumed). These "representations" of how the world is can come from parental instruction, school instruction, the news and entertainment media, peers (friends at school or the workplace). Whether explicit or explicit, whether from home, school, entertainment or government laws and regulations, these representations define how we grow up to and continue as adults to see the world (society and culture) that we live in. Societies, cultures and governments differ from each other either in subtle ways, as America and France differ, or in large and sometimes dramatic ways, as the American people and the Igbo people differ from each other. These differences define the representations that we live with, which in turn define how we see the world. In Zazie in the Metro, these representations are called into question by, for example, the judgement of Zazie's mother for murder and the subsequent mother-like care given to Zazie by Gabriel.

"Values" are the classes of ideas that a society holds as right and wrong and important to life and living. "Traditional values" are these classes ideas that have a long history in the society and culture: these are the ideas of right, wrong and importance that have undergirded the formation and growth of a society and culture for a long and/or a significant time. Zazie's experience of life calls into question one of the bedrock traditional values of a vast cross-section of societies and cultures, that being the traditional values of love between mother and father and parental love toward the children that supersedes all other values. Parents are believed to put children before all other concerns because of their great love for their children. This may look different in different cultures and different historical periods, but it is one of the bedrock traditional values from China to America and Papua New Guinea. Since Zazie's mother took an axe blade to her father, killing him with it, these traditional values are called into question from her early years of life. 


Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Zazie in the Metro, the main character compels the reader to question the lack of structure found in the world.

The world in which Zazie lives has little structure to it.  Zazie comes from a dysfunctional condition. Her father was abusive.  Her mother killed him with an axe and was put on trial for her actions.  She is more concerned about her own needs being satisfied than providing a world of guidance for Zazie.  The lack of clarity even extends into gender identities, as Gabriel is more of a mother to Zazie than anything she experiences.  Even Zazie herself seems to embody the lack of structure. She covets her jeans, and judges everyone as if they are in a film.  There is nothing spiritual to her existence.  Her sole purpose is to ride the metro, something interrupted by the metro strike. There is no wider configuration that governs Zazie and her actions. 

Zazie makes the reader wonder about whether there is any order within the world.  Traditional values are absent.  This reality makes the reader question if there is structure to the world.  We have to wonder if we are like Zazie, moving from place to place and looking at the world as if we are in our own little drama that has little larger meaning. 

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Zazie in the Metro

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