How are family abuse and trauma revealed in Marguerite Duras' semi-autobiographical novel The Lover?

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The very first sentence in Marguerite Duras’ semi-autobiographical novel The Lover speaks at once to the lifetime of emotional hardships and abuse to which Duras’ narrator has been subjected:

“I've known you for years. Everyone says you were beautiful when you were young, but I want to tell you I think you're more beautiful now than then. Rather than your face as a young woman, I prefer your face as it is now. Ravaged.” 

As the narrator continues, she states that “I grew old at eighteen.”  The reader, consequently, knows that this will be a story of a difficult life, but does not yet know the details.  Those details, however, are presented full-force in Duras’ discussion of her mother’s treatment of her and her brothers.  It is in this discussion that Duras’ narrator displays the emotional and physical abuse to which she was subjected as a young girl growing up in poverty in a foreign land.  Early in this discussion, the narrator notes that her mother “looked down on the weak,” and then proceeds to illustrate the manner in which she, the young girl, personified “the weak.”  Commenting on her mother’s racist attitude towards the Chinese in general and the girl’s Chinese boyfriend, an affluent older man, the narrator writes:

“Of my lover from Cholon (the capital of French Indochina and a major center of ethnic Chinese commercial activities) she spoke the same way as my elder brother.  I won’t write the words down.  They were words that had to do with the carrion you find in the desert.”

While the narrator’s eternal sadness will be...

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