How is Paloma's account of Renee's end is at odds with Renee's self-assessment?

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lynnebh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Renee had pretty low self-esteem. This is why she hid her real self from everyone. She pretended to be a boring, dumb concierge when she really was an intelligent, vibrant, auto-didact (self-taught person). When she dies, her friend, the young girl Paloma, remarks that one of the tenants collected money from the other tenants to buy flowers. “She was here for 27 years!” the tenant proclaimed. Renee always thought that her tenants did not like her, and that they did not notice her. Also, Madame Lopes, another tenant, came to do the cleaning and fainted. She kept saying, “Forgive me, forgive me” which indicates that she is sorry about Renee’s death and probably wishes she had treated Renee better. But the fact that she even regrets this conflicts with what Renee would have thought.

Paloma is very grieved by Renee’s death. Although Renee and Paloma befriend each other, I don’t think Renee realized the profound positive effect she had on the young teen girl. When the novel begins, Paloma is planning to kill herself, and after Renee dies, she realizes that the best way to honor her friend is to live. Also, Paloma keeps correcting herself – she writes about “Madame Michel – I mean Renee” which indicates that indeed, Renee has been her friend, not just “Madame Michel the concierge.” Paloma even grows up, admitting that she does not have any “profound thoughts” to share about the death, but because of Renee “I’ll be searching for those moments of always within never.”

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The Elegance of the Hedgehog

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