Raoul, In "Je ne parle pas Francais" by Mansfield, Raoul cites his reading of "that stupid, stale little phrase" in a cafe as his "moment - the geste!" But of what is it a sign? That is, what...

Raoul, In "Je ne parle pas Francais" by Mansfield, Raoul cites his reading of "that stupid, stale little phrase" in a cafe as his "moment - the geste!" But of what is it a sign? 

That is, what does it mean?

1 Answer | Add Yours

mwestwood's profile pic

mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

As he sits in the cafe, Raoul espies the phrase meaning I don't speak French--"a stale phrase," indeed--and he is sharply reminded of his friend Dick's girlfriend, the Mouse.

But ah! the agony of that moment! How can I describe it?  I didn't think of anything. I didn't even cry out to myself. Just for one moment I was not. I was Agony, Agony, Agony.

This, clearly, is an existential moment for the cynical little Frenchman, who boasts that he never makes the first geste toward anyone. For, at this moment, Raoul is genuine; he feels "Agony, Agony, Agony" for the neglect of the Mouse as he never returned to her, a little woman who was overcome with real suffering after reading Dick's letter.  He is "humbled" by this experience.  For, he realizes that he is not "the part" although he "dresses the part."  Instead, he has masked his feelings and his own identity as have the others. But, above all, Raoul Duquette practices a self-deceit and self-gratification that he calls "acting the Frenchman" by feigning insouciance.  But, in reality, he is sensitive to the feelings of the Englishman, Dick Harmon and, especially, the Mouse. For Raoul, feeling--"the Agony"--is the only sign of his worth, his existential moment of genuineness.

Sources:

We’ve answered 318,957 questions. We can answer yours, too.

Ask a question