What kind of themes can be used for the topic of movement in the book of The Elegance of the Hedgehog?

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M.P. Ossa | College Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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In Muriel Barbery's L'Élégance du Hérisson or The Elegance of the Hedgehog the two female mirror characters of Reneé and Paloma are extremely intelligent for their environments. Movement is more evident in Paloma's character, although it does reflect her views on life upon Reneé.

Paloma keeps two journals to record her observations prior to the day of her birthday, when she plans to commit suicide:  The Journal of Thoughts, and the Journal of the Movement of the World

In the journal of movement, Paloma observes intention versus action, particularly reflected in the body of a New Zealand Rugby player, whose traditional "haka" (or ode to the ancestors, practiced prior to each game), denotes entire intention to defeat and conquer while maintaining a straightforward posture.  This, to Paloma, is unique and shows how life, itself, is a series of movements, whether intentional or not, to cause action.

Parting from this premise, the themes that can be used for the topic of movement in the book may include:

1. Inaction: from the tenants, to improve their mindsets, and let go of the prejudices that make them overall the weaker characters in the novel.

2. Fear of transition: Even Reneé is partly to blame for the chasm that exists between her and her tenants. She comes from a poor family but she is nevertheless near aristocratic in terms of her character, behavior, intellect, and principles. Yet we do not see Reneé moving forward in the novel; she is equally stagnant in her ways and, for this reason, she cannot let her tenants "see her" for what she really is.

3. Cycles: In the building life follows pretty much the same pattern every day. It is hard to think of the characters doing anything differently. In fact, they even bypass Reneé daily as they are "used to" seeing her at the same place. Even after her death nothing really changes. Paloma is aware of this, and part of it is the reason behind her desire to end life altogether. It just does not make sense to a brain such as hers that something as ephemeral as life can just be taken for granted.

People aim for the stars, and they end up like goldfish in a bowl. I wonder if it wouldn't be simpler just to teach children right from the start that life is absurd.

Therefore, these themes can very well stem from the topic of movement which is so important to Paloma.

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