André Gide Long Fiction Analysis

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 5007

Although André Gide’s career as a published author spanned nearly sixty years, his position in literary history depends primarily on five prose narratives published in the first quarter of the twentieth century. As Gide’s reputation rose to prominence, roughly between 1910 and 1920, critics and commentators were quick to discover the author’s earlier writings and, in them, the clear annunciation of Gide’s mature output. It is likely, however, that without the merited success of The Immoralist, Strait Is the Gate, Lafcadio’s Adventures, The Pastoral Symphony, and The Counterfeiters, Gide’s earliest writings might well have remained mere literary curiosities of the late Symbolist period. A notable exception might well be Fruits of the Earth, a transitional work, which in the years following World War I enjoyed a belated success quite unrelated to that of Gide’s other writings. In any case, The Immoralist and its successors bear witness to a controlled, mature talent that has few peers in the subsequent history of French fiction.

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With The Immoralist, a slim volume of deceptive simplicity, Gide reclaimed for the French tradition a strong foothold in the psychological novel. Skillful psychological narrative had been associated with France as early as the seventeenth century, thanks to Madame de La Fayette and her La Princesse de Clèves (1678; The Princess of Clèves, 1679), but had recently been pushed aside by the seemingly more urgent claims of realism and naturalism; it was not until the 1920’s and early 1930’s that the Belgian Georges Simenon, hailed and admired by Gide, would combine psychological narrative with the strongest legacies of naturalism. In the meantime, Gide further established his claim with Strait Is the Gate, another economical tale, which, although quite different, is in several respects a mirror image of The Immoralist. Particularly remarkable in both short novels is the emergence of Gide’s mature style—a clear, concise form of expression far removed from his early verbosity yet not without certain affective mannerisms, particularly noticeable in his frequent inversion of adverb and verb; it is quite likely that the proverbial aspect of Gide’s style derives at least in part from his frequent reading of the Bible.

Common to Gide’s first two récits is his skillful use of a somewhat unreliable first-person narrator whose impressions are “corrected” by other narrative or correspondence that is used to frame the text. In both cases, however, Gide is careful not to point to a moral or to intrude himself as narrator within the working of the text. The canvas remains small, perhaps justifying Gide’s use of the description récit in place of the more ambitious roman: In each tale, only two characters are singled out for close attention, with fewer than ten more appearing in the background. The Immoralist is the story of the process by which Michel, at once thoughtful and thoughtless, discovers himself, at the cost of his marriage and the life of his wife, Marceline; Strait Is the Gate, told mainly by the ineffectual Jérôme, presents the story of Alissa, whose renunciation and sacrifice seem hardly less selfish, in retrospect, than the deliberate indulgence of Michel in The Immoralist. More than once during his career, Gide pointed out that the two tales were in fact twins, having formed in his mind at the same time.

The Immoralist

Gide, in his earliest attempts at writing—intended mainly for himself, his school friends, and his cousin Madeleine—tried to discover and define the nature of a freedom that was felt but not yet experienced. Gide’s initial voyage to Africa, in 1893, resulted in an awakening that was psychological and spiritual as well as sexual, inspiring the young would-be author to shake off the bonds imposed by his austere French Protestant upbringing. One of the first concepts to emerge in his quest was that of disponibilité (availability). As expressed primarily in Fruits of the Earth, Gide’s idea of disponibilité holds that the individual should keep himself “available” to the full range of potential human experience, for only then can he discover all of himself and conduct himself in a truly sincere and authentic manner. Clearly, Gide as early as 1902 had perceived the possible dangers and advisable limits of such an attitude, for The Immoralist is at least in part a cautionary tale about personal freedom pushed thoughtlessly to its extreme. Still, the physical and spiritual flowering of the formerly frail and bookish Michel is not without a certain intentional appeal. Between extremes, Gide appears to be suggesting, even advocating, a self-liberation that stops short of incurring such disastrous consequences as the early death of one’s wife. For the purposes of fiction, however, The Immoralist is extremely well structured and memorable, involving the decline and failure of Marceline’s health in inverse proportion to that of her husband.

Like most of his work published both before and since, The Immoralist draws heavily upon the established data of Gide’s life; here as elsewhere, however, it would be erroneous to see in the work of fiction a direct transposition of the author’s experience. Michel’s awakening under the hot sun of North Africa, complete with his sexual initiation by young Arabs, obviously owes much to Gide’s own experience; Gide, however, initially discovered Africa before his marriage and not while on his honeymoon. Michel’s most important discoveries, however, appear to be not sexual but psychological, as in the memorable scene of the Arab boy Moktir stealing Marceline’s scissors. Michel, initially shocked, observes the theft with growing fascination and invents a false tale to tell his wife; only later does he learn from his mysterious friend Ménalque, who hands him the worn and battered scissors, that Moktir, in turn, was aware of being watched. Michel’s growing sense of complicity in the reversal of conventional morality constitutes no small part of his newfound freedom; later, upon his return to France, he will conspire with poachers to steal from his own land. Throughout the tale, recounted mainly in the first person by Michel, Gide equates Michel’s growing health and strength with his increasing fondness for the wild and elemental; later, when Marceline miscarries and falls ill, the erstwhile near-invalid Michel will prove strangely insensitive to her suffering, claiming that he “got well” all by himself and wondering why she cannot do the same. Still, Michel remains sufficiently attached to Marceline that he will dismiss his “experiment in liberation” as a failure when she ultimately dies.

In The Immoralist, as in his later narratives, Gide is particularly concerned to show the negative effects of conventional morality upon the individual; here, however, little mention is made of religion per se, and Gide’s concerns are implied rather than directly stated. Clearly, the circumstances of Michel’s comfortable bourgeois background are to be seen as stifling, confining, and detrimental to his health; it is not until he breaks away from the security of a precocious academic career (as an archaeologist) that Michel begins to “get well,” discovering at the same time what Gide portrays as his authentic self. As in Gide’s own case, however, the ties of love remain strong and are less easily dismissed than the constraints of traditional morality.

Strait Is the Gate

In Strait Is the Gate, conceived around the same time as The Immoralist, Gide presents what he sees as the other side of the same coin. Quite unlike Michel, yet with equal intransigence, Jérôme’s cousin Alissa chooses the path of renunciation and self-abnegation, causing some early readers to see in Strait Is the Gate a religious or devotional work—indeed, a rebuttal of The Immoralist. As in the earlier work, however, ambiguities abound on every page, and it is soon clear that Alissa’s “experiment” is hardly more successful or “exemplary” than that of her counterpart Michel; like Michel, indeed, she thoughtlessly contributes to needless human suffering.

Narrated mainly by the callow and ineffectual Jérôme, Alissa’s first cousin and sometime fiancé, Strait Is the Gate exemplifies and partially satirizes what Cordle has identified as the Catharist dimension of Gide’s thought and art. No doubt indebted to the author’s life and marriage in certain details, including the age difference and Alissa’s discovery of her mother’s extramarital affairs, the portrayal of Alissa through Jérôme’s love-struck eyes demonstrates a mastery of ironic technique that is all but lacking in The Immoralist and finds its strongest expression in The Pastoral Symphony. If Alissa indeed suffers from a variety of moral blindness in her adherence to Scripture at the expense of humanity, Jérôme, in turn, suffers from a literal-minded imperceptivity only partially explained by his scholarly training and plans. Perhaps most tellingly, he remains quite unaware of his sensual appeal to Alissa even as he records the effects of that attraction for his potential readers. The latent irony of Strait Is the Gate is further enhanced by the inclusion of Alissa’s diaries, discovered only posthumously, recording not only her intense feelings toward Jérôme but also her “selfless,” determined, and ultimately unsuccessful effort to “marry him off” to her sister Juliette.

Like the love of Gide and Madeleine, the emotion that binds Jérôme and Alissa is clearly “too good for this world,” incapable in any case of satisfaction. Although some readers continue to feel that Alissa has given ample proof of sainthood, it is somewhat more likely that she, like Michel of The Immoralist, has pushed her inclination to extremes. The reader, although invited to share the excruciating pain of two passionate individuals so hopelessly unable to communicate, might also find occasion to question Alissa’s taste in fastening her affections upon a creature as spineless as Jérôme. A stronger Jérôme would render the tale quite implausible, if not impossible, but his limitations spread outward to encompass Strait Is the Gate as well, perhaps adding an unintentional note of irony to the book’s biblical title.

Lafcadio’s Adventures

With Lafcadio’s Adventures, Gide broadened his narrative canvas considerably, involving a large cast of frequently outrageous characters in a broad social satire that leaves few sacred cows unmilked. For the first time in his fiction, Gide gives evidence of a perceptive, pervasive sense of humor, which, with some effort and the wisdom of hindsight, has been detected by some critics between the lines of his earlier works. If here, as elsewhere, Gide’s stated aim is to disturb the reader, he manages also to entertain, and lavishly so. In his lively evocation of a criminal scheme to extort funds from the faithful in order to “ransom” a Pope who has not in fact been kidnapped, Gide expresses his familiar concerns in a most unfamiliar way; if his main preoccupation remains with the individual, Gide nevertheless gains considerable appeal by placing those individuals against the background of society. Characteristically, however, Gide eschewed the description “novel” even for this effort, preferring the archaic (and exotic) term sotie, in part to underscore the sottise (stupidity) of most of the characters involved. His true novel, The Counterfeiters, moreover, was already in the planning stage, although not to be published until after The Pastoral Symphony.

In Lafcadio’s Adventures, Gide at last gave free rein to the strong ironic bent that is little more than latent in his earlier efforts; in addition, he added a strong portion of humor that is generally lacking elsewhere in his work, with keen observation that often crosses over into broad caricature. Based presumably upon a true incident recorded in European newspapers during the 1890’s, Lafcadio’s Adventures is nevertheless peopled exclusively with characters that could have sprung only from Gide’s increasingly active imagination. Even the names are strange, from the novelist Julius de Baraglioul and his brother-in-law Amédée Fleurissoire to Julius’s illegitimate half brother Lafcadio Wluiki; there is also the prostitute Carola, whose surname, Venitequa, means “come here” in Latin. Believers and freethinkers alike are treated with irreverence, portrayed as “crustaceans” whose institutionalized beliefs have stunted and distorted what might have been their true personalities. Here, as in The Counterfeiters, Gide clearly adumbrates the same demand for authentic behavior that would later dominate the work of Jean-Paul Sartre; unlike Sartre, however, he is not quite ready to accept the implications of total human freedom. To be sure, he offers a tantalizing portrayal of freedom in the person of the nineteen-year-old Lafcadio, whose illegitimacy purportedly exempts him from the bondage of polite society, yet it is hard even for Gide to condone the now-famous acte gratuit, or unmotivated deed, in which Lafcadio, more or less from sheer boredom, pushes the unsuspecting Fleurissoire out the door of a moving train. As in The Immoralist, freedom still has its limits, and Lafcadio will find that he has thus murdered the brother of his own sister-in-law. By apparent chance, however, he will go unpunished.

Particularly effective in Lafcadio’s Adventures is Gide’s satiric portrayal of the bourgeois “crustaceans”: Julius, unlike Gide, is among the most complacent (and presumably boring) of novelists; Anthime Armand-Dubois, a scientist cast in the mold of Gustave Flaubert’s pharmacist Homais of Madame Bovary (1857; English translation, 1886), undergoes a sudden conversion to Catholicism that is no less hilarious for being totally sincere. Fleurissoire, the most amiable (if also the most apparently ridiculous) of the three, conserves his goodwill through a harrowing sequence of tortures, only to meet senseless death at the idle hands of Lafcadio; several of Gide’s commentators argue with some justice that Fleurissoire may well be the true hero of the book, exhibiting the patience of Job when subjected to similar ordeals. In any event, the fundamental weakness of all three men is their gullibility, reflected in the book’s resonant French title, Les Caves du Vatican; in French, the word cave can refer to the victim of a hoax, similar to the word “mark” in English.

Throughout Lafcadio’s Adventures, Gide, despite a certain fascination, is careful not to side too closely with the hoaxers, led by the ubiquitous, many-visaged, truly protean Protos. After all, Gide suggests, such parasites can flourish only as long as they find willing victims, and who in his right mind would hand over money to ransom a captive Pope? Only a “crustacean,” which further proves the need for increasingly authentic conduct of one’s life. Paradoxically, even Lafcadio can exist as he does only in relation to the society he professes to despise; for all of his vaunted freedom, he functions only as the inverted mirror image of respectability, and were respectability to vanish he would vanish too—or change, as do the three “crustaceans” once they have been gulled.

The Pastoral Symphony

Serving clear notice of the author’s ironic intentions as early as its title, The Pastoral Symphony, both broadens and deepens the récit as Gide had earlier conceived it, presenting the voice of a most unreliable narrator, who nevertheless is presented with sufficient skill not to strain the reader’s credulity. Recalling the legend of Oedipus along with that of Pygmalion, The Pastoral Symphony presents the testimony of a Protestant pastor who hypocritically overlooks his own motivations as he ministers to the blind foundling Gertrude. Although the sustained images of sight and blindness are likely to appear too obvious in summary, they are extremely well-managed within the story itself, a minor masterpiece of “unreliable” first-person narrative. Here, as in Strait Is the Gate, and, later, in The Counterfeiters, Gide presents a scathing satire of the Protestant milieu from which he sprang, demonstrating the ill effects of that particular doctrine upon the human spirit. Toward the end of Gide’s life, The Pastoral Symphony was successfully filmed, with Michéle Morgan in the role of Gertrude.

With The Pastoral Symphony, Gide returns to the récit, investing the form with deeper resonance and insight than are to be found in either Strait Is the Gate or The Immoralist. As heavily ironic as Lafcadio’s Adventures, yet tightly controlled within the first-person narrative viewpoint, The Pastoral Symphony continues Gide’s inquiry into the potentially negative effects, both psychological and social, of organized religion. Significantly, the narrator-protagonist is a Protestant minister, subspecies Calvinist, whose Swiss enclave is hemmed in on all sides by Roman Catholicism. In apparent reaction against Roman Catholic tradition, he has developed a strong personal faith and doctrine based primarily upon the Gospels. In time, however, he has allowed his faith to harden into a crustacean shell that protects him from true introspection as well as from outside influences; thus does he remain hypocritically blind to his true feelings toward Gertrude and insensitive to the needs of his own wife and family.

A dozen years earlier, in 1907, Gide had written the oft-reprinted The Return of the Prodigal Son, an extended parable or prose poem retelling the tale of the prodigal son. In Gide’s version, the prodigal son returns only because he is hungry; although he decides to stay, he inspires his younger brother (a Gidean invention) to leave on the same kind of pagan pilgrimage from which the prodigal has just returned. Intended at least in part as an explanation to his Catholic friends of why he could not join their church, Gide’s brief text is interpreted also by some commentators as a concise overview of Catholicism, Protestantism, Judaism, and Islam. It remains a remarkable text, foreshadowing many of the tensions that were later to animate the action of The Pastoral Symphony.

The pastor, like the prodigal son, instinctively recoils from the restrictions and prohibitions brought to Christianity by the epistles of Saint Paul, preferring instead the good news of love propounded by the Gospels. Unfortunately, he manages to misread the Gospels as shelter for his own hypocrisy, retreating into the shell of his faith when in fact it is his illicit love for Gertrude, and not his Calvinism, that is making his family uneasy. The conflict reaches crisis proportions when the pastor’s son, Jacques, who has been preparing to follow his father into the ministry, finds himself simultaneously attracted to Gertrude and to the Roman Catholic Church; in several telling passages, the wily pastor attempts to dissuade his son from both attractions by berating his son with Protestant theology; he also attempts to forestall an operation that would restore young Gertrude’s eyesight. Gertrude, meanwhile, has become increasingly sensitive to the tensions at work in the pastor’s household and perceives, even before the successful operation, that she poses a threat to the pastor’s marriage, even as she truly loves Jacques. Her de facto suicide, presented as a selfless gesture, occurs only after she and Jacques have both been baptized as Roman Catholics; thus does the pastor conclude that he has “lost” them both.

Given the time of its composition, a number of Gide’s commentators have seen in The Pastoral Symphony an artistic transposition of the author’s own homosexual affair with the young Marc Allégret (whom he later adopted) and his subsequent rupture with Madeleine after she burned his letters. To be sure, the pastor’s marriage is portrayed as dry and loveless, based more on habit than on affection; at one point, the pastor observes that the only way he can please Amélie is to avoid displeasing her. Still, The Pastoral Symphony might also be seen as the least autobiographical of Gide’s published novels, relating less to his life than to his sustained preoccupation with religion and its potential pitfalls. In The Counterfeiters, albeit on a larger canvas, he continued his inquiry into what he saw as the “inevitable” hypocrisy engendered by Protestant belief.

The Counterfeiters

Late in 1925, already in his middle fifties, Gide at last presented the “novel” that had long occupied his time and energy. Similar in scope to Lafcadio’s Adventures, its satire softened somewhat by deeper reflection, The Counterfeiters proved well worth waiting for, assuring a receptive audience also for Gide’s logbook, Le Journal des “Faux-monnayeurs” (1926; Journal of “The Counterfeiters,” 1951). Like that of The Pastoral Symphony, the title is intended to be understood on several levels; although a band of counterfeiters does, in fact, appear in the novel, the title applies also to nearly all of the adult characters presented in the book, who assume all manner of disguises in order to serve as role models for their understandably disoriented children. It is with the children and adolescents that Gide the novelist is primarily concerned, and they receive his mature sympathy: The adults have all “sold out,” in one way or another, leaving the children to fend for themselves. Particularly biting is Gide’s satiric portrayal of the Pension Azaïs-Vedel, a seedy Protestant boarding school whose pastor-proprietors, a father and son-in-law, have long since lost the attention and respect of their truly inquiring charges. Through the person of one Édouard, an aspiring novelist approaching middle age, Gide explores the various levels of truth and falsehood not only in life but also in the novel; Édouard, for his part, is planning a volume to be called Les Faux-monnayeurs, but one that doubtless will never be written. To his credit, however, Gide in The Counterfeiters managed to avoid most of the pitfalls that have awaited his followers in the dubious art of writing a novel about a novelist who is writing a novel. In so doing, moreover, he brought to full expression most of the themes and concerns that preoccupied or haunted him throughout his career. The Counterfeiters remains both Gide’s masterwork and a landmark in the development of the modern novel.

Reared in the austere and defensive minority environment that was and is French Protestantism, Gide experienced Calvinist guilt at an early age and never really liberated himself from its pervasive clutches. Still, he knew too much, had seen too much, ever to return to the small fold. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that in his first and only “novel” Gide should equate Christianity with Protestantism of a most narrow and unappealing kind. Almost without exception, the troubled adolescents of The Counterfeiters are somehow involved with the Pension Azaïs-Vedel, a marginal Protestant boarding school whose precepts are more often honored in the breach than in the observance. Earlier in life, the writer Édouard, in his late thirties at the time of the novel, was both shocked and amazed by the ease with which his young charges shrugged off the solemn pronouncements of old Azaïs; it was not long, however, before Édouard, hired as a teacher, recognized the students’ response as the only reasonable one. Like the pastor of The Pastoral Symphony, both Azaïs and his son-in-law Vedel are steeped in smug hypocrisy, having long since made their private, unrecognized concessions to the demands of human nature. The pupils therefore have little choice but to listen politely, then go and do as they please.

Armand Vedel, grandson of Azaïs, may well be the most potentially corrupt of all the adolescents surveyed in the novel; he is at all events the most jaded. Still seeking further corruption and “adventure,” Armand refuses to consult a physician about his possible throat cancer—an affliction that symbolizes the state of his mind. His sisters, meanwhile, have fared hardly better: Rachel, the eldest, has never married and bears upon her shoulders the day-to-day administration of the school, including frequent financial shortfalls; her father, meanwhile, could not care less, blindly believing that “the Lord will provide.” Her younger sister Laura, formerly in love with Édouard, who would not marry her although he returned her love, has abandoned her teacher-husband for an affair with the dissolute medical student Vincent Molinier, brother of two pension students who figure prominently in the novel. Now abandoned in turn by Vincent and carrying his child, Laura will eventually be invited to rejoin her husband with the promise of forgiveness. Ironically, however, it is Édouard whom she still loves.

Perhaps because of the multiplicity of characters and necessary subplots deemed appropriate to the “novel” as opposed to the more restricted récit, The Counterfeiters often appears confused in its organization, its disparate parts frequently linked by implausible coincidence or by cumbersome (and uncharacteristic) intervention on the part of the author. In order to allow the reader access to Édouard’s unpublished journal, for example, Gide arranges for Édouard to have his suitcase stolen by the runaway Bernard Profitendieu, a friend of Édouard’s nephew Olivier Molinier; the reader thus reads the journal, as it were, over the shoulder of Bernard, who is reading it himself and will act upon what he has learned. The journal, meanwhile, intersperses facts with frequent ruminations on the theory of the novel.

As in Lafcadio’s Adventures, and as befits the title of his “novel,” Gide in The Counterfeiters appears primarily concerned with the nature of authentic thought and behavior, making fun of middle-aged “crustaceans” or “counterfeiters,” whose essence has retreated behind mere form. Édouard’s brother-in-law Oscar Molinier, for example, is a veteran womanizer who believes his wife, Pauline, to be quite unaware of his philandering; when a packet of letters from his mistress disappears, he concludes that Pauline has discovered him at last. Pauline, no stranger to her husband’s secret life, is even more appalled by the disappearance of the letters, correctly guessing that their youngest son, Georges, has stolen them to use as a form of blackmail. Édouard, Pauline’s brother, is thus drawn into several levels of intrigue within the story, and it is his rather inept effort to make sense of his own observations that provides the backbone of the novel within a novel, while Gide himself remains in control. As in his earlier efforts, Gide proves especially skillful at unreliable first-person narration, for Édouard is in his own way every bit as much a counterfeiter as the rest of his contemporaries.

Throughout The Counterfeiters, partly because of a more liberal literary climate than obtained at the beginning of the twentieth century, Gide for the first time in his creative prose speaks freely of homosexual love and attraction, as well as of the autoeroticism that had plagued his own childhood and youth. Édouard, although apparently bisexual, is strongly attracted to boys and men, including his nephew Olivier, who, with Pauline’s tacit permission, becomes Ëdouard’s lover after Édouard saves Olivier from an attempted suicide. This sexual ambiguity in Édouard prevents him from providing Laura Douviers-Vedel with the love and affection that she both wants and needs. Nor is Édouard the only gay man in The Counterfeiters; several rungs below him on the moral level stands Count Robert de Passavant, also a writer, who openly seeks to corrupt the young (Olivier Molinier as well as Armand Vedel) and maintains a sporadic sybaritic relationship with the cold, frankly amoral Lilian, also known as Lady Griffith.

Bernard Profitendieu, whose flight from his home opens the action of the novel, remains a pivotal if minor figure throughout all that follows. The reason for his flight is that he has discovered his own illegitimacy, learning that his mother bore him out of wedlock. The discovery provides him with all the ammunition that he seems to need for revolt against the authoritarian figure of Judge Albéric Profitendieu, and for a while Bernard tests and tries to enjoy the “bastardly freedom” of the author’s earlier creation Lafcadio (who, according to Gide, was initially supposed to appear in The Counterfeiters as well). In time, however, with the approach of true spiritual maturity (symbolized by a rather bizarre supernatural experience), Bernard will return to the Profitendieu household, having grown, developed, and learned more than most of the other characters.

In the person of the diabolic counterfeiter Strouvilhou, aided by his nephew Ghéridanisol and their occasional associate Robert de Passavant, Gide invests the shadowy underworld with an even more sinister presence than that of Protos in Lafcadio’s Adventures. Strouvilhou, himself a former student at the Pension Azaïs-Vedel, is less a confidence man than a true anarchist for whom crime serves merely as one possible means to the eventual end of total chaos. Not content with mere counterfeiting, he inspires his young victims to blackmail their parents and consciously engineers the gratuitous suicide of the troubled young Boris, who has enrolled in the pension to be near his grandfather, Édouard’s longtime friend, the elderly musician La Pérouse. As in Lafcadio’s Adventures, however, Gide takes pains to show that the criminal element, however motivated, can exist only at the expense of a polite society that is its complaisant, if less than willing, host. If the novelist Édouard emerges at the end of the novel with the grudging respect of author and reader alike, it is because he fares better than most at the difficult task of being honest with himself. Of all the characters, however, it is doubtless Bernard whose attitude most closely approaches the exemplary.

With the publication of his “novel,” Gide likely concluded that his exploration of the novel form was complete. An early commentator, Albert Guérard, observed that Gide was in fact less a “novelist” than a traditional French “man of letters” who happened, occasionally, to write novels. Such an assertion appears to be borne out by subsequent developments in Gide’s career; although unflaggingly active as a writer well into his eighties, Gide would return only once to the prose narrative form, and then to the récit that he had helped to perfect nearly half a century earlier. Theseus, which might be read as a philosophical tale or meditation in the manner of Voltaire, provides a fitting capstone to Gide’s distinguished if sporadic career as a writer of narrative prose, restating his habitual concerns about human freedom with a wisdom that only age could provide. In all likelihood, however, The Pastoral Symphony and The Counterfeiters will continue to be regarded as his true masterpieces.

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André Gide World Literature Analysis