Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 163
The Confessions is autobiographical collection of work by Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Confessions is divided into two distinct volumes, with each consisting of six books. Due to the length of the body of work, many themes are explored in the collection.
Truth and Interpretation
The most recurring theme is the nature of truth. Because Confessions is autobiographical, it is naturally written from a subjective point-of-view, and thus "truth" is based on Rousseau's definition of it. The other major theme is the process of interpreting one's personal experiences, and then translating those experiences into a personal philosophy on life and the world around him. Confessions can then be read as a psychological case study. In fact, journal-writing—a form of autobiography—is encouraged by professional therapists when working with patients. This not only allows the patient to express their inner-most emotions and ideas, some of which could be considered taboo in the public sphere, but diaries also gives the psychologist an opportunity to analyze the patient's thoughts.
Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 177
The Impact of Personal Choices
Rousseau's Confessions is one of the first autobiographies that was not primarily concerned with an account of religious experience. As such, a major theme of the book is its own justification: why the events of an individual's life are important. For Rousseau, the answer has do with his own desire for self-justification; to use his experience as a way of understanding the choices he made in life, and justification to the public for his philosophy.
Another theme of the book is the idea of truth. Rousseau is very open and specific about his moral shortcomings. In addition to the famous episode when he was a child of framing another servant for a crime he had committed, Rousseau discusses the many affairs he had as a young man. His intent is to show how his character was formed and the experiences that shaped his thought, not to provide moral instruction or make accusations. In this sense, Rousseau's notion of "truth" has less to do with factual accuracy than with a kind of psychological truthfulness.
Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 172
Confessions by Jean-Jacques Rousseau is one of the first major autobiographical works in history (along with the similarly named Confessions, written by Augustine). The work is composed of a total of twelve books, and a two-year gap exists between the composition of Books I–VI and Books VII–XII.
The Nature of Truth
One major theme that can be found throughout the work is the nature of truth. Since the work is penned by Rousseau himself, it takes a very subjective stance. The "truth" of the events as told by Rousseau are only true insofar as Rousseau perceived them to be. Some historians, such as Paul Johnson, contend that many errors and inaccuracies exist in Confessions. However, it is unclear whether or not they are purposeful or accidental. Another theme related to truth that pops up in Confessions is the existence of embarrassing and less-than-stellar moments. Rousseau does not hide events such as urinating in a cooking pot, framing a young girl for a small theft he committed, and questioning his sexual preferences.
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