Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 229
Rameau's Nephew by Denis Diderot is a novel that centers on a realistic dialogue between the fictionalized nephew of musician Jean-Philippe Rameau, Lui, and Diderot himself, called Moi in the novel. Despite the novel's experimental and meta approach, the main themes are somewhat prominent.
The most obvious theme is the combative nature of trying to indoctrinate one's personal philosophy on to others. The second layer to this theme is the attempt to measure one's moral philosophy against the morality constructed by society (e.g., laws, religious codes, social rules of behavior, et al.). The two duel about various topics, such as music, finance, relationships with women and the ambiguous concept of success.
The other theme in the novel is the idea that both parties change one another in a symbiosis. In this case, both Lui and Moi have become less of what they originally were in the beginning of their interaction. This is because their dynamic is one of give-and-take. As they add their personal philosophies to the other's figurative "plate," they also subtract from their own philosophical core.
This idea is not new. One can see this type of personal transformation when meeting new friends who have different opinions and lifestyles of one's own, or when one travels to places with a different culture. You take something of that other, whilst also giving away a piece of yourself.
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