The Ravishing of Lol Stein

by Marguerite Duras

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Themes and Meanings

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The central theme of The Ravishing of Lol Stein is the power of memory to control one’s life in the present. Memory is not presented as simply destructive or beneficent; rather, the novel takes a more detached attitude toward the influence of memory. Although the past continues to involve Lol in the voyeuristic triangle with Jack and Tatiana, a life without memory, as represented by the quiet domestic life that entrapped Lol before she returned to her hometown, is hardly preferable. Perhaps the contact with pain can one day prove to be therapeutic.

Closely related to the theme of memory is that of love and passion. Lol, Jack, and, to some extent, Tatiana are seeking a fulfillment beyond the bonds of memory; each attempts a connection that, by effacing identity, will liberate him or her from memory but still allow consciousness to survive. In particular, the moments of passion between Lol and Jack are erotically charged (at least from Jack’s perspective), especially the moments of communication. Indeed, the consummation itself is described unemotionally, as though the real significance of their passion lies in the alternation between closeness and tension.

The Ravishing of Lol Stein comments implicitly on the form and value of novels. It avoids an omniscient, godlike narrator who conveys a didactic evaluation to the reader and who represents characters as being easily capable of dissection; the narrator’s obsession replaces an objective, and the characters remain throughout mysterious, elusive, open. Such a strategy forsakes the illusion of authorial omnipotence in order to force the reader to become involved in the creative process.

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