The Elegance of the Hedgehog

by Muriel Barbery

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What is the meaning of the quote from Journal of the Movement of the World No. 4 in "The Elegance of the Hedgehog"?

“Here are all of these people, full of heartache or hatred or desire, and we all have troubles and the school year… it all disappears, just like that, when the choir begins to sing” (Barbery 185).

Quick answer:

The quote from the Journal of Movement No. 4 that reads "Here are all these people [...]" means that music is powerful enough to bring people together and take away the worries that disturb people's lives. Paloma, the author of the journal, particularly cites how this happens when a choir sings. She states that people are taken away by the music, letting the sounds take control and removing all that is sad, mundane, or ugly about daily life.

Expert Answers

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The quote above is said by Paloma Josse, a highly-intelligent 12 year-old who thinks above her age level. In her diary, Journal of the Movement of the World, she begins the quote posted in this question by saying:

Every time, it’s a miracle.

She is referring to what happens every single time people join together in song. She specifically refers to a choir when it begins to sing. More concisely, she is talking about the part when she says that people who are "full of heartache", "hatred", and "desire" seem to immediately find a form of soothing when they hear music, such as the said choir singing.

Even young people like her who experience the nuisances of growing up, adolescence, social pressure, academics, and everything else can find solace in the soft chords and melodies of this kind of music.

However, Paloma was talking about all music. This is evident when, after this same quote, she also adds:

Everyday life vanishes into song, you are suddenly overcome with a feeling of brotherhood [...]

This extension of the quote adds detail to what she says in the beginning: that music brings people together.

Think about what happens when people sign the National Anthem in a sports game. Think about a group in a concert playing a popular song. Even singing a simple "Happy Birthday" during someone's celebration is soothing and brings us all together in high spirit, melting away all the issues that would have brought us down before.

She also says:

it diffuses the ugliness of everyday life into a spirit of perfect communion. Even the singers’ faces are transformed [...] I see human beings, surrendering to music.

This is another detail to the gist of her primary quote: music has the ability of unity because it is powerful, knows no boundaries, sees no people, and touches each one of our senses. We can hear it, but we can also see it being performed by a choir. We can create images in our minds when we absorb the songs. In all this, we become one and we can feel more connected.

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