Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Love, Death, and Travel Through Imagination (Part 2 of 2)

Click on the link to read Part 1: 


The theme of voyage/travel is also present in A Simple Heart, because Felicite’s only way to escape boredom and the fact that she is being trapped in her inside world was by traveling with her imagination. Felicite too escapes her ‘inside’ world (her reality) by living and imagining the outside world. Imagination is the only way the outside world is entering her life. Flaubert was a master of rational and realistic details; he has provided many particulars to express and communicate the idea of how boring Felicite’s life is, and in turn transformer her into flesh and blood for the readers and made her tragedy almost touchable. Flaubert considered the visualization of scenes to be the most important so as the readers could identify with Felicite’s environment. The accumulation of details (like a lot of people dying around her, the cards, the clock, the rain) from the moment she was born until her death serves as physical representations of Ennui and Routine. From my point of view in Baudelaire‘s poems, travel with imagination to an “ideal” unrealistic world is a tragic flaw because it is what leads one again to a depressing “spleen”. While with Felicity, imagination is not her tragic flaw (in fact she doesn’t have a tragic flaw), her main (and arguably only) flaw might be her innocence. Her innocence, even if it leads her astray or more likely misleads her into escapism, is then again the origin of her simple heart and mind and her goodness.

Baudelaire uses the theme of love to make the comparison between the ideal and the spleen more noticeable. He is comparing good (beauty) with evil (sin) and shows how love for beauty tempts one to make sins and gradually makes one fall towards Satan. Women have a big role in Baudelaire’s love poems because they show how Baudelaire’s feelings towards them are quite contradictory. Baudelaire’s “love” is sexually explicit and romantic which is clear in his erotic imagery. Moreover, love reminds him of mortality as the poet remembers that love is impossible because of the cruel reality.

In A Simple Heart, the theme of love is used in an entirely different way. Felicite’s endless search for love despite all her losses leads to something more beautiful and more important than love itself. Felicite’s need for someone to give her great passion in return made her relate to a parrot, above all. Her parrot Loulou which entered her life was the only one who provided that to her to the extent that Felicite’s love for Loulou has gradually turned into an obsession and adoration.

Death is another theme present in both works. In Baudelaire poems, death is a theme that apparently he likes to use repeatedly. Baudelaire was fascinated with this theme and was dedicated to creating very shocking bizarre images of death. Although he talks about escaping death (spleen) by travel and imagination (ideal, by images of luxury and comfort), he also mentions dreadful images (agonized demons and phantoms) that makes the likelihood of fatality more pressing (and depressing) to the reader. It also shows –in a direct blatant manner- the fearful image of death and the loneliness and seclusion death could bring. To Baudelaire, the real journey of death is the complete opposite of the imagined journey to the “ideal” he talked about. On one hand, it’s a journey toward something that is completely unknown (presumably a horrifying destiny according to Baudelaire) and it being unknown is fear itself. On the other hand, “The voyage” explains the voyage of death, where he describes what is unknown ahead of us as neither good nor evil but simply different and new (a new experience). Baudelaire doesn’t believe in eternity, so death is the only truth one knows and there is no real way to escape it.

The theme of death in A Simple Heart is not very differently represented. Flaubert has a very realistic representation of death. Throughout the story, Flaubert constantly repeats the idea that death is in ones everyday life, and that innocence, purity and virtue (of Felicite) is frequently tied very tightly with dishonesty and selfishness (of the outside world and of people around Felicity). The theme of immortality lies subtly in this story, showed when Felicite’s beloved Loulou dies and she turns him into a stuffed animal and puts him in a high place in her room so that his image will be lying there forever and it also evokes the idea that she’ll always look up to him and remember him (could be related to looking up to heaven where our loved ones are believed to lie eternal in endless bliss, or where god himself and his close ones lie). It could be considered a far-fetched interpretation that Felicite really considers her parrot to be god at all, or heavenly-related but due to her limited comprehension of faith and religion, she only misinterpreted and misplaced Loulou with the incarnation of the Holy Ghost coming down from heaven.


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