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Freedom from Reality

Freedom in context with The Lover and The Immoralist is focused on the feeling of dread and anxiety as a necessary precursor to freedom. In context of the stories, freedom functions as a transformative act or an unwilling behavior reinforced by external factors. The characters in the stories do not view freedom in its causal sense (action-reaction) but rather as a necessity in order to satisfy their personal needs with a complete disregard for consequences.

Dread and anxiety are emotions that function as an avenue for freedom; by experiencing irrational fear, the choices of any individual becomes clear and necessarily bestows resolve and responsibility for the following consequences. Freedom may also motivated the individual to ignore the consequences of each action in order to fully appreciate the act of freedom itself or as a stage of realization that ultimately creates a new life. First, we take into consideration the environment as a major factor in cultivating freedom for both main characters of the story.

Michel’s persona in The Immoralist is formed through a strict puritanical upbringing which gave his character a conservative nature. In addition, his intellectual pursuits had ironically delimited his consciousness to conformity; he had immersed himself in ideas and opinions of knowledge that he had withdrawn a conscious effort to realize the importance of experience, thus closing his mind and created a false impression of himself. Michel’s friends, as narrated in the beginning of the story, express their surprise over the abrupt change with their friend’s behavior.

Freedom in Michel’s sense is granted over his near death experience where his tuberculosis had confined him to his bed and provided him a gradual understanding of the world around him. This concept may be related to Albert Camus’ themes in The Stranger where the concept of death becomes the motivator for the individual to create new meanings to life instead of paradoxically dreading an inevitable event. Michel’s freedom is more literal rather than symbolic since his introspection had provided him a breakaway from his old self that eventually transforms a new character.

He realizes his ‘freedom’ in the sense that he had willingly allowed himself to be formed by his upbringing and intellect. He had at any point in his life, to explore the different possibilities of experience but he chose not to do such. Death had provided him the ultimate realization of freedom which he willingly explores on his new sexuality. On the other hand, Duras’ character in the story is motivated by a garbled concept of freedom under the light of tradition, social issues, and culture.

Living in poverty and with a dysfunctional family, the main character’s perspective had been negatively altered by her living conditions yet she chooses to remain as such; her freedom is limited in a sense that she willingly accepts her life as it is; to further complicate it means to earn the ire of the society she tries to fit in which she does not need for herself and for her family. Thus, the concept of dread enables her to enter a forbidden relationship which she accepts to be a reality away from reality; her freedom grants her the understanding of the consequences which she completely disregards.

Thus, her discreet relationship with young man symbolizes her rebellious attempt against society as well as her freedom. However, this freedom is not of the altruistic sense where she purposely breaks away from her former life as that of Michel’s but her freedom is more of an explorative manner. Her anxiety and dread against the dictates of tradition and culture further strengthen her resolve to commit to the relationship. The pleasure in the characters’ relationship is freedom itself; the irrational feeling of happiness and satisfaction through sexual encounters enable both to escape reality, even for a short while.

In addition, the prohibition of their relationship further intensify the pleasure of the relationship through their sexual acts; any experience constantly prohibited increases the object’s uniqueness which provides the combination of excitement and dread usually found through new experiences. Reference List 1. Duras M. The Lover. Trans Barbara Bay. New York, USA: Pantheon Books 1997. 2. Gide A. The Immoralist. Trans Richard Howard. United States: Vintage International: 1996.

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