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The Importance of Youth

The notion of youth in the four novels discussed the notion of hope as an integral part in the ‘young’ aspect of the novel’s characters. In its literal sense, the characters in the aforementioned novels age from the post-teen period up to their late twenties. Their youth represents the stage in the lives of each character where experience does not demand an immediate understanding or comprehension that determines fate; rather it functions as a formative aspect in part of the characters in the sense that they make their own future.

It also provides a sense of beginning for the character, formed by past experience and further taught by the present. In its literal context, youth becomes a motivator for experience as well as inexperience at the same time. Their youth provides the conflict, either between the character against himself or directed toward an outside body. While their inexperience offer dread and struggle which hinder them from making the right choice but ultimately test their character.

Each protagonist in the novel (Pere Goriot, The Immoralist, The Stranger, Germinal, and The Lover) shares a similarity concerning the idea of youthfulness, struggle and the problem of choice that leads to the development of the plot. All main characters are characterized as young individuals who still possess an air of infinite possibilities because of the period in their lives where they supposedly create their definition at an early age. Their youthfulness also implies a sense of selfishness that reinforces the concept of existence in its literary sense as it provides the progression of the plot through their decisions and actions.

This selfishness is also related to the experience of struggle within themselves and the environment in which the story revolves upon. As exemplified in the following lines from The Immoralist, each character posses the same dilemma: “Knowing how to free oneself is nothing; the difficult thing is knowing how to live with that freedom. ” [1] This problem of freedom is also shared by Rastignac in Pere Goriot, as well as Lantienne “Henceforth there is war between us. ” [2], Mersault “I laid my heart open to the benign indifference of the universe [3] and Duras “The story of my life doesn’t exist. Does not exist.

There’s never any center to it. No path, no line [4] in Germinal, The Stranger and The Lover, respectively. Each has personal struggle and the dilemma of choice; Rastignac youthfulness is shown in his attempt to climb the Parisian social ladder, Lantienne as the spark in social revolution, Mersault’s detachment from an absurd reality, and Duras’ perception of young, uncontrollable passions. The novels are characterized by having the same character imply a concept of ‘darkness’ upon their consciousness at the beginning of the story where the person determines the value of his or her existence in an unchangeable environment.

This darkness is eventually cleared as the protagonist interacts with his or her environment as well as the supporting characters where their precocious youth either influences behavior or assimilates lessons based from experience. Youth also represents the pain, anxiety and burden of choice. Their youth provides an avenue toward the exploration of new possibilities and other worldly phenomenon with a sense of excitement and eagerness. But as each new experience comes toward their lives, they naturally feel dread and anxiety, which are represented in the theme of Camus’ novel, provides them an understanding of their own choices.

In addition, the concept of youth also represents a collective understanding of struggle as well as a process of discovery. However, youth is not to be taken into a negative context; their situations merely provide an opportunity toward self-examination rather than a complete obstruction of character growth. In addition, youth is also symbolic; it represents the importance of experience over acquired knowledge or wisdom. Each problem experienced by the protagonist of the story revolves around the attempt to learn from every obstacle faced while maintaining the youthful ideologies they possess.

Their idealism provides fire or passion toward the actions that become vital in their attempt to overcome obstacles in their path. Reference List 1. Gide A. The Immoralist. Trans Richard Howard. United States: Vintage International: 1996. (p. 15) 2. Balzac HD. Pere Goriot. Trans Ellen Marriage. United States: Dover Publications: 2004. (p. 263) 3. Camus A. The Stranger. Trans Matthew Ward. United States: Vintage International: 1989. (p. 76) 4. Duras, M. The Lover. Trans. Barbara Bay. New York, USA: Pantheon Books: 1997. (p. 8)

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