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Fighting for Freedom

Gide creates in the characters in Les Caves du Vatican, and especially in the character of De Baraglioul, a caricature of all of the people that he has known (and one can only surmise from this work) despised because they were afraid to violate social norms.

Gide's own life during his earlier years was spent in conflict between trying to live up to socially acceptable behavior and his desire to have the freedom to experience every possible thing that attracted him. As he grew older and more impervious to public opinion (or perhaps simply more aware of the weight of mortality) he felt that internal conflict become less and less difficult to negotiate, arguing that freedom from convention is what makes life essentially worthwhile. This is a fundamentally less radical view of freedom than the one that Sartre recognizes as existing within each of us.

As a young man, when he looked at civilization, he was appalled by the pressure of outworn codes on the individual personality--the Church, society, political theories--, and he considered that, in his attempt to conform, the individual was obliged to develop an outward personality, a counterfeit personality. Discovery of our unacted desires, emancipation from the counterfeit personality, Gide thought, would bring freedom and fulfillment to the individual. It is the inner personality, beneath the counterfeit one, which he always tried to reach; that inner reality where good and evil overlap as in a marriage of Heaven and Hell (Starkie 63).

It is difficult not to believe that the writing of this farce, and the characters that he created to inhabit it, did not help to compel Gide toward his own open admission of his homosexuality. His characters serve as proxies for him, testing the waters of the possible limits of freedom within French society.

Camus's Meursault, the protagonist of his The Stranger, in many ways lies between Sartre's Roquentin and Gide's De Baraglioul. For Meursault do...

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Fighting for Freedom. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 03:00, September 21, 2017, from
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