In the novel Red and Black, the heroine Mathlide is deeply influenced by French Revolution, which brought her self-awareness as a woman. However, she couldn’t find out a right way to certify her social value of existence, which at last caused the tragedy of her love and all of her life. Mathilde’s tragedy indicates that women’s self-awareness would be killed under the patriarchy culture. This paper points out that as independent individuals in society, women have their own social values. They are equal with men in the gender world. Through the analysis of the tragedy of Mathlide, and the statement about women traditional values which effect on their social values of existence, this paper tries to explain how women find out their social values of existence.
Tragedy; female value; self-awareness; existence; patriarchy
The French Revolution broke out in the 18th century. Its aim was to weed out feudalism. In order to realize this intention, French nascent bourgeoisies declared: “Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity”. But that slogan excluded women. At that time, Olympe de Gouge, a French woman leader published her famous Declaration on the Right of Female citizens in 1791, which is regarded as the beginning of Women Movement. From then on, women have been fighting for their rights again and again all over the world.
However, women’s self-awareness couldn’t be accepted in Bourbon Restoration time. In 1804, the French Civil Code declared in the 213 item: “A husband should protect his wife, and his wife should obey her husband”, and in the 225 item “A woman must submit her husband and church.” In that time, female was not admitted to be equal with men in their status and thoughts. They were considered as men’s subsidiary’s stuffs.
In the novel Red and Black, the heroine Mathilde, a marquis’s daughter, lived in Bourbon Restoration time when women’s thoughts were totally controlled by religion and patriarchy. However, she was deeply influenced by some women leaders in the 18th French Revolution. Just as she said: “If there is a Revolution, why shouldn’t Julien Sorel play the part of Roland, and I that of Mrs. Roland? I prefer her role to Mrs. De Stael’s: immoral conduct will hold you back in our century.”(Si Tangda, 2002, 366). Her tragedy comes from her obscure women self-awareness that couldn’t be admitted in her time. In the novel, Mathlide’s social value only came from Julien’s love for her. But, the love was lost at last. It means a victory of the patriarchy.
This paper will try to explain and discuss the women social value of existence from the following three aspects. First, the paper is to analyze the tragedy of Mathlide. Second, it is about some effects of women’s traditional values on their social value of existence. The third part is about how women win their social value.
I. Analysis of the Tragedy of Mathild
A. Some Effects of the Women’s Thoughts of French Revolution on Mathlide
The French writer, Saint-Real has said, “A novel is a mirror you turn this way and that as you go down a path."(Si Tangda, 2002, 23) .That means different people have different views about a same novel. Because of this, people always like to find a correct “mirror” from a novel. A contradictory human nature of a man is represented in the novel Red and Black and many people know about it, while a woman in an agony of soul of Mathilde in it is ignored.
Mathilde is the daughter of marquis of De La Mole. It seems that she has everything, but actually she is a tragic woman. On the one hand, she wants to find out her social value of existence that is to own Julien’s love. On the other hand, she doesn’t have Mrs. De Renal’s “feminine delicacy” defined by men. She has an obscure woman’s self-awareness which makes her be an independent individual rather than a man’s subsidiary’s stuff. Living in the 19th century, Mathilde was deeply influenced by the French Revolution in the 18th Century, in which she wished to live because people could fight for something that they wanted at that time. As she said:
“The wars of League were France’s heroic age, at that time everyone fought to get the particular thing he wanted, to make his party triumph, and not just to win a boring class