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Written by Dio Sm
Love to life
This theme is clearly opened in the narrator’s words: “Besides, let’s not beat about the bush; I love life—that’s my real weakness. I love it so much that I am incapable of imagining what is not life. Such avidity has something plebeian about it, don’t you think? Aristocracy cannot imagine itself without a little distance surrounding itself and its life. One dies if necessary, one breaks rather than bending. But I bend, because I continue to love myself.” And the reader follows this love up through the whole story – the narrator plays with his life, reviews and enjoys it in all its manifestations.
The author often shows hypocrisy of his character. The narrator says not to “believe your friends when they ask you to be sincere with them”, he often insists on duplicity of human being, and he’s the first who is a bright example of this duplicity. He doesn’t veil that “the surface of all my virtues had a less imposing reverse side”. And he shows the result of his hypocrisy. Yes, he kindly helped old ladies to cross the road while many people saw this, but when he was alone and nobody saw him, a woman needed his help, he rejected this plea. In the second case actually his essence went outside, and when he understood this essence, he realized how pitiable he was.
Relations with women
The narrator has his own views on love and relations with women in general. “Of course, true love is exceptional—two or three times a century, more or less. The rest of the time there is vanity or boredom.” Despite of this fact, he was quite popular among women, he had a lot of them, but they got him bored in short terms. However, he didn’t want to let them go – he wanted them to keep being only his “property”: “Sometimes I went so far as to make them swear not to give themselves to any other man, in order to quiet my worries once and for all on that score. My heart, however, played no part in that worry, nor even my imagination.”
Frustration in humanity
The narrator often hints that his discontent with particular people is actually his frustration in society, in general. But sometimes he sarcastically addresses his words directly to the world, to Europe of that time: “You must have noticed that our old Europe at last philosophizes in the right way. We no longer say as in simple times: “This is the way I think. What are your objections?” We have become lucid. For the dialogue we have substituted the communiqué: “This is the truth,” we say. “You can discuss it as much as you want; we aren’t interested. But in a few years there’ll be the police who will show you we are right.” Ah, this dear old planet! All is clear now. We know ourselves; we now know of what we are capable.” Through these words he shows how greatly the society has changed: people don’t pay attention to others’ points of view, everybody knows only his/her position, people always try to look perfect, but their souls are too far from being perfect.
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