Tuesday, April 30, 2013

A Place Of Greater Refuge

"In my cowardice I became at once a man and did what all we grown men do when face to face with suffering and injustice: I preferred not to see them; I ran up to the top of the house to cry myself in a little room beside the schoolroom and beneath the roof, which smelled of orris root and was scented also by a wild outer wall and thrust a flowering branch in through the half opened window.  Intended for a more special and a baser use, this room, from which, in the daytime, I could see as far as the keep of Roussainville-le-Pin, was for a long time my place of refuge, doubtless because it was the only room whose door I was allowed to lock, whenever my occupation was such as required an inviolable solitude: reading or day-dreaming, secret tears or sensual gratification."

Everything is in Proust, even the necessity of a child's retreat to the bathroom for privacy for "reading or day-dreaming, secret tears, or sensual gratification."

This is part of what is going to be a major theme in the Novel--minor social cruelties are everywhere, forcing themselves on the notice of the Narrator and shaping his life. He is constantly bewildered by and horrified by the petty domestic tyrannies on which he spies--his Great-Aunt's spiteful teasing of his beloved Grandmother, Francoise's secret war against the scullery maid.  His family see him as feeble, neurasthenic, difficult, weird but in reality when he hides away from them he is becoming  a man" and "doing what all we grown men do when face to face with suffering and injustice: I preferred not to see them."  Running away to the top of the house gives him distance, a vista, and the "perspective" he is always seeking by pulling back from the minutiae of life.  And in the bathroom as a child as in the bedroom as an adult, he can experience freedom from the emotional and social demands of the all encompassing family world.

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