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Amber Paulen

Simone's Seriousness

26 October 2011


One of the most charming elements of Simone de Beauvoir’s autobiographies is the way in which she portrays her serious nature. Contemporarily, seriousness is equated with boring, a simplification that couldn’t be further from the truth. I’m almost finished reading her Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter, the first of the three autobiographies and the last on my list to read. Simone was as serious a child as she was an adult. It’s rather flabbergasting to compare her growing up with modern childhood, though in whatever time period, she could never be categorized as average.

Here’s a brief portrait of Simone de Beauvoir at nineteen:

The students, both male and female, I tried to get friendly with at the Sorbonne were all, I thought, without any interest: they kept rushing about in noisy groups, laughing their heads off; they weren’t interested in anything and were quite complacent about their indifference.

And here’s one when she was a few years younger:

But I seemed to see in my difference the proof of a natural superiority which would one day be acknowledged by everybody. I was no rebel; I wanted to be someone, to do something, to go on progressing, ever onward and upward, as I had been doing since I was a little child; therefore I had to get out of the everyday rut I was in: but I believed it would be possible to rise above bourgeois mediocrity without stepping out of my own class.

That seriousness of Simone’s drove her to constantly succeed herself. If her studiousness and premature devotion to ideas set her on the outskirts, than her differences proved she was much better than everyone else. The remarkable thing is that her conviction came true: her superiority was acknowledged, women still owe a nod in her direction for the progresses she paved.

Simone de Beauvoir is second from the top of my list of literary heros, not only because of the books she wrote, but because she never once dropped her eyes from her goal. She lived, always “onward and upward.” To make life-promises of such a magnitude, one must be serious enough to carry them to the end. Seriousness becomes the same as passion, as motivation and respect; wonderful assets for the work of making thoughts into action.



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