Description of the idealistic sensualist and her primary delusion.

from When Things of the Spirit Come First by Simone de Beauvoir page 44 fiction ~4 min read

Marcelle spent some unhappy, painful days: instead of being grateful for such a degree of abnegation. Denis took advantage of it to throw off all restraint. During the hours she spent waiting for him to come back at night, Marcelle sadly remembered the free and peaceful time of her girlhood, when her life ran to the rhythm of melodious verse, when she was surrounded by poets and heroes, brotherly figures always ready to respond to her call, and when she thought about the books she would write in the vague future, about the delicate impressions she had gathered during the day, about happiness, death and fate. Now this calm meditation was denied her: now her daily lot was anxiously listening to the footsteps in the street, evoking the picture of Denis with a woman in his arms, hating him, longing for his caresses. Sometimes she had the despairing thought that her passion for Denis was laying waste a spirit which had been meant for a great destiny, and she found herself wishing for no matter what kind of release.

One Saturday, when she came back from the Centre, she found a letter on her bed. SHe knew at once what had happened.

"Do not think of me too unkindly," wrote Denis. "No doubt I shall never find another love like yours; but my poor dear Marcelle there are some beings who refuse even love. DO you know that in Thule there was a king who threw his golden bowl into the sea so that he might watch the rings on the water and sigh. No doubt one day I shall bitterly miss this happiness I am giving up: may you, for your part, find consolation very soon. I do not dare to hope for your forgiveness."

The wardrobe and drawers were empty. "He has got hold of some money," thought Marcelle. "It's that woman." Her eyes remained dry. "My life is finished," she said under her breath.

She took off her hat and coat and automatically smoothed her black hair as she stood in front of the wardrobe mirror. A strange peace flooded into her. "My life is finished," she said again, with a kind of indifference. She was no longer thinking about Denis: she gazed at the reflection of a woman with a broad forehead and soulful eyes, a woman who was still young and who no longer looked forward to anything at all. She lay down on the divan: from the far end of the corridor small noises reached her bedroom —the closing of a door, footsteps, the metallic sound of forks. Unconscious of the tragedy, Mmm Drouffe was laying the table: Pascal was running through his index cards.

"All I have left is myself," said Marcelle. She closed her eyes: it seemed to her that she was coming back to her real self, as if from a long banishment. Once more she thought of the sad, precocious child, crouching behind heavy curtains that separated her from the world or hiding in the shadows of a book-lined corridor. She saw herself as an adolescent, enthusiastic and misunderstood, confiding her sorrow to a mauve night-sky; she saw her lonely youth, full of pride and high, uncompromising demands. This road, so painfully traversed, had brought her back to solitude; and never again would she be tempted to escape from herself. A great exaltation filled her; she stood up and walked over to the window, drawing the curtains back with a sudden jerk. She was not to look beyond herself for the meaning of her life; she was set free from love, from hope, and from that stifling presence that had taken up all her strength and her time for more than a year. Everything was fine.

Marcelle leaned her forehead against the cool window-pane: in rejecting commonplace pleasures, playthings, finery, social success and easy fliration she had always saved herself for some splendid happiness. Yet it was not happiness that had been granted to her: it was suffering. But perhaps it was only suffering that could satisfy her heart at last. "Higher than happiness," she whispered. This great bitter thing was her lot on earth and she would know how to receive it; she would know how to transform it into beauty; and one day strangers, brothers, would understand her disincarnate soul, and they would cherish it. Higher than happiness. Tears came into her eyes: she could already feel the dawn of sublime poems quivering within her.

For the second time she had the wonderful revelation of her fate. "I am a woman of genius," she decided.

—Simone de Beauvoir, When Things of the Spirit Come First, p. 44