L’utilisation d’Inès Serrano dans la Pièce Huis Clos par Jean-Paul Sartre

Found an old paper of mine from when I was living in Arles, France.  For my History of Theatre course.

Kayla DeVault
Le 25 juillet 2013
L’histoire du théâtre

L’utilisation d’Inès Serrano dans la Pièce Huis Clos par Jean-Paul Sartre

La pièce du théâtre, Huis Clos, était publiée par Jean-Paul Sartre en 1944, juste avant de la fin de la deuxième guerre mondiale.  L’histoire est au sujet de trois personnes – Garcin, Inès, et Estelle – qui sont trappés ensemble dans une salle en Enfer.  Ils restent dans la salle et ne voient qu’un garçon a la porte fermée.  Après quelques temps, c’est évident qu’Inès aime Estelle, Estelle aime Garcin, et Garcin cherche pour leur foi de ses histoires et ses actions.  Ils torturent leur-mêmes par leurs pensées et leurs avis et chaque personne ne peut pas trouver un miroir pour voir soi-même comme il veut.  Sans miroirs et sans sortie, ils découvrent éventuellement qu’ils sont leurs tortureurs, l’un l’autre.

Huis Clos est souvent analysé pour ses manifestes politiques à cause de sa coïncidence et sa juxtaposition avec l’Occupation de la France par l’Allemagne pendant la guerre.  Sartre soi-même était une partie de la résistance contre cet Occupation.  L’écriture de cette époque et de la France était souvent une proclamation artistique et un peu dangereuse contre le gouvernement nouveau.  Cependant, il y a des autres parties scandaleuses dans Huis Clos en addition à la comparaison de l’Occupation à l’Enfer : Sartre, un hétérosexuel très connu, a souvent écrit des pièces avec des personnages homosexuelles.  En Huis Clos en particulaire, ce personnage est Inès Serrano.

La présence des personnages homosexuels en écriture pendant cette époque est vraiment plus rare et bizarre.  Pendant la guerre en particulier, il y avait beaucoup de haïr et peur autour du monde contre les blacks, les juives, et les homosexuels.  En lisant Huis Clos et réalisant l’utilisation d’un personnage homosexuel, on peut penser que Sartre suggère que les homosexuels sont damnés à cause de leurs choix.  Cependant, si on continue de lire le texte, on trouve qu’Inès est damnée à cause d’une « affaire avec Florence » (55), la femme d’un ami qui puis les a tué.  Elle suggère souvent pendant l’histoire qu’elle est une lesbienne avec des petites phrases, comme quand elle dit « en chemise ou non, je n’aime pas beaucoup les hommes » (34).  Donc des questions importantes restent pour demander : Pourquoi Sartre a choisi une lesbien pour comprimer une des quatre personnages dans cette pièce et comment elle effet l’histoire ?

La première observation est la plus simple : l’existence d’un personnage homosexuelle vraiment rend possible l’histoire.  C’était nécessaire de créer plus que deux personnages dans la salle pour ajouter la torture et les effets plus dramatiques sur les esprits de l’un l’autre.  On peut écrire une histoire avec deux hommes et une femme, mais la présence d’un lesbien dans Huis Clos supprime plus tension entre les personnages et limite les solutions possibles au problème romantique par les intérêts de chaque personnage.  Au contraire, quand il y a deux hommes et une fille, la fille peut change ses préférences sans réservation.  Les personnages dans Huis Clos ont un choix seul : Inès peut aimer Estelle et Estelle et Garcin peut aimer l’un l’autre, mais Garcin refuse.  C’est Inès qui a l’intelligence pour découvrir que « le bourreau, c’est chacun de nous pour les deux autres » (42).  Cette observation fait la distance entre les trois.

La deuxième observation est un peu plus complexe : avoir une personnage lesbienne comme Inès permit une contraste forte contre une personnage hétérosexuelle comme Estelle.  Estelle est très, très féminine ; elle est un peu bête et complètement consumée par les miroirs et son apparence.  C’est la même apparence et beauté qu’Inès adore.  Estelle refuse Inès, puis Garcin refuse Estelle comme il refuse la compagnie des deux femmes.

La personnage d’Inès donc a cette niche entre les autres : elle dote sur Estelle, conduit la femme de fuir a Garcin qui est compliqué par sa couardise.  Cette couardise, la cause de son abandonnement de l’armée, est la même chose qu’Inès se moque sans réserve.  Elle a une personnalité très forte, honnête, et direct.  Inès n’a pas peur de dire qu’ils sont « en enfer !  Damnés !  Damnés ! » (41), quelque chose qu’Estelle voudrait oublier.  Elle n’a pas honte de parler des choses qui blesse la fierté de Garcin, mais elle protège Estelle avec les mots doux et polîtes.  Inès est très directe, comme quand elle dit à Garcin « Ne me touchez pas.  Je déteste qu’on me touche.  Et gardez votre pitié. » (66)  Parce qu’Inès est une lesbienne, elle peut ignorer Garcin, être gentille avec Estelle, et donc conduire la torture mentale entre les trois sans révocation de son personnage naturel.

Avoir un personnage homosexuel dans Huis Clos est donc très vitale pour la compréhension de l’histoire.  Inès est la factor qui conduit naturellement le conflit et la torture mentale parmi les occupants dans la salle en Enfer.  L’utilisation d’un personnage comme Inès est encore rare pour l’époque, mais Huis Clos soi-même est vraiment radicale pour une histoire écrit pendant l’Occupation allemande de la France.  Sans Inès, on ne peut pas vraiment sens l’effet de l’Enfer français de l’époque.

Sartre, Jean-Paul.  Huis Clos.  Editions Gallimard, 1947.

poverty vs simplicity.

I’ve been reading Custer Died for Your Sins: An Indian Manifesto by Vine Deloria, Jr.  It’s pretty intense, and reviews by whites tend to reflect two concepts that I find disturbing: 1. Oh, now I “get” Indians and 2. This book is horrible and racist!  I’m white and I’m not like that!  I find the first sentiment disturbing because it shows how damn ignorant the country is on tribal law, broken treaties, and past assimilation programs.  I find the second sentiment disturbing because it not only views Indians versus non-Indians as a racial vis-à-vis rather than sovereign nations with enormous cultural disparities (a central point being made by most of these texts), but it shows resentment before assent to past wrong-doings (which were clearly racially and religiously motivated).  As a result, you get an audience that willing to be enlightened and which consequently becomes divided by those who resent the sovereign separation – but also those who pity.

And that brings me to today’s topic: Pity.  White, Christian society has – as a generalization – repeatedly pitied minorities (once, of course, it got over taking advantage of them).  For example, so many mission trips head off to Africa within 150 years of African slavery in this country and within 50 years of Civil Rights oppression.  These societies didn’t care then, but suddenly they do?  Is it the new, generational upbringings that have helped conquer past racism?  No, I don’t think it is.  I think it is continued egocentrism, a continued effort to inflict one society’s views on another.  And just like people today will look at African countries and pity the poor, impoverished people without any hope, they will read about American Indians and just feel bad – but never do anything that could sacrifice any of their royalties.

Okay – now you’re probably saying, Well people do sacrifice for mission trips!  You say this because they take time and money to go overseas to live in those icky conditions for just some time.  But this is just my point.  Poverty vs. simplicity.  And while I don’t speak for every person in every community in every impoverished area of the world, I can speak from at least my observations in West and Central Africa, places where mission trips and Engineers Without Borders visit on an essentially permanent basis.  I have, in French, conversed for several weeks among people in both rural and urban situations about the poverty.  I’ve asked them what they think of America, of this lifestyle that these do-gooders wish to impose on the “impoverished”.  They’ve told me that America sounds fascinating, but NO I would never leave here for that.  Roukia, a cook in Ouidah, Benin who cleans in her spare time and recently opened her own restaurant – she told me the poverty is bad, people live badly in Africa.  But she also told me that America is not the answer.  People get by, but it’s confusing when the American lifestyle butts up against them.  A man named Tomas and his friends, some committee people in the tiny rural Cameroonian village Batoula-Bafounda, sat around a table drinking palm wine with me, laughing because we Americans refused to stay in their village after the well implementation was complete.  “Why go home??  We have EVERYTHING you need here!  So many bananas, avocados, and palm wine!  No, it’s not the American lifestyle, it’s the SIMPLE LIFE.”  I can’t tell you how many times I heard people tell me this was the SIMPLE LIFE, the BETTER LIFE.

And so I ask, what are these trips accomplishing?  What is this pity about?  Why do people think this American, white, Christian lifestyle – this modernity – is the solution?  When it’s the same answer to why the world is collapsing?  Why are people convinced they have the solutions and that everyone else wants to live like them in this luxurious way?  I think, to many “impoverished” people, this luxurious way is excessive, unnecessary, and severely lacking happiness.  They see it as stress and competition, not family and laughter and tradition.  These people who think otherwise come into villages (kind of like we did with EWB) and they implement systems that, quite frankly, fail immediately thereafter.  (Google it if you don’t believe me; I’ve also written about this failure before.)  Why do they fail?  Because the people don’t care for them.  Why?  Because they fall back into routine, a routine that doesn’t have these luxuries at all.  They choose tradition.

Thus back to this book, back to what I’ve written about so much lately.  Tradition.  This is the same problem we face in America with the failing efforts by the federal government to “fix” reservations.  They’re imposing their beliefs, their ways of living, their solutions.  What is the answer?  Learn, ask, respect – but let be.  Respect treaties and promises.  Respect each other.  Is that really so hard to do?  Sometimes doing is like talking; if you really want to help, sometimes you’re better off not saying anything at all.

occupée.

I love studying language, but it’s a lot of work.  Not just because you have to memorize and practice and repeat word upon word, though.  It’s a lot of work because each language – and each dialect of that language – requires learning the culture, too.  Sometimes it’s things like realizing, in French, it never rains cats and dogs but “Il pleut comme vache (cow) qui pisse”.  Other times, it’s things like realizing why Potawatomi Podawadomie Padwadadadada… or Ojibwe Ojibway Ojibjakwejralsjkdfasd… haha… why they’re spelled a million different ways, and none are incorrect.  Well, native languages were oral so it’s all phonetic.  (In Ojibwe and Potawatomi, for example, there are even two “methods” for written language – a single and a double vowel spelling.)

This past week, as I will be earning (or “winning” – gagne, in French) overtime money on a holiday week, I’m finding myself not only ridiculously overworked but also overlooked.  It’s like everyone forgets they sent me six emails between midnight and 5am with a stack of work to do the next day.  They’ll ask, “Can you do this or are you busy?”

Well, define busy.

It usually comes down to who is “less busy”.

So I was thinking about “busy” – I mean, what is busy?  And I’ve decided, in American English at least, it is a highly cultural word.  Working Americans are always “busy” – sometimes way more than European or Australian counterparts.  Overworked.  Never stopping.  As fast as replying as the Internet connection.

But in French, one would ask me, «Est-ce que vous êtes occupée ?» which literally means Are you occupied?  There is no “busy”, per se.

Cultural context, for sure.  In France, I would say that I’m occupied, surely, but in America, I might say I’m working on something – but that’s not busy enough and so here’s ten more assignments.  Of course, I’m not saying the French don’t respond the same way or take on more work.  It’s undeniable that their work culture is less stressful, as nearly every country in the world compared to America,… I just find the difference in words amusing.

Also, the word for a lawyer is avocat – the same word for avocado, hehehe.  In trouble?  Better get yourself a good avocado and go on into court.

American Molestation of the English Language

I’ve lived in many places – mostly English-speaking – and I’ve witnessed firsthand the obliteration of a language on many levels.  There’s always a variation in how the language is pronounced and it is usually regional, having geographical boundaries influencing the language style.  A lot of times, however, it’s an educational gap or difference that causes profound language distinction between certain groups of people.  For example, my studies of French in France were much different than my studies of French in Montreal, Quebec and almost unparalleled by my studies of French in West Africa.  In France, the rules are rigid and enforced in formal education.  Naturally, languages slip within a household and regions have their own dialects despite the governance in Paris.  In Canada, the language is well-governed as well, but strides have been made to somewhat separate the Canadian language from its mother tongue.  Much of the vocabulary that would ordinarily sound like English words in French have been redefined into different, faux-French words in Canada.  On the other hand, the French language in West Africa is so vastly different from France as a result of the colonization of uneducated, tribal people of various unrelated language backgrounds.  Think of Jamaican English and it’s about the equivalent.  So how does this show in English, too?

First of all, don’t ever make fun of a British accent until you realize just how silly Americans and Canadians sound.  The British gave us English, so, theoretically, their way of speaking is correct.  To them, we sound nasally, or so I’ve heard.  But I feel like our structure in American English has become to relaxed.  I’ve even argued with supposed English teachers at high schools and colleges that they had a rule wrong or a word wrong, etc.  And, okay, it’s not pertinent to have every single subjunctive nailed and to know exactly how to start a proper sentence.  I clearly don’t follow all of those rules – but that’s also part of creative license.  And even when I speak… I didn’t even realize until recently some of the things I say wrong.  I made corrections to many, but some are hard to correct because they’re a part of my regional dialect.  For example, I never realized I say “on accident” and it should be “by accident”, but that’s a regional mistake.  I say “still mill” instead of “steel mill” because I’m from Steel Country.  I say “y’all” and shy away from “yons”, but it’s still incorrect.  Yet I keep hearing the absolute worst forms of English when I pass through remote country or through cities and I begin to wonder what is becoming of the English language in America?  I hear songs with words that aren’t even real, with conjugations that push the envelope in terms of “artistic license”, and I begin to think this form of media is becoming an educational system for the majority of the youth.  Speaking of media, even today I read an article printed by the Plain Dealer and there was a blatant error in the first sentence.  But here are a few things that I’ve learned that can be corrected easily, that are pet peeves, or that maybe you didn’t even realize:

1. My biggest pet peeve: “a lot” is TWO WORDS, folks!  This falls in line with the “there, their, they’re”, “our, are”, “two, to, too”, and similar mistakes.
2. You can say you “dragged” something across the floor.  Having “drug” it is something completely different.
3. You “should have gone” somewhere….NOT “WENT”.
4. Don’t end sentences with “at”, please.  Like, ever.
5. Similar to the third example, “should have done”, NOT “DID”.
6. Oh, and it’s “should HAVE”, not “OF”.
7. Apostrophes in contractions replace the missing letter and don’t go anywhere else.
8. Dollar signs come BEFORE the number.
9. It’s “marshmallow” because it’s derived from a MALLOW plant.  Don’t spell it with an “e”.

Those are some of the more blatant errors, but there are certainly many more.  Less obvious ones that irk me are things like “I wish I WERE” being replaced by “WAS”.  I guess, out of my pet peeves, 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, and 7 represent the best how little people understand about their own language and how easily they go by sounds to regurgitate sentences.  Think about it: If you were a foreigner and you saw the sentence “I should of went and drug him home cuz he drank alot.”… would you even know what that says?  Probably not.  I don’t think everyone needs to be an English major, but I think paying better attention to details will help preserve the integrity of American English and keep communication and education at more favorable levels across the board.

Montreal is Très Real

(Article from my satire column.)

My first time studying abroad was in fact to take a break from engineering and study French in Montreal. I thought it sounded like an excellent idea, going to Canada in March to learn my French. Little did I realize how waterproof my boots weren’t after walking hours in knee-high snow or how much the French in Montreal isn’t really French. It’s “Quebecois”. If you’ve spent your whole life learning Parisian French, studying in Quebec is about the equivalent of a Londoner living in the backwoods coal towns of West Virginia. It has a rather “what the hell language was that?” effect. Living in the old section of town, Vieux Montreal, was definitely the perk of the trip. Seeing how real the mountain was also justified calling the city “Mont Real”. But I still couldn’t get over this “Quebecois” thing.

During my time in Montreal, I spent a couple hours of every day volunteering in places like women’s shelters and soup kitchens. These places provided me with the opportunity of speaking French with the locals. Sadly, most of those conversations were curt and included phrases such as, “No, you can only have three pieces of cheese” or “You have a yellow ticket, not a green one, so you can only take one bottle of water”. My friends and I made every effort to become a part of the youth around us by socializing at our hostel and at local bars, but most of the kids staying with us were Anglophones and the noise in the bars prevented us from hearing each other let alone anyone speaking French. I stuck to guzzling down my Labatt Bleus (instead of Labatt Blues) and pretending like I knew what was going on around me. I ended up socializing the most on my daily walks through the town. Most days included pushing five cars out of a snow pile before having walked a single block. I became quite skilled at getting large vehicles out of deep, snowy trenches. One day, as I dragged my soaking feet through more and more snowfall, my friend and I joined several citizens of Montreal in pushing an enormous pickup truck out of an icy ditch. Exhausted, she and I stopped to get some local food. This is the moment when I made a mistake that I will always remember – and regret – for probably eternity.

We were taught in school that several things in Quebecois are different words than in French. While the French use American words like “un hot-dog”, the Canadians choose to make up their own word that sounds like “sausage” instead. The cuisine is also faux-French. For example, the classic dish in Eastern Canada is called “poutine” and consists of French fries covered in gravy and cheese curds. I had this word committed to memory – “Poo-teen, poo-teen, poo-teen” – until one fateful day when my teacher thought it was a good idea to advise us not to pronounce the word like “poo-tan”. It had never occurred to me before to say it that way. Alas, the incorrect pronunciation was forever instilled in my brain. When my friend and I walked into the food shop that cold, cold day, I fell into the age-old trap and asked, “Avez-vous… “poo-tan”? The man laughed at me and said that, No, he doesn’t have any whores, or poutine for that matter.

Oh, Montreal, the embarrassment is real. I took my cravings elsewhere and forever remembered my experience with Montreal and the poutine…

France-Enamored Americans: Love or Lust?

I have finally arrived in France after a long time traveling across Asia and Eastern/Central Europe. The last bits of my trip brought me through Venice and some other extremely touristy cities in Europe. As I sat back in some cafes, I observed the behavior of many tourists. The ones who stand out the most are always the photogenic Asians, the loud Brits, and ignorant Americans.

This isn’t my first time in France, but I am again dumbfounded by the cults of young women who flood the south of France, Paris, and fashion capitols across Europe, dying to “experience the culture” and indulge…but in what? In clothes, food, and boys. I’m not saying that my student group in IES is full of people like this; in fact, I’ve been quite impressed by the mix of people genuinely exploring the area for diligent work and culture experience. No, I’m referring to past experiences and current observations outside of my group.

Did you know there are H&M stores all across Europe? That many European youth in fact strive to be American-dressed, American-fed, and American-serenaded? Yes, while young women and other adults across America are dying to “experience France”, the youth over here are having quite the opposite desire. But what is the draw to France? Why do so many young women I know at home take French lessons, study journalism and fashion, read silly magazines, and eat at fancy restaurants so they can show off how to pronounce the names of foreign foods? It’s NOT a LOVE of FRANCE. They don’t care about the culture, about the politics, about the dirty facts about poverty and immigration and daily life in the not-so-fancy corners of the country. Not at all.

These are today’s youth who LUST over the IDEA of France, the images you see in those glossy magazines, the zombie-like models totting clothes that look absolutely ridiculous but that we are TOLD looks “fashionable” (ha!), the wine and the cheese… They want to lay in the sun and bask in what THEY view to be life in France. They turn their noses up at the most pungent of the cheeses and instead settle for things within their comfort zones. They avoid foie gras or pieds de cochons, or anything mildly ambitious that goes outside of their comfort zone.

These people, my friends, are the future generations and the people who spoil the image of American tourists for the rest of us. This ignorance plagues me and the vanity makes me nauseous as I sit at a cafe and juxtapose life here to my days passed at Luna Cafe at school. I dress to fit in, to respect, to not stand out. I don’t dress to make a scene, to become the new “It Girl”, or whatever it is these silly girls lust over these days. I have had quite enough of friends who come here for the boys, for shopping, for not speaking the language, and for picking through McDonald’s and other American treats. For shouting and being obnoxious and getting attention. For staring at themselves in the mirrors and taking photos of themselves to plaster online so everyone can tell them how adorable and “French” they are.

Please, indulge in the Love of France and not the Lust.