Thursday, February 7, 2008

Which Swann?

In the final section of Swann's way, Marcel continues to draw parallels between Swann and himself. Ostensibly, this epilogue is mostly about his burgeoning love for Gilberte (staring at almost any given page from this section, I am amazed at the number of instances that "Gilberte" makes an appearance), but what stood out most to me was Marcel's ongoing preoccupation with Swann himself. He has pointed out their similarities a few times over the course of the book. Here, he talks about finding qualities in Gilberte that "literature or conversation have taught him are among those worthy of inspiring love, so much so that he assimilates them by imitation and makes them new reasons for his love, even if these qualities were the most diametrically opposed to those his love would have sought so long as it remained spontaneous" (426). Marcel then directly refers to Swann having done the same with Odette. So what would his love have sought had it remained spontaneous? I don't know about the rest of you, but I read that as a pretty thinly veiled confession of the narrarator's true preference. Perhaps Swann's as well.

Swann becomes a mythical, supernatural creature to the young Marcel despite his fleeting appearances in the last fourty or so pages. Seeing Swann makes his heart pound and he compares him to a historical figure that impassions him (423). He experiences a "delectable melancholy pleasure" upon hearing that Swann had... bought an umbrella? (431) Finally, I'd like to point out a conversation Marcel has with his mother where she rants about a 'horrible, frightfully vulgar woman' who said that Marcel was "too nice looking for a boy" (430). It makes me think back to the prostitute at his uncle's house who said that Marcel may grow up to be an 'artist' or the only kind of man who really understands women. Marcel is not at all shy about asserting his dandyishness, something I think is linked to the snobbish attitude both he and Swann share concerning history and the arts.

1 comment:

fehrer said...

I'm very interested by your describing both Swann and Marcel as having snobbish attitudes towards the arts. A lot of people have used similar terms to describe Marcel in our class. I'm not going to disagree with it, but I find it fascinating that a kid of around 12 or so could rub us all wrong and leave us thinking he is snobby and pretentious. I do think it a good thing to point our though.