Unnatural Reality

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Monsieur Venus Blog Post

Between the walls of her luxurious apartment, Raoule creates her own version of reality, a reality created within her own version of the world.  Like a God, Raoule fabricates this environment, nurses the participants, and chooses the material.  Her apartment is much less a room than a piece of artwork, a canvas on which she paints her own individual reality, what the Decadents might have termed an artifice by design or artificiality.  One of the goals of the Decadent literary movement was the revolt against the Romanticism and Realism’s glorification of nature.  Artificiality, according to the Decadents, is freeing, since only through this artifice might the artist truly control their reality.  As artist, Raoule constructs an artificial version of life distinct from the outside streets of Paris.

Raoule creates a manufactured world of hallucinations.  She blurs the lines between reality and illusions.  The first time she visits Jacques in the apartment, she serves him the green jam, the drug of hashish, often mixed with opium.  Jacques’ hallucinations in this warped state of being conveys a “moment of almost divine happiness” (Rachilde, 62).   Jacques is addicted to this fantasy world, requesting that Raoule “make [him] delirious all day long again” (Rachilde, 84).  Indeed, Jacques rarely leaves the apartment, perhaps a refusal to seek the answers to his strange relationship and his role in it.  Here, in this apartment floating above Paris, do we observe the celebration of artificiality over the contradictory and conflicting natural world.

Like she manufactures the apartment, Raoule transforms Jacques into her object (literally, in the end) of affection and fascination.  Although she seems to change Jacques, it is not so much refashioning and redesigning, but rather protracting his beauty, “ ‘whose instinctively feminine soul has mistaken its envelope’ ” (Rachilde, 74).   Perhaps Raoule does not actually create Jacques’ femininity, a blurring of his existence and artifice.

Still, the end of the novel concludes with a representational wax figure of Jacques.  Rachilde emphasizes the distinction between the wax figure and the original man, describing the “red hair, the blond eyelashes, the gold hair of the chest are natural; the teeth that ornament the mouth, the nails on the hands and feet were torn from the corpse” (Rachilde, 208).  Jacques, as a wax figure, is very much a product of Raoule’s creation.  Jacques is at the same time real and artifice.  The wax rendition of Jacques attains a more perfect representation of Raoule’s artistic perception than the living, breathing Jacques, who serves merely as a template for the artist.

In the originally censored and outlying Chapter 7, Rachilde manifests to “forget natural law” (Rachilde, 91).  In this context, natural law refers to the firm separation of the sexes.  Against conventions of established gender norms, Raoule creates a space of gender binaries, the destruction of the sexes.  Raoule is aware that this space is unnatural, inquiring “Can an unnatural passion that is at the same time a real love ever become anything by dreadful madness?” (Rachilde, 73).  This unnatural perception of perversion resides within her self-created reality, a reality predicated not on nature, but on artistic creativity.

The character of Raoule is dominating and commanding.  Not bound by the confines of reality, she explores the artistic purity that resides within her own perception of beauty.  She defines her reality by her ideals, manipulating all aspects of her life, from that which is merely material, like her apartment, to the persons who are transformed therein, including Jacques, Raittolbe, and Aunt Ermengarde.  By fashioning reality in this way, Rachilde blurs the lines between the artificial and the natural.

Words 596


-La Dame Jaune

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