Torn between Determinism and Freewill: Self-alienation and Hiding of Identity in Barbery’s The Elegance of the Hedgehog

Tariq Jameel Alsoud


This essay explores the influence of discourses of determinism and free will on the major heroines’ decisions and behavior when trying to comprehend and apply these philosophies to themselves. The conflicting ideologies of the philosophers create a state of confusion, which in turn has led to the decisions of self-isolation and hiding the real identities to avoid a possible clash with members of the other social classes. The major heroines, Renée and Paloma, hide their intelligence as well because of their firm conviction in the futility of cultural discussions with narrow-minded people who believe in restrictions on social classes boundaries. Therefore, the essay investigates how Barbery addresses both of the philosophical ideologies and trends that control and shape the heroines’ behavior and reactions. It also highlights the influence of these phenomenological philosophies on Renée’s struggle and suffering, which eventually lead to the dualism of her identity and patterns of tensional reactions and ambivalence because she does not understand these theories deeply. The harmonious and amicable relationship between Renée and Paloma who belong to different social classes indicates the author’s hope for a new generation who renounces disagreement and class prejudice; the proximity between them also undermines tools of determinism and discourses of social antagonism among the educated. Finally, the novel manifests itself as an irony of a woman in her fifties who rediscovers her femininity and reprioritizes her needs after years of displacement and self-concealment, and as a paradox for a precocious preteen girl who acts like adults.

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World Journal of English Language
ISSN 1925-0703(Print)  ISSN 1925-0711(Online)

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