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Humanities Artist + Work

Terms in this set (44)

I have done it again.
One year in every ten
I manage it--

A sort of walking miracle, my skin
Bright as a Nazi lampshade,
My right foot

A paperweight,
My face a featureless, fine
Jew linen.

Peel off the napkin
O my enemy.
Do I terrify?--

The nose, the eye pits, the full set of teeth?
The sour breath
Will vanish in a day.

Soon, soon the flesh
The grave cave ate will be
At home on me

And I a smiling woman.
I am only thirty.
And like the cat I have nine times to die.

This is Number Three.
What a trash
To annihilate each decade.

What a million filaments.
The peanut-crunching crowd
Shoves in to see

Them unwrap me hand and foot--
The big strip tease.
Gentlemen, ladies

These are my hands
My knees.
I may be skin and bone,

Nevertheless, I am the same, identical woman.
The first time it happened I was ten.
It was an accident.

The second time I meant
To last it out and not come back at all.
I rocked shut

As a seashell.
They had to call and call
And pick the worms off me like sticky pearls.

Is an art, like everything else.
I do it exceptionally well.

I do it so it feels like hell.
I do it so it feels real.
I guess you could say I've a call.

It's easy enough to do it in a cell.
It's easy enough to do it and stay put.
It's the theatrical

Comeback in broad day
To the same place, the same face, the same brute
Amused shout:

'A miracle!'
That knocks me out.
There is a charge

For the eyeing of my scars, there is a charge
For the hearing of my heart--
It really goes.

And there is a charge, a very large charge
For a word or a touch
Or a bit of blood

Or a piece of my hair or my clothes.
So, so, Herr Doktor.
So, Herr Enemy.

I am your opus,
I am your valuable,
The pure gold baby

That melts to a shriek.
I turn and burn.
Do not think I underestimate your great concern.

Ash, ash--
You poke and stir.
Flesh, bone, there is nothing there--

A cake of soap,
A wedding ring,
A gold filling.

Herr God, Herr Lucifer

Out of the ash
I rise with my red hair
And I eat men like air.
Knowing that Mrs. Mallard was afflicted with a heart trouble, great care was taken to break to her as gently as possible the news of her husband's death.

It was her sister Josephine who told her, in broken sentences; veiled hints that revealed in half concealing. Her husband's friend Richards was there, too, near her. It was he who had been in the newspaper office when intelligence of the railroad disaster was received, with Brently Mallard's name leading the list of "killed." He had only taken the time to assure himself of its truth by a second telegram, and had hastened to forestall any less careful, less tender friend in bearing the sad message.

She did not hear the story as many women have heard the same, with a paralyzed inability to accept its significance. She wept at once, with sudden, wild abandonment, in her sister's arms. When the storm of grief had spent itself she went away to her room alone. She would have no one follow her.

There stood, facing the open window, a comfortable, roomy armchair. Into this she sank, pressed down by a physical exhaustion that haunted her body and seemed to reach into her soul.

She could see in the open square before her house the tops of trees that were all aquiver with the new spring life. The delicious breath of rain was in the air. In the street below a peddler was crying his wares. The notes of a distant song which some one was singing reached her faintly, and countless sparrows were twittering in the eaves.

There were patches of blue sky showing here and there through the clouds that had met and piled one above the other in the west facing her window.

She sat with her head thrown back upon the cushion of the chair, quite motionless, except when a sob came up into her throat and shook her, as a child who has cried itself to sleep continues to sob in its dreams.

< 2 >
She was young, with a fair, calm face, whose lines bespoke repression and even a certain strength. But now there was a dull stare in her eyes, whose gaze was fixed away off yonder on one of those patches of blue sky. It was not a glance of reflection, but rather indicated a suspension of intelligent thought.

There was something coming to her and she was waiting for it, fearfully. What was it? She did not know; it was too subtle and elusive to name. But she felt it, creeping out of the sky, reaching toward her through the sounds, the scents, the color that filled the air.

Now her bosom rose and fell tumultuously. She was beginning to recognize this thing that was approaching to possess her, and she was striving to beat it back with her will - as powerless as her two white slender hands would have been.

When she abandoned herself a little whispered word escaped her slightly parted lips. She said it over and over under her breath: "free, free, free!" The vacant stare and the look of terror that had followed it went from her eyes. They stayed keen and bright. Her pulses beat fast, and the coursing blood warmed and relaxed every inch of her body.

She did not stop to ask if it were or were not a monstrous joy that held her. A clear and exalted perception enabled her to dismiss the suggestion as trivial.

She knew that she would weep again when she saw the kind, tender hands folded in death; the face that had never looked save with love upon her, fixed and gray and dead. But she saw beyond that bitter moment a long procession of years to come that would belong to her absolutely. And she opened and spread her arms out to them in welcome.

There would be no one to live for during those coming years; she would live for herself. There would be no powerful will bending hers in that blind persistence with which men and women believe they have a right to impose a private will upon a fellow-creature. A kind intention or a cruel intention made the act seem no less a crime as she looked upon it in that brief moment of illumination.

< 3 >
And yet she had loved him - sometimes. Often she had not. What did it matter! What could love, the unsolved mystery, count for in face of this possession of self-assertion which she suddenly recognized as the strongest impulse of her being!

"Free! Body and soul free!" she kept whispering.

Josephine was kneeling before the closed door with her lips to the keyhole, imploring for admission. "Louise, open the door! I beg, open the door - you will make yourself ill. What are you doing Louise? For heaven's sake open the door."

"Go away. I am not making myself ill." No; she was drinking in a very elixir of life through that open window.

Her fancy was running riot along those days ahead of her. Spring days, and summer days, and all sorts of days that would be her own. She breathed a quick prayer that life might be long. It was only yesterday she had thought with a shudder that life might be long.

She arose at length and opened the door to her sister's importunities. There was a feverish triumph in her eyes, and she carried herself unwittingly like a goddess of Victory. She clasped her sister's waist, and together they descended the stairs. Richards stood waiting for them at the bottom.

Some one was opening the front door with a latchkey. It was Brently Mallard who entered, a little travel-stained, composedly carrying his grip-sack and umbrella. He had been far from the scene of accident, and did not even know there had been one. He stood amazed at Josephine's piercing cry; at Richards' quick motion to screen him from the view of his wife.

But Richards was too late.

When the doctors came they said she had died of heart disease - of joy that kills.
THE SAME SCENE.--The table has been placed in the middle of the stage, with chairs around it. A lamp is burning on the table. The door into the hall stands open. Dance music is heard in the room above. Mrs Linde is sitting at the table idly turning over the leaves of a book; she tries to read, but does not seem able to collect her thoughts. Every now and then she listens intently for a sound at the outer door.]

Mrs Linde [looking at her watch]. Not yet--and the time is nearly up. If only he does not--. [Listens again.] Ah, there he is. [Goes into the hall and opens the outer door carefully. Light footsteps are heard on the stairs. She whispers.] Come in. There is no one here.

Krogstad [in the doorway]. I found a note from you at home. What does this mean?

Mrs Linde. It is absolutely necessary that I should have a talk with you.

Krogstad. Really? And is it absolutely necessary that it should be here?

Mrs Linde. It is impossible where I live; there is no private entrance to my rooms. Come in; we are quite alone. The maid is asleep, and the Helmers are at the dance upstairs.

Krogstad [coming into the room]. Are the Helmers really at a dance tonight?

Mrs Linde. Yes, why not?

Krogstad. Certainly--why not?

Mrs Linde. Now, Nils, let us have a talk.

Krogstad. Can we two have anything to talk about?

Mrs Linde. We have a great deal to talk about.

Krogstad. I shouldn't have thought so.

Mrs Linde. No, you have never properly understood me.

Krogstad. Was there anything else to understand except what was obvious to all the world--a heartless woman jilts a man when a more lucrative chance turns up?

Mrs Linde. Do you believe I am as absolutely heartless as all that? And do you believe that I did it with a light heart?

Krogstad. Didn't you?

Mrs Linde. Nils, did you really think that?

Krogstad. If it were as you say, why did you write to me as you did at the time?

Mrs Linde. I could do nothing else. As I had to break with you, it was my duty also to put an end to all that you felt for me.

Krogstad [wringing his hands]. So that was it. And all this--only for the sake of money!

Mrs Linde. You must not forget that I had a helpless mother and two little brothers. We couldn't wait for you, Nils; your prospects seemed hopeless then.

Krogstad. That may be so, but you had no right to throw me over for anyone else's sake.

Mrs Linde. Indeed I don't know. Many a time did I ask myself if I had the right to do it.

Krogstad [more gently]. When I lost you, it was as if all the solid ground went from under my feet. Look at me now--I am a shipwrecked man clinging to a bit of wreckage.

Mrs Linde. But help may be near.

Krogstad. It was near; but then you came and stood in my way.

Mrs Linde. Unintentionally, Nils. It was only today that I learned it was your place I was going to take in the Bank.

Krogstad. I believe you, if you say so. But now that you know it, are you not going to give it up to me?

Mrs Linde. No, because that would not benefit you in the least.

Krogstad. Oh, benefit, benefit--I would have done it whether or no.

Mrs Linde. I have learned to act prudently. Life, and hard, bitter necessity have taught me that.

Krogstad. And life has taught me not to believe in fine speeches.

Mrs Linde. Then life has taught you something very reasonable. But deeds you must believe in?

Krogstad. What do you mean by that?

Mrs Linde. You said you were like a shipwrecked man clinging to some wreckage.

Krogstad. I had good reason to say so.

Mrs Linde. Well, I am like a shipwrecked woman clinging to some wreckage--no one to mourn for, no one to care for.

Krogstad. It was your own choice.

Mrs Linde. There was no other choice--then.

Krogstad. Well, what now?

Mrs Linde. Nils, how would it be if we two shipwrecked people could join forces?

Krogstad. What are you saying?

Mrs Linde. Two on the same piece of wreckage would stand a better chance than each on their own.

Krogstad. Christine I...

Mrs Linde. What do you suppose brought me to town?

Krogstad. Do you mean that you gave me a thought?

Mrs Linde. I could not endure life without work. All my life, as long as I can remember, I have worked, and it has been my greatest and only pleasure. But now I am quite alone in the world--my life is so dreadfully empty and I feel so forsaken. There is not the least pleasure in working for one's self. Nils, give me someone and something to work for.

Krogstad. I don't trust that. It is nothing but a woman's overstrained sense of generosity that prompts you to make such an offer of yourself.

Mrs Linde. Have you ever noticed anything of the sort in me?

Krogstad. Could you really do it? Tell me--do you know all about my past life?

Mrs Linde. Yes.

Krogstad. And do you know what they think of me here?

Mrs Linde. You seemed to me to imply that with me you might have been quite another man.

Krogstad. I am certain of it.

Mrs Linde. Is it too late now?

Krogstad. Christine, are you saying this deliberately? Yes, I am sure you are. I see it in your face. Have you really the courage, then--?

Mrs Linde. I want to be a mother to someone, and your children need a mother. We two need each other. Nils, I have faith in your real character--I can dare anything together with you.

Krogstad [grasps her hands]. Thanks, thanks, Christine! Now I shall find a way to clear myself in the eyes of the world. Ah, but I forgot--

Mrs Linde [listening]. Hush! The Tarantella! Go, go!

Krogstad. Why? What is it?

Mrs Linde. Do you hear them up there? When that is over, we may expect them back.

Krogstad. Yes, yes--I will go. But it is all no use. Of course you are not aware what steps I have taken in the matter of the Helmers.

Mrs Linde. Yes, I know all about that.

Krogstad. And in spite of that have you the courage to--?

Mrs Linde. I understand very well to what lengths a man like you might be driven by despair.

Krogstad. If I could only undo what I have done!

Mrs Linde. You cannot. Your letter is lying in the letter-box now.

Krogstad. Are you sure of that?

Mrs Linde. Quite sure, but--

Krogstad [with a searching look at her]. Is that what it all means?--that you want to save your friend at any cost? Tell me frankly. Is that it?

Mrs Linde. Nils, a woman who has once sold herself for another's sake, doesn't do it a second time.

Krogstad. I will ask for my letter back.

Mrs Linde. No, no.

Krogstad. Yes, of course I will. I will wait here until Helmer comes; I will tell him he must give me my letter back--that it only concerns my dismissal--that he is not to read it--

Mrs Linde. No, Nils, you must not recall your letter.

Krogstad. But, tell me, wasn't it for that very purpose that you asked me to meet you here?

Mrs Linde. In my first moment of fright, it was. But twenty-four hours have elapsed since then, and in that time I have witnessed incredible things in this house. Helmer must know all about it. This unhappy secret must be disclosed; they must have a complete understanding between them, which is impossible with all this concealment and falsehood going on.

Krogstad. Very well, if you will take the responsibility. But there is one thing I can do in any case, and I shall do it at once.

Mrs Linde [listening]. You must be quick and go! The dance is over; we are not safe a moment longer.

Krogstad. I will wait for you below.

Mrs Linde. Yes, do. You must see me back to my door...

Krogstad. I have never had such an amazing piece of good fortune in my life! [Goes out through the outer door. The door between the room and the hall remains open.]

Mrs Linde [tidying up the room and laying her hat and cloak ready]. What a difference! what a difference! Someone to work for and live for--a home to bring comfort into. That I will do, indeed. I wish they would be quick and come--[Listens.] Ah, there they are now. I must put on my things. [Takes up her hat and cloak. HELMER'S and NORA'S voices are heard outside; a key is turned, and HELMER brings NORA almost by force into the hall. She is in an Italian costume with a large black shawl around her; he is in evening dress, and a black domino which is flying open.]

Nora [hanging back in the doorway, and struggling with him]. No, no, no!--don't take me in. I want to go upstairs again; I don't want to leave so early.

Helmer. But, my dearest Nora--

Nora. Please, Torvald dear--please, please--only an hour more.

Helmer. Not a single minute, my sweet Nora. You know that was our agreement. Come along into the room; you are catching cold standing there. [He brings her gently into the room, in spite of her resistance.]

Mrs Linde. Good evening.

Nora. Christine!

Helmer. You here, so late, Mrs Linde?

Mrs Linde. Yes, you must excuse me; I was so anxious to see Nora in her dress.

Nora. Have you been sitting here waiting for me?

Mrs Linde. Yes, unfortunately I came too late, you had already gone upstairs; and I thought I couldn't go away again without having seen you.

Helmer [taking off NORA'S shawl]. Yes, take a good look at her. I think she is worth looking at. Isn't she charming, Mrs Linde?

Mrs Linde. Yes, indeed she is.

Helmer. Doesn't she look remarkably pretty? Everyone thought so at the dance. But she is terribly self-willed, this sweet little person. What are we to do with her? You will hardly believe that I had almost to bring her away by force.

Nora. Torvald, you will repent not having let me stay, even if it were only for half an hour.

Helmer. Listen to her, Mrs Linde! She had danced her Tarantella, and it had been a tremendous success, as it deserved--although possibly the performance was a trifle too realistic--a little more so, I mean, than was strictly compatible with the limitations of art. But never mind about that! The chief thing is, she had made a success--she had made a tremendous success. Do you think I was going to let her remain there after that, and spoil the effect? No, indeed! I took my charming little Capri maiden--my capricious little Capri maiden, I should say--on my arm; took one quick turn round the room; a curtsey on either side, and, as they say in novels, the beautiful apparition disappeared. An exit ought always to be effective, Mrs Linde; but that is what I cannot make Nora understand. Pooh! this room is hot. [Throws his domino on a chair, and opens the door of his room.] Hullo! it's all dark in here. Oh, of course--excuse me--. [He goes in, and lights some candles.]

Nora [in a hurried and breathless whisper]. Well?

Mrs Linde [in a low voice]. I have had a talk with him.

Nora. Yes, and--

Mrs Linde. Nora, you must tell your husband all about it.

Nora [in an expressionless voice]. I knew it.

Mrs Linde. You have nothing to be afraid of as far as Krogstad is concerned; but you must tell him.

Nora. I won't tell him.

Mrs Linde. Then the letter will.

Nora. Thank you, Christine. Now I know what I must do. Hush--!

Helmer [coming in again]. Well, Mrs Linde, have you admired her?

Mrs Linde. Yes, and now I will say goodnight.

Helmer. What, already? Is this yours, this knitting?

Mrs Linde [taking it]. Yes, thank you, I had very nearly forgotten it.

Helmer. So you knit?

Mrs Linde. Of course.

Helmer. Do you know, you ought to embroider.

Mrs Linde. Really? Why?

Helmer. Yes, it's far more becoming. Let me show you. You hold the embroidery thus in your left hand, and use the needle with the right--like this--with a long, easy sweep. Do you see?

Mrs Linde. Yes, perhaps--

Helmer. But in the case of knitting--that can never be anything but ungraceful; look here--the arms close together, the knitting-needles going up and down--it has a sort of Chinese effect--. That was really excellent champagne they gave us.

Mrs Linde. Well,--goodnight, Nora, and don't be self-willed any more.

Helmer. That's right, Mrs Linde.

Mrs Linde. Goodnight, Mr. Helmer.

Helmer [accompanying her to the door]. Goodnight, goodnight. I hope you will get home all right. I should be very happy to--but you haven't any great distance to go. Goodnight, goodnight. [She goes out; he shuts the door after her, and comes in again.] Ah!--at last we have got rid of her. She is a frightful bore, that woman.

Nora. Aren't you very tired, Torvald?

Helmer. No, not in the least.

Nora. Nor sleepy?

Helmer. Not a bit. On the contrary, I feel extraordinarily lively. And you?--you really look both tired and sleepy.

Nora. Yes, I am very tired. I want to go to sleep at once.

Helmer. There, you see it was quite right of me not to let you stay there any longer.

Nora. Everything you do is quite right, Torvald.

Helmer [kissing her on the forehead]. Now my little skylark is speaking reasonably. Did you notice what good spirits Rank was in this evening?

Nora. Really? Was he? I didn't speak to him at all.

Helmer. And I very little, but I have not for a long time seen him in such good form. [Looks for a while at her and then goes nearer to her.] It is delightful to be at home by ourselves again, to be all alone with you--you fascinating, charming little darling!

Nora. Don't look at me like that, Torvald.

Helmer. Why shouldn't I look at my dearest treasure?--at all the beauty that is mine, all my very own?

Nora [going to the other side of the table]. You mustn't say things like that to me tonight.

Helmer [following her]. You have still got the Tarantella in your blood, I see. And it makes you more captivating than ever. Listen--the guests are beginning to go now. [In a lower voice.] Nora--soon the whole house will be quiet.

Nora. Yes, I hope so.

Helmer. Yes, my own darling Nora. Do you know, when I am out at a party with you like this, why I speak so little to you, keep away from you, and only send a stolen glance in your direction now and then?--do you know why I do that? It is because I make believe to myself that we are secretly in love, and you are my secretly promised bride, and that no one suspects there is anything between us.

Nora. Yes, yes--I know very well your thoughts are with me all the time.

Helmer. And when we are leaving, and I am putting the shawl over your beautiful young shoulders--on your lovely neck--then I imagine that you are my young bride and that we have just come from the wedding, and I am bringing you for the first time into our home--to be alone with you for the first time--quite alone with my shy little darling! All this evening I have longed for nothing but you. When I watched the seductive figures of the Tarantella, my blood was on fire; I could endure it no longer, and that was why I brought you down so early--

Nora. Go away, Torvald! You must let me go. I won't--

Helmer. What's that? You're joking, my little Nora! You won't--you won't? Am I not your husband--? [A knock is heard at the outer door.]

Nora [starting]. Did you hear--?

Helmer [going into the hall]. Who is it?

Rank [outside]. It is I. May I come in for a moment?

Helmer [in a fretful whisper]. Oh, what does he want now? [Aloud.] Wait a minute! [Unlocks the door.] Come, that's kind of you not to pass by our door.

Rank. I thought I heard your voice, and felt as if I should like to look in. [With a swift glance round.] Ah, yes!--these dear familiar rooms. You are very happy and cosy in here, you two.

Helmer. It seems to me that you looked after yourself pretty well upstairs too.

Rank. Excellently. Why shouldn't I? Why shouldn't one enjoy everything in this world?--at any rate as much as one can, and as long as one can. The wine was capital--

Helmer. Especially the champagne.

Rank. So you noticed that too? It is almost incredible how much I managed to put away!

Nora. Torvald drank a great deal of champagne tonight too.

Rank. Did he?

Nora. Yes, and he is always in such good spirits afterwards.

Rank. Well, why should one not enjoy a merry evening after a well-spent day?

Helmer. Well spent? I am afraid I can't take credit for that.

Rank [clapping him on the back]. But I can, you know!

Nora. Doctor Rank, you must have been occupied with some scientific investigation today.

Rank. Exactly.

Helmer. Just listen!--little Nora talking about scientific investigations!

Nora. And may I congratulate you on the result?

Rank. Indeed you may.

Nora. Was it favourable, then?

Rank. The best possible, for both doctor and patient--certainty.

Nora [quickly and searchingly]. Certainty?

Rank. Absolute certainty. So wasn't I entitled to make a merry evening of it after that?

Nora. Yes, you certainly were, Doctor Rank.

Helmer. I think so too, so long as you don't have to pay for it in the morning.

Rank. Oh well, one can't have anything in this life without paying for it.

Nora. Doctor Rank--are you fond of fancy-dress balls?

Rank. Yes, if there is a fine lot of pretty costumes.

Nora. Tell me--what shall we two wear at the next?

Helmer. Little featherbrain!--are you thinking of the next already?

Rank. We two? Yes, I can tell you. You shall go as a good fairy--

Helmer. Yes, but what do you suggest as an appropriate costume for that?

Rank. Let your wife go dressed just as she is in everyday life.

Helmer. That was really very prettily turned. But can't you tell us what you will be?

Rank. Yes, my dear friend, I have quite made up my mind about that.

Helmer. Well?

Rank. At the next fancy-dress ball I shall be invisible.

Helmer. That's a good joke!

Rank. There is a big black hat--have you never heard of hats that make you invisible? If you put one on, no one can see you.

Helmer [suppressing a smile]. Yes, you are quite right.

Rank. But I am clean forgetting what I came for. Helmer, give me a cigar--one of the dark Havanas.

Helmer. With the greatest pleasure. [Offers him his case.]

Rank [takes a cigar and cuts off the end]. Thanks.

Nora [striking a match]. Let me give you a light.

Rank. Thank you. [She holds the match for him to light his cigar.] And now goodbye!

Helmer. Goodbye, goodbye, dear old man!

Nora. Sleep well, Doctor Rank.

Rank. Thank you for that wish.

Nora. Wish me the same.

Rank. You? Well, if you want me to sleep well! And thanks for the light. [He nods to them both and goes out.]

Helmer [in a subdued voice]. He has drunk more than he ought.

Nora [absently]. Maybe. [HELMER takes a bunch of keys out of his pocket and goes into the hall.] Torvald! what are you going to do there?

Helmer. Emptying the letter-box; it is quite full; there will be no room to put the newspaper in tomorrow morning.

Nora. Are you going to work tonight?

Helmer. You know quite well I'm not. What is this? Someone has been at the lock.

Nora. At the lock--?

Helmer. Yes, someone has. What can it mean? I should never have thought the maid--. Here is a broken hairpin. Nora, it is one of yours.

Nora [quickly]. Then it must have been the children--

Helmer. Then you must get them out of those ways. There, at last I have got it open. [Takes out the contents of the letter-box, and calls to the kitchen.] Helen!--Helen, put out the light over the front door. [Goes back into the room and shuts the door into the hall. He holds out his hand full of letters.] Look at that--look what a heap of them there are. [Turning them over.] What on earth is that?

Nora [at the window]. The letter--No! Torvald, no!

Helmer. Two cards--of Rank's.

Nora. Of Doctor Rank's?

Helmer [looking at them]. Doctor Rank. They were on the top. He must have put them in when he went out.

Nora. Is there anything written on them?

Helmer. There is a black cross over the name. Look there--what an uncomfortable idea! It looks as if he were announcing his own death.

Nora. It is just what he is doing.

Helmer. What? Do you know anything about it? Has he said anything to you?

Nora. Yes. He told me that when the cards came it would be his leave-taking from us. He means to shut himself up and die.

Helmer. My poor old friend! Certainly I knew we should not have him very long with us. But so soon! And so he hides himself away like a wounded animal.

Nora. If it has to happen, it is best it should be without a word--don't you think so, Torvald?

Helmer [walking up and down]. He had so grown into our lives. I can't think of him as having gone out of them. He, with his sufferings and his loneliness, was like a cloudy background to our sunlit happiness. Well, perhaps it is best so. For him, anyway. [Standing still.] And perhaps for us too, Nora. We two are thrown quite upon each other now. [Puts his arms round her.] My darling wife, I don't feel as if I could hold you tight enough. Do you know, Nora, I have often wished that you might be threatened by some great danger, so that I might risk my life's blood, and everything, for your sake.

Nora [disengages herself, and says firmly and decidedly]. Now you must read your letters, Torvald.

Helmer. No, no; not tonight. I want to be with you, my darling wife.

Nora. With the thought of your friend's death--

Helmer. You are right, it has affected us both. Something ugly has come between us--the thought of the horrors of death. We must try and rid our minds of that. Until then--we will each go to our own room.

Nora [hanging on his neck]. Goodnight, Torvald--Goodnight!

Helmer [kissing her on the forehead]. Goodnight, my little singing-bird. Sleep sound, Nora. Now I will read my letters through. [He takes his letters and goes into his room, shutting the door after him.]

Nora [gropes distractedly about, seizes HELMER'S domino, throws it round her, while she says in quick, hoarse, spasmodic whispers]. Never to see him again. Never! Never! [Puts her shawl over her head.] Never to see my children again either--never again. Never! Never!--Ah! the icy, black water--the unfathomable depths--If only it were over! He has got it now--now he is reading it. Goodbye, Torvald and my children! [She is about to rush out through the hall, when HELMER opens his door hurriedly and stands with an open letter in his hand.]

Helmer. Nora!

Nora. Ah!--

Helmer. What is this? Do you know what is in this letter?

Nora. Yes, I know. Let me go! Let me get out!

Helmer [holding her back]. Where are you going?

Nora [trying to get free]. You shan't save me, Torvald!

Helmer [reeling]. True? Is this true, that I read here? Horrible! No, no--it is impossible that it can be true.

Nora. It is true. I have loved you above everything else in the world.

Helmer. Oh, don't let us have any silly excuses.

Nora [taking a step towards him]. Torvald--!

Helmer. Miserable creature--what have you done?

Nora. Let me go. You shall not suffer for my sake. You shall not take it upon yourself.

Helmer. No tragic airs, please. [Locks the hall door.] Here you shall stay and give me an explanation. Do you understand what you have done? Answer me! Do you understand what you have done?

Nora [looks steadily at him and says with a growing look of coldness in her face]. Yes, now I am beginning to understand thoroughly.

Helmer [walking about the room]. What a horrible awakening! All these eight years--she who was my joy and pride--a hypocrite, a liar--worse, worse--a criminal! The unutterable ugliness of it all!--For shame! For shame! [NORA is silent and looks steadily at him. He stops in front of her.] I ought to have suspected that something of the sort would happen. I ought to have foreseen it. All your father's want of principle--be silent!--all your father's want of principle has come out in you. No religion, no morality, no sense of duty--. How I am punished for having winked at what he did! I did it for your sake, and this is how you repay me.

Nora. Yes, that's just it.

Helmer. Now you have destroyed all my happiness. You have ruined all my future. It is horrible to think of! I am in the power of an unscrupulous man; he can do what he likes with me, ask anything he likes of me, give me any orders he pleases--I dare not refuse. And I must sink to such miserable depths because of a thoughtless woman!

Nora. When I am out of the way, you will be free.

Helmer. No fine speeches, please. Your father had always plenty of those ready, too. What good would it be to me if you were out of the way, as you say? Not the slightest. He can make the affair known everywhere; and if he does, I may be falsely suspected of having been a party to your criminal action. Very likely people will think I was behind it all--that it was I who prompted you! And I have to thank you for all this--you whom I have cherished during the whole of our married life. Do you understand now what it is you have done for me?

Nora [coldly and quietly]. Yes.

Helmer. It is so incredible that I can't take it in. But we must come to some understanding. Take off that shawl. Take it off, I tell you. I must try and appease him some way or another. The matter must be hushed up at any cost. And as for you and me, it must appear as if everything between us were just as before--but naturally only in the eyes of the world. You will still remain in my house, that is a matter of course. But I shall not allow you to bring up the children; I dare not trust them to you. To think that I should be obliged to say so to one whom I have loved so dearly, and whom I still--. No, that is all over. From this moment happiness is not the question; all that concerns us is to save the remains, the fragments, the appearance--

[A ring is heard at the front-door bell.]

Helmer [with a start]. What is that? So late! Can the worst--? Can he--? Hide yourself, Nora. Say you are ill.

[NORA stands motionless. HELMER goes and unlocks the hall door.]

Maid [half-dressed, comes to the door]. A letter for the mistress.

Helmer. Give it to me. [Takes the letter, and shuts the door.] Yes, it is from him. You shall not have it; I will read it myself.

Nora. Yes, read it.

Helmer [standing by the lamp]. I scarcely have the courage to do it. It may mean ruin for both of us. No, I must know. [Tears open the letter, runs his eye over a few lines, looks at a paper enclosed, and gives a shout of joy.] Nora! [She looks at him questioningly.] Nora!--No, I must read it once again--. Yes, it is true! I am saved! Nora, I am saved!

Nora. And I?

Helmer. You too, of course; we are both saved, both you and I. Look, he sends you your bond back. He says he regrets and repents--that a happy change in his life--never mind what he says! We are saved, Nora! No one can do anything to you. Oh, Nora, Nora!--no, first I must destroy these hateful things. Let me see--. [Takes a look at the bond.] No, no, I won't look at it. The whole thing shall be nothing but a bad dream to me. [Tears up the bond and both letters, throws them all into the stove, and watches them burn.] There--now it doesn't exist any longer. He says that since Christmas Eve you--. These must have been three dreadful days for you, Nora.

Nora. I have fought a hard fight these three days.

Helmer. And suffered agonies, and seen no way out but--. No, we won't call any of the horrors to mind. We will only shout with joy, and keep saying, "It's all over! It's all over!" Listen to me, Nora. You don't seem to realise that it is all over. What is this?--such a cold, set face! My poor little Nora, I quite understand; you don't feel as if you could believe that I have forgiven you. But it is true, Nora, I swear it; I have forgiven you everything. I know that what you did, you did out of love for me.

Nora. That is true.

Helmer. You have loved me as a wife ought to love her husband. Only you had not sufficient knowledge to judge of the means you used. But do you suppose you are any the less dear to me, because you don't understand how to act on your own responsibility? No, no; only lean on me; I will advise you and direct you. I should not be a man if this womanly helplessness did not just give you a double attractiveness in my eyes. You must not think anymore about the hard things I said in my first moment of consternation, when I thought everything was going to overwhelm me. I have forgiven you, Nora; I swear to you I have forgiven you.

Nora. Thank you for your forgiveness. [She goes out through the door to the right.]

Helmer. No, don't go--. [Looks in.] What are you doing in there?

Nora [from within]. Taking off my fancy dress.

Helmer [standing at the open door]. Yes, do. Try and calm yourself, and make your mind easy again, my frightened little singing-bird. Be at rest, and feel secure; I have broad wings to shelter you under. [Walks up and down by the door.] How warm and cosy our home is, Nora. Here is shelter for you; here I will protect you like a hunted dove that I have saved from a hawk's claws; I will bring peace to your poor beating heart. It will come, little by little, Nora, believe me. Tomorrow morning you will look upon it all quite differently; soon everything will be just as it was before. Very soon you won't need me to assure you that I have forgiven you; you will yourself feel the certainty that I have done so. Can you suppose I should ever think of such a thing as repudiating you, or even reproaching you? You have no idea what a true man's heart is like, Nora. There is something so indescribably sweet and satisfying, to a man, in the knowledge that he has forgiven his wife--forgiven her freely, and with all his heart. It seems as if that had made her, as it were, doubly his own; he has given her a new life, so to speak; and she has in a way become both wife and child to him. So you shall be for me after this, my little scared, helpless darling. Have no anxiety about anything, Nora; only be frank and open with me, and I will serve as will and conscience both to you--. What is this? Not gone to bed? Have you changed your things?

Nora [in everyday dress]. Yes, Torvald, I have changed my things now.

Helmer. But what for?--so late as this.

Nora. I shall not sleep tonight.

Helmer. But, my dear Nora--

Nora [looking at her watch]. It is not so very late. Sit down here, Torvald. You and I have much to say to one another. [She sits down at one side of the table.]

Helmer. Nora--what is this?--this cold, set face?

Nora. Sit down. It will take some time; I have a lot to talk over with you.

Helmer [sits down at the opposite side of the table]. You alarm me, Nora!--and I don't understand you.

Nora. No, that is just it. You don't understand me, and I have never understood you either--before tonight. No, you mustn't interrupt me. You must simply listen to what I say. Torvald, this is a settling of accounts.

Helmer. What do you mean by that?

Nora [after a short silence]. Isn't there one thing that strikes you as strange in our sitting here like this?

Helmer. What is that?

Nora. We have been married now eight years. Does it not occur to you that this is the first time we two, you and I, husband and wife, have had a serious conversation?

Helmer. What do you mean by serious?

Nora. In all these eight years--longer than that--from the very beginning of our acquaintance, we have never exchanged a word on any serious subject.

Helmer. Was it likely that I would be continually and forever telling you about worries that you could not help me to bear?

Nora. I am not speaking about business matters. I say that we have never sat down in earnest together to try and get at the bottom of anything.

Helmer. But, dearest Nora, would it have been any good to you?

Nora. That is just it; you have never understood me. I have been greatly wronged, Torvald--first by papa and then by you.

Helmer. What! By us two--by us two, who have loved you better than anyone else in the world?

Nora [shaking her head]. You have never loved me. You have only thought it pleasant to be in love with me.

Helmer. Nora, what do I hear you saying?

Nora. It is perfectly true, Torvald. When I was at home with papa, he told me his opinion about everything, and so I had the same opinions; and if I differed from him I concealed the fact, because he would not have liked it. He called me his doll-child, and he played with me just as I used to play with my dolls. And when I came to live with you--

Helmer. What sort of an expression is that to use about our marriage?

Nora [undisturbed]. I mean that I was simply transferred from papa's hands into yours. You arranged everything according to your own taste, and so I got the same tastes as your else I pretended to, I am really not quite sure which--I think sometimes the one and sometimes the other. When I look back on it, it seems to me as if I had been living here like a poor woman--just from hand to mouth. I have existed merely to perform tricks for you, Torvald. But you would have it so. You and papa have committed a great sin against me. It is your fault that I have made nothing of my life.

Helmer. How unreasonable and how ungrateful you are, Nora! Have you not been happy here?

Nora. No, I have never been happy. I thought I was, but it has never really been so.

Helmer. Not--not happy!

Nora. No, only merry. And you have always been so kind to me. But our home has been nothing but a playroom. I have been your doll-wife, just as at home I was papa's doll-child; and here the children have been my dolls. I thought it great fun when you played with me, just as they thought it great fun when I played with them. That is what our marriage has been, Torvald.

Helmer. There is some truth in what you say--exaggerated and strained as your view of it is. But for the future it shall be different. Playtime shall be over, and lesson-time shall begin.

Nora. Whose lessons? Mine, or the children's?

Helmer. Both yours and the children's, my darling Nora.

Nora. Alas, Torvald, you are not the man to educate me into being a proper wife for you.

Helmer. And you can say that!

Nora. And I--how am I fitted to bring up the children?

Helmer. Nora!

Nora. Didn't you say so yourself a little while ago--that you dare not trust me to bring them up?

Helmer. In a moment of anger! Why do you pay any heed to that?

Nora. Indeed, you were perfectly right. I am not fit for the task. There is another task I must undertake first. I must try and educate myself--you are not the man to help me in that. I must do that for myself. And that is why I am going to leave you now.

Helmer [springing up]. What do you say?

Nora. I must stand quite alone, if I am to understand myself and everything about me. It is for that reason that I cannot remain with you any longer.

Helmer. Nora, Nora!

Nora. I am going away from here now, at once. I am sure Christine will take me in for the night--

Helmer. You are out of your mind! I won't allow it! I forbid you!

Nora. It is no use forbidding me anything any longer. I will take with me what belongs to myself. I will take nothing from you, either now or later.

Helmer. What sort of madness is this!

Nora. Tomorrow I shall go home--I mean, to my old home. It will be easiest for me to find something to do there.

Helmer. You blind, foolish woman!

Nora. I must try and get some sense, Torvald.

Helmer. To desert your home, your husband and your children! And you don't consider what people will say!

Nora. I cannot consider that at all. I only know that it is necessary for me.

Helmer. It's shocking. This is how you would neglect your most sacred duties.

Nora. What do you consider my most sacred duties?

Helmer. Do I need to tell you that? Are they not your duties to your husband and your children?

Nora. I have other duties just as sacred.

Helmer. That you have not. What duties could those be?

Nora. Duties to myself.

Helmer. Before all else, you are a wife and a mother.

Nora. I don't believe that any longer. I believe that before all else I am a reasonable human being, just as you are--or, at all events, that I must try and become one. I know quite well, Torvald, that most people would think you right, and that views of that kind are to be found in books; but I can no longer content myself with what most people say, or with what is found in books. I must think over things for myself and get to understand them.

Helmer. Can you not understand your place in your own home? Have you not a reliable guide in such matters as that?--have you no religion?

Nora. I am afraid, Torvald, I do not exactly know what religion is.

Helmer. What are you saying?

Nora. I know nothing but what the clergyman said, when I went to be confirmed. He told us that religion was this, and that, and the other. When I am away from all this, and am alone, I will look into that matter too. I will see if what the clergyman said is true, or at all events if it is true for me.

Helmer. This is unheard of in a girl of your age! But if religion cannot lead you aright, let me try and awaken your conscience. I suppose you have some moral sense? Or--answer me--am I to think you have none?

Nora. I assure you, Torvald, that is not an easy question to answer. I really don't know. The thing perplexes me altogether. I only know that you and I look at it in quite a different light. I am learning, too, that the law is quite another thing from what I supposed; but I find it impossible to convince myself that the law is right. According to it a woman has no right to spare her old dying father, or to save her husband's life. I can't believe that.

Helmer. You talk like a child. You don't understand the conditions of the world in which you live.

Nora. No, I don't. But now I am going to try. I am going to see if I can make out who is right, the world or I.

Helmer. You are ill, Nora; you are delirious; I almost think you are out of your mind.

Nora. I have never felt my mind so clear and certain as tonight.

Helmer. And is it with a clear and certain mind that you forsake your husband and your children?

Nora. Yes, it is.

Helmer. Then there is only one possible explanation.

Nora. What is that?

Helmer. You do not love me anymore.

Nora. No, that is just it.

Helmer. Nora!--and you can say that?

Nora. It gives me great pain, Torvald, for you have always been so kind to me, but I cannot help it. I do not love you any more.

Helmer [regaining his composure]. Is that a clear and certain conviction too?

Nora. Yes, absolutely clear and certain. That is the reason why I will not stay here any longer.

Helmer. And can you tell me what I have done to forfeit your love?

Nora. Yes, indeed I can. It was tonight, when the wonderful thing did not happen; then I saw you were not the man I had thought you were.

Helmer. Explain yourself better. I don't understand you.

Nora. I have waited so patiently for eight years; for, goodness knows, I knew very well that wonderful things don't happen every day. Then this horrible misfortune came upon me; and then I felt quite certain that the wonderful thing was going to happen at last. When Krogstad's letter was lying out there, never for a moment did I imagine that you would consent to accept this man's conditions. I was so absolutely certain that you would say to him: Publish the thing to the whole world. And when that was done--

Helmer. Yes, what then?--when I had exposed my wife to shame and disgrace?

Nora. When that was done, I was so absolutely certain, you would come forward and take everything upon yourself, and say: I am the guilty one.

Helmer. Nora--!

Nora. You mean that I would never have accepted such a sacrifice on your part? No, of course not. But what would my assurances have been worth against yours? That was the wonderful thing which I hoped for and feared; and it was to prevent that, that I wanted to kill myself.

Helmer. I would gladly work night and day for you, Nora--bear sorrow and want for your sake. But no man would sacrifice his honour for the one he loves.

Nora. It is a thing hundreds of thousands of women have done.

Helmer. Oh, you think and talk like a heedless child.

Nora. Maybe. But you neither think nor talk like the man I could bind myself to. As soon as your fear was over--and it was not fear for what threatened me, but for what might happen to you--when the whole thing was past, as far as you were concerned it was exactly as if nothing at all had happened. Exactly as before, I was your little skylark, your doll, which you would in future treat with doubly gentle care, because it was so brittle and fragile. [Getting up.] Torvald--it was then it dawned upon me that for eight years I had been living here with a strange man, and had borne him three children--. Oh, I can't bear to think of it! I could tear myself into little bits!

Helmer [sadly]. I see, I see. An abyss has opened between us--there is no denying it. But, Nora, would it not be possible to fill it up?

Nora. As I am now, I am no wife for you.

Helmer. I have it in me to become a different man.

Nora. Perhaps--if your doll is taken away from you.

Helmer. But to part!--to part from you! No, no, Nora, I can't understand that idea.

Nora [going out to the right]. That makes it all the more certain that it must be done. [She comes back with her cloak and hat and a small bag which she puts on a chair by the table.]

Helmer. Nora, Nora, not now! Wait until tomorrow.

Nora [putting on her cloak]. I cannot spend the night in a strange man's room.

Helmer. But can't we live here like brother and sister--?

Nora [putting on her hat]. You know very well that would not last long. [Puts the shawl round her.] Goodbye, Torvald. I won't see the little ones. I know they are in better hands than mine. As I am now, I can be of no use to them.

Helmer. But some day, Nora--some day?

Nora. How can I tell? I have no idea what is going to become of me.

Helmer. But you are my wife, whatever becomes of you.

Nora. Listen, Torvald. I have heard that when a wife deserts her husband's house, as I am doing now, he is legally freed from all obligations towards her. In any case, I set you free from all your obligations. You are not to feel yourself bound in the slightest way, any more than I shall. There must be perfect freedom on both sides. See, here is your ring back. Give me mine.

Helmer. That too?

Nora. That too.

Helmer. Here it is.

Nora. That's right. Now it is all over. I have put the keys here. The maids know all about everything in the house--better than I do. Tomorrow, after I have left her, Christine will come here and pack up my own things that I brought with me from home. I will have them sent after me.

Helmer. All over! All over!--Nora, shall you never think of me again?

Nora. I know I shall often think of you, the children, and this house.

Helmer. May I write to you, Nora?

Nora. No--never. You must not do that.

Helmer. But at least let me send you--

Nora. Nothing--nothing--

Helmer. Let me help you if you are in want.

Nora. No. I can receive nothing from a stranger.

Helmer. Nora--can I never be anything more than a stranger to you?

Nora [taking her bag]. Ah, Torvald, the most wonderful thing of all would have to happen.

Helmer. Tell me what that would be!

Nora. Both you and I would have to be so changed that--. Oh, Torvald, I don't believe any longer in wonderful things happening.

Helmer. But I will believe in it. Tell me! So changed that--?

Nora. That our life together would be a real wedlock. Goodbye. [She goes out through the hall.]

Helmer [sinks down on a chair at the door and buries his face in his hands]. Nora! Nora! [Looks round, and rises.] Empty. She is gone. [A hope flashes across his mind.] The most wonderful thing of all--?

[The sound of a door shutting is heard from below.]
PERCHANCE he for whom this bell tolls may be so ill as that he knows not it tolls for him. And perchance I may think myself so much better than I am, as that they who are about me, and see my state, may have caused it to toll for me, and I know not that. The church is catholic, universal, so are all her actions; all that she does, belongs to all. When she baptizes a child, that action concerns me; for that child is thereby connected to that head which is my head too, and ingraffed into that body, whereof I am a member. And when she buries a man, that action concerns me; all mankind is of one author, and is one volume; when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language; and every chapter must be so translated; God employs several translators; some pieces are translated by age, some by sickness, some by war, some by justice; but God's hand is in every translation, and his hand shall bind up all our scattered leaves again, for that library where every book shall lie open to one another; as therefore the bell that rings to a sermon, calls not upon the preacher only, but upon the congregation to come; so this bell calls us all: but how much more me, who am brought so near the door by this sickness.

There was a contention as far as a suit (in which, piety and dignity, religion and estimation, were mingled) which of the religious orders should ring to prayers first in the morning; and it was determined, that they should ring first that rose earliest. If we understand aright the dignity of this bell, that tolls for our evening prayer, we would be glad to make it ours, by rising early, in that application, that it might be ours as well as his, whose indeed it is. The bell doth toll for him, that thinks it doth; and though it intermit again, yet from that minute, that that occasion wrought upon him, he is united to God. Who casts not up his eye to the sun when it rises? But who takes off his eye from a comet, when that breaks out? who bends not his ear to any bell, which upon any occasion rings? But who can remove it from that bell, which is passing a piece of himself out of this world?

No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were; any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

Neither can we call this a begging of misery, or a borrowing of misery, as though we were not miserable enough of ourselves, but must fetch in more from the next house, in taking upon us the misery of our neighbors. Truly it were an excusable covetousness if we did; for affliction is a treasure, and scarce any man hath enough of it. No man hath afflicion enough, that is not matured and ripened by it, and made fit for God by that affliction. If a man carry treasure in bullion or in a wedge of gold, and have none coined into current moneys, his treasure will not defray him as he travels. Tribulation is treasure in the nature of it, but it is not current money in the use of it, except we get nearer and nearer our home, heaven, by it. Another may be sick too, and sick to death, and this affliction may lie in his bowels, as gold in a mine, and be of no use to him; but this bell that tells me of his affliction, digs out, and applies that gold to me: if by this consideration of another's danger, I take mine own into contemplation, and so secure myself, by making my recourse to my God, who is our only security.
The rain set early in tonight,
The sullen wind was soon awake,
It tore the elm-tops down for spite,
and did its worst to vex the lake:
I listened with heart fit to break.
When glided in Porphyria; straight
She shut the cold out and the storm,
And kneeled and made the cheerless grate
Blaze up, and all the cottage warm;
Which done, she rose, and from her form
Withdrew the dripping cloak and shawl,
And laid her soiled gloves by, untied
Her hat and let the damp hair fall,
And, last, she sat down by my side
And called me. When no voice replied,
She put my arm about her waist,
And made her smooth white shoulder bare,
And all her yellow hair displaced,
And, stooping, made my cheek lie there,
And spread, o'er all, her yellow hair,
Murmuring how she loved me—she
Too weak, for all her heart's endeavor,
To set its struggling passion free
From pride, and vainer ties dissever,
And give herself to me forever.
But passion sometimes would prevail,
Nor could tonight's gay feast restrain
A sudden thought of one so pale
For love of her, and all in vain:
So, she was come through wind and rain.
Be sure I looked up at her eyes
Happy and proud; at last I knew
Porphyria worshiped me: surprise
Made my heart swell, and still it grew
While I debated what to do.
That moment she was mine, mine, fair,
Perfectly pure and good: I found
A thing to do, and all her hair
In one long yellow string I wound
Three times her little throat around,
And strangled her. No pain felt she;
I am quite sure she felt no pain.
As a shut bud that holds a bee,
I warily oped her lids: again
Laughed the blue eyes without a stain.
And I untightened next the tress
About her neck; her cheek once more
Blushed bright beneath my burning kiss:
I propped her head up as before
Only, this time my shoulder bore
Her head, which droops upon it still:
The smiling rosy little head,
So glad it has its utmost will,
That all it scorned at once is fled,
And I, its love, am gained instead!
Porphyria's love: she guessed not how
Her darling one wish would be heard.
And thus we sit together now,
And all night long we have not stirred,
And yet God has not said a word!
It is a melancholy object to those who walk through this great town or travel in the country, when they see the streets, the roads, and cabin doors, crowded with beggars of the female sex, followed by three, four, or six children, all in rags and importuning every passenger for an alms. These mothers, instead of being able to work for their honest livelihood, are forced to employ all their time in strolling to beg sustenance for their helpless infants: who as they grow up either turn thieves for want of work, or leave their dear native country to fight for the Pretender in Spain, or sell themselves to the Barbadoes.
I think it is agreed by all parties that this prodigious number of children in the arms, or on the backs, or at the heels of their mothers, and frequently of their fathers, is in the present deplorable state of the kingdom a very great additional grievance; and, therefore, whoever could find out a fair, cheap, and easy method of making these children sound, useful members of the commonwealth, would deserve so well of the public as to have his statue set up for a preserver of the nation.

But my intention is very far from being confined to provide only for the children of professed beggars; it is of a much greater extent, and shall take in the whole number of infants at a certain age who are born of parents in effect as little able to support them as those who demand our charity in the streets.

"I have been assured by a very knowing American of my acquaintance in London, that a young healthy child well nursed is at a year old a most delicious, nourishing, and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled ..."

As to my own part, having turned my thoughts for many years upon this important subject, and maturely weighed the several schemes of other projectors, I have always found them grossly mistaken in the computation. It is true, a child just dropped from its dam may be supported by her milk for a solar year, with little other nourishment; at most not above the value of 2s., which the mother may certainly get, or the value in scraps, by her lawful occupation of begging; and it is exactly at one year old that I propose to provide for them in such a manner as instead of being a charge upon their parents or the parish, or wanting food and raiment for the rest of their lives, they shall on the contrary contribute to the feeding, and partly to the clothing, of many thousands.

There is likewise another great advantage in my scheme, that it will prevent those voluntary abortions, and that horrid practice of women murdering their bastard children, alas! too frequent among us! sacrificing the poor innocent babes I doubt more to avoid the expense than the shame, which would move tears and pity in the most savage and inhuman breast.

The number of souls in this kingdom being usually reckoned one million and a half, of these I calculate there may be about two hundred thousand couple whose wives are breeders; from which number I subtract thirty thousand couples who are able to maintain their own children, although I apprehend there cannot be so many, under the present distresses of the kingdom; but this being granted, there will remain an hundred and seventy thousand breeders. I again subtract fifty thousand for those women who miscarry, or whose children die by accident or disease within the year. There only remains one hundred and twenty thousand children of poor parents annually born. The question therefore is, how this number shall be reared and provided for, which, as I have already said, under the present situation of affairs, is utterly impossible by all the methods hitherto proposed. For we can neither employ them in handicraft or agriculture; we neither build houses (I mean in the country) nor cultivate land: they can very seldom pick up a livelihood by stealing, till they arrive at six years old, except where they are of towardly parts, although I confess they learn the rudiments much earlier, during which time, they can however be properly looked upon only as probationers, as I have been informed by a principal gentleman in the county of Cavan, who protested to me that he never knew above one or two instances under the age of six, even in a part of the kingdom so renowned for the quickest proficiency in that art.

I am assured by our merchants, that a boy or a girl before twelve years old is no salable commodity; and even when they come to this age they will not yield above three pounds, or three pounds and half-a-crown at most on the exchange; which cannot turn to account either to the parents or kingdom, the charge of nutriment and rags having been at least four times that value.

I shall now therefore humbly propose my own thoughts, which I hope will not be liable to the least objection.

I have been assured by a very knowing American of my acquaintance in London, that a young healthy child well nursed is at a year old a most delicious, nourishing, and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled; and I make no doubt that it will equally serve in a fricassee or a ragout.

I do therefore humbly offer it to public consideration that of the hundred and twenty thousand children already computed, twenty thousand may be reserved for breed, whereof only one-fourth part to be males; which is more than we allow to sheep, black cattle or swine; and my reason is, that these children are seldom the fruits of marriage, a circumstance not much regarded by our savages, therefore one male will be sufficient to serve four females. That the remaining hundred thousand may, at a year old, be offered in the sale to the persons of quality and fortune through the kingdom; always advising the mother to let them suck plentifully in the last month, so as to render them plump and fat for a good table. A child will make two dishes at an entertainment for friends; and when the family dines alone, the fore or hind quarter will make a reasonable dish, and seasoned with a little pepper or salt will be very good boiled on the fourth day, especially in winter.

I have reckoned upon a medium that a child just born will weigh 12 pounds, and in a solar year, if tolerably nursed, increaseth to 28 pounds.

I grant this food will be somewhat dear, and therefore very proper for landlords, who, as they have already devoured most of the parents, seem to have the best title to the children.

Infant's flesh will be in season throughout the year, but more plentiful in March, and a little before and after; for we are told by a grave author, an eminent French physician, that fish being a prolific diet, there are more children born in Roman Catholic countries about nine months after Lent than at any other season; therefore, reckoning a year after Lent, the markets will be more glutted than usual, because the number of popish infants is at least three to one in this kingdom: and therefore it will have one other collateral advantage, by lessening the number of papists among us.

I have already computed the charge of nursing a beggar's child (in which list I reckon all cottagers, laborers, and four-fifths of the farmers) to be about two shillings per annum, rags included; and I believe no gentleman would repine to give ten shillings for the carcass of a good fat child, which, as I have said, will make four dishes of excellent nutritive meat, when he hath only some particular friend or his own family to dine with him. Thus the squire will learn to be a good landlord, and grow popular among his tenants; the mother will have eight shillings net profit, and be fit for work till she produces another child.

Those who are more thrifty (as I must confess the times require) may flay the carcass; the skin of which artificially dressed will make admirable gloves for ladies, and summer boots for fine gentlemen.

As to our city of Dublin, shambles may be appointed for this purpose in the most convenient parts of it, and butchers we may be assured will not be wanting; although I rather recommend buying the children alive, and dressing them hot from the knife, as we do roasting pigs.

A very worthy person, a true lover of his country, and whose virtues I highly esteem, was lately pleased in discoursing on this matter to offer a refinement upon my scheme. He said that many gentlemen of this kingdom, having of late destroyed their deer, he conceived that the want of venison might be well supplied by the bodies of young lads and maidens, not exceeding fourteen years of age nor under twelve; so great a number of both sexes in every country being now ready to starve for want of work and service; and these to be disposed of by their parents, if alive, or otherwise by their nearest relations. But with due deference to so excellent a friend and so deserving a patriot, I cannot be altogether in his sentiments; for as to the males, my American acquaintance assured me, from frequent experience, that their flesh was generally tough and lean, like that of our schoolboys by continual exercise, and their taste disagreeable; and to fatten them would not answer the charge. Then as to the females, it would, I think, with humble submission be a loss to the public, because they soon would become breeders themselves; and besides, it is not improbable that some scrupulous people might be apt to censure such a practice (although indeed very unjustly), as a little bordering upon cruelty; which, I confess, hath always been with me the strongest objection against any project, however so well intended.

But in order to justify my friend, he confessed that this expedient was put into his head by the famous Psalmanazar, a native of the island Formosa, who came from thence to London above twenty years ago, and in conversation told my friend, that in his country when any young person happened to be put to death, the executioner sold the carcass to persons of quality as a prime dainty; and that in his time the body of a plump girl of fifteen, who was crucified for an attempt to poison the emperor, was sold to his imperial majesty's prime minister of state, and other great mandarins of the court, in joints from the gibbet, at four hundred crowns. Neither indeed can I deny, that if the same use were made of several plump young girls in this town, who without one single groat to their fortunes cannot stir abroad without a chair, and appear at playhouse and assemblies in foreign fineries which they never will pay for, the kingdom would not be the worse.

Some persons of a desponding spirit are in great concern about that vast number of poor people, who are aged, diseased, or maimed, and I have been desired to employ my thoughts what course may be taken to ease the nation of so grievous an encumbrance. But I am not in the least pain upon that matter, because it is very well known that they are every day dying and rotting by cold and famine, and filth and vermin, as fast as can be reasonably expected. And as to the young laborers, they are now in as hopeful a condition; they cannot get work, and consequently pine away for want of nourishment, to a degree that if at any time they are accidentally hired to common labor, they have not strength to perform it; and thus the country and themselves are happily delivered from the evils to come.

I have too long digressed, and therefore shall return to my subject. I think the advantages by the proposal which I have made are obvious and many, as well as of the highest importance.

For first, as I have already observed, it would greatly lessen the number of papists, with whom we are yearly overrun, being the principal breeders of the nation as well as our most dangerous enemies; and who stay at home on purpose with a design to deliver the kingdom to the Pretender, hoping to take their advantage by the absence of so many good protestants, who have chosen rather to leave their country than stay at home and pay tithes against their conscience to an episcopal curate.

Secondly, The poorer tenants will have something valuable of their own, which by law may be made liable to distress and help to pay their landlord's rent, their corn and cattle being already seized, and money a thing unknown.

Thirdly, Whereas the maintenance of an hundred thousand children, from two years old and upward, cannot be computed at less than ten shillings a-piece per annum, the nation's stock will be thereby increased fifty thousand pounds per annum, beside the profit of a new dish introduced to the tables of all gentlemen of fortune in the kingdom who have any refinement in taste. And the money will circulate among ourselves, the goods being entirely of our own growth and manufacture.

Fourthly, The constant breeders, beside the gain of eight shillings sterling per annum by the sale of their children, will be rid of the charge of maintaining them after the first year.

Fifthly, This food would likewise bring great custom to taverns; where the vintners will certainly be so prudent as to procure the best receipts for dressing it to perfection, and consequently have their houses frequented by all the fine gentlemen, who justly value themselves upon their knowledge in good eating: and a skilful cook, who understands how to oblige his guests, will contrive to make it as expensive as they please.

Sixthly, This would be a great inducement to marriage, which all wise nations have either encouraged by rewards or enforced by laws and penalties. It would increase the care and tenderness of mothers toward their children, when they were sure of a settlement for life to the poor babes, provided in some sort by the public, to their annual profit instead of expense. We should see an honest emulation among the married women, which of them could bring the fattest child to the market. Men would become as fond of their wives during the time of their pregnancy as they are now of their mares in foal, their cows in calf, their sows when they are ready to farrow; nor offer to beat or kick them (as is too frequent a practice) for fear of a miscarriage.

Many other advantages might be enumerated. For instance, the addition of some thousand carcasses in our exportation of barreled beef, the propagation of swine's flesh, and improvement in the art of making good bacon, so much wanted among us by the great destruction of pigs, too frequent at our tables; which are no way comparable in taste or magnificence to a well-grown, fat, yearling child, which roasted whole will make a considerable figure at a lord mayor's feast or any other public entertainment. But this and many others I omit, being studious of brevity.

Supposing that one thousand families in this city, would be constant customers for infants flesh, besides others who might have it at merry meetings, particularly at weddings and christenings, I compute that Dublin would take off annually about twenty thousand carcasses; and the rest of the kingdom (where probably they will be sold somewhat cheaper) the remaining eighty thousand.

I can think of no one objection, that will possibly be raised against this proposal, unless it should be urged, that the number of people will be thereby much lessened in the kingdom. This I freely own, and 'twas indeed one principal design in offering it to the world. I desire the reader will observe, that I calculate my remedy for this one individual Kingdom of Ireland, and for no other that ever was, is, or, I think, ever can be upon Earth. Therefore let no man talk to me of other expedients: Of taxing our absentees at five shillings a pound: Of using neither cloaths, nor houshold furniture, except what is of our own growth and manufacture: Of utterly rejecting the materials and instruments that promote foreign luxury: Of curing the expensiveness of pride, vanity, idleness, and gaming in our women: Of introducing a vein of parsimony, prudence and temperance: Of learning to love our country, wherein we differ even from Laplanders, and the inhabitants of Topinamboo: Of quitting our animosities and factions, nor acting any longer like the Jews, who were murdering one another at the very moment their city was taken: Of being a little cautious not to sell our country and consciences for nothing: Of teaching landlords to have at least one degree of mercy towards their tenants. Lastly, of putting a spirit of honesty, industry, and skill into our shop-keepers, who, if a resolution could now be taken to buy only our native goods, would immediately unite to cheat and exact upon us in the price, the measure, and the goodness, nor could ever yet be brought to make one fair proposal of just dealing, though often and earnestly invited to it.

Therefore I repeat, let no man talk to me of these and the like expedients, 'till he hath at least some glympse of hope, that there will ever be some hearty and sincere attempt to put them into practice.

But, as to my self, having been wearied out for many years with offering vain, idle, visionary thoughts, and at length utterly despairing of success, I fortunately fell upon this proposal, which, as it is wholly new, so it hath something solid and real, of no expence and little trouble, full in our own power, and whereby we can incur no danger in disobliging England. For this kind of commodity will not bear exportation, and flesh being of too tender a consistence, to admit a long continuance in salt, although perhaps I could name a country, which would be glad to eat up our whole nation without it.

After all, I am not so violently bent upon my own opinion as to reject any offer proposed by wise men, which shall be found equally innocent, cheap, easy, and effectual. But before something of that kind shall be advanced in contradiction to my scheme, and offering a better, I desire the author or authors will be pleased maturely to consider two points. First, as things now stand, how they will be able to find food and raiment for an hundred thousand useless mouths and backs. And secondly, there being a round million of creatures in human figure throughout this kingdom, whose whole subsistence put into a common stock would leave them in debt two millions of pounds sterling, adding those who are beggars by profession to the bulk of farmers, cottagers, and laborers, with their wives and children who are beggars in effect: I desire those politicians who dislike my overture, and may perhaps be so bold as to attempt an answer, that they will first ask the parents of these mortals, whether they would not at this day think it a great happiness to have been sold for food, at a year old in the manner I prescribe, and thereby have avoided such a perpetual scene of misfortunes as they have since gone through by the oppression of landlords, the impossibility of paying rent without money or trade, the want of common sustenance, with neither house nor clothes to cover them from the inclemencies of the weather, and the most inevitable prospect of entailing the like or greater miseries upon their breed for ever.

I profess, in the sincerity of my heart, that I have not the least personal interest in endeavoring to promote this necessary work, having no other motive than the public good of my country, by advancing our trade, providing for infants, relieving the poor, and giving some pleasure to the rich. I have no children by which I can propose to get a single penny; the youngest being nine years old, and my wife past child-bearing.

The End
The Feminine Mystique
Betty Friedan
Chapter 2
The Happy Housewife Heroine
Why have so many American wives suffered this nameless aching dissatisfaction
for so many years, each one thinking she was alone? "I've got tears in my eyes
with sheer relief that my own inner turmoil is shared with other women," a young
Connecticut mother wrote me when I first began to put this problem into words.
A woman from a town in Ohio wrote: "The times when I felt that the only
answer was to consult a psychiatrist, times of anger, bitter bitterness and general
frustration too numerous to even mention, I had no idea that hundreds of other
women were feeling the same way. I felt so completely alone." A Houston, Texas,
housewife wrote: "It has been the feeling of being almost alone with my problem
that has made it so hard. I thank God for my family, home and chance to care
for them, but my life couldn't stop there. It is an awakening to know that I'm not
an oddity and can stop being ashamed of wanting something more."
That painful guilty silence, and that tremendous relief when a feeling is finally
out in the open, are familiar psychological signs. What need, what part of
themselves, could so many women today be repressing? In this age after Freud,
sex is immediately s suspect. But this new stirring in women does not seem to be
sex; it is, in fact, much harder for women to talk about than sex. Could there be
another need, a part of themselves they have buried as deeply as the Victorian
women buried sex?
If there is, a woman might not know what it was, any more than the Victorian
woman knew she had sexual needs. The image of a good woman by which
Victorian ladies lived simply left out sex. Does the image by which modern
American women live also leave some thing out, the proud and public image of
the highschool girl going steady, the college girl in love, the suburban housewife
with an up-and-coming husband and a station wagon full of children? This
image--created by the women's magazines, by advertisements, television, movies,
novels, columns and books by experts on marriage and the family, child
psychology, sexual adjustment and by the popularizers of sociology and
psychoanalysis--shapes women's lives today and mirrors their dreams. It may give
ve a clue to the problem that has no name, as a dream gives a clue to a wish
unnamed by the dreamer. In the mind's ear, a geiger counter clicks when the
image shows too sharp a discrepancy from reality. A geiger counter clicked in my
own inner ear when I could not fit the quiet desperation of so many women into
the picture of the modern American housewife that I myself was helping to
create, writing for the women's magazines. What is missing from the image which
shapes the American woman's pursuit of fulfillment illment as a wife and mother?
What is missing from the image that mirrors and creates the identity of women
in Americatoday?
In the early 1960's McCall'shas been the fastest growing of the women's
magazines. Its contents are a fairly accurate representation of the image of the
American woman presented, and in part created, by the large-circulation
magazines. Here are the complete editorial contents of a typical issue of
McCall's(July 1960):
1. A lead article on "increasing baldness in women." caused by too much brushing
and dyeing.
2. A long poem in primer-size type about a child, called "A Boy Is A Boy."
3. A short story about how a teenager who doesn't go to college gets a man away
from a bright college girl.
4. A short story about the minute sensations of a baby throwing his bottle out of
the crib.
5. The first of a two-part intimate "up-to-date" account by the Duke of Windsor
on "How the Duchess and I now live and spend our time. The influence of clothes
on me and vice versa."
6. A short story about a nineteen-year-old girl sent to a charm school to learn
how to bat her eyelashes and lose at tennis. ("You're nineteen, and by normal
American standards, I now am entitled to have you taken off my hands, legally
and financially, by some beardless youth who will spirit you away to a one-and-ahalf-room
apartment in the Village while he learns the chicanery of selling bonds.
And no beardless youth is going to do that as long as you volley to his
7. The story of a honeymoon couple commuting between separate bedrooms after
an argument over gambling at Las Vegas.
8. An article on "how to overcome an inferiority complex."
9. A story called "Wedding Day."
10. The story of a teenager's mother who leerns how to dance rock-and-roll.
11. Six pages of glamorous pictures of models in maternity clothes.
12. Four glamorous pages on "reduce the way the models do."
13. An article on airline delays.
14. Patterns for home sewing.
15. Patterns with which to make "Folding Screens--Bewitching Magic."
16. An article called "An Encyclopedic Approach to Finding a Second Husband."
17. A "barbecue bonanza," dedicated "to the Great American Mister who stands,
chef's cap on head, fork in hand, on terrace or back porch, in patio or backyard
anywhere in the land, watching his roast turning on the spit. And to his wife wit
without whom (sometimes) the barbecue could never be the smashing summer
success it undoubtedly is . . ."
There were also the regular front-of-the-book "service" columns on new drug and
medicine developments, child-care facts, columns by Clare Luce and by Eleanor
Roosevelt, and "Pots and Pans," a column of reader's letters.
The image of woman that emerges from this big, pretty magazine is young and
frivolous, almost childlike; fluffy and feminine; passive; gaily content in a world of
bedroom and kitchen, sex, babies, and home. The magazine surely does not leave
out sex; the only passion, the only pursuit, the only goal a woman is permitted is
the pursuit of a man. It is crammed full of food, clothing, cosmetics, furniture,
and the physical bodies of young women, but where is the world of though' and
ideas, the life of the min d and spirit? In the magazine image women do no work
except housework and work to keep their bodies beautiful and to get and keep a
This was the image of the American woman in the year Castro led a revolution
in Cuba and men were trained to travel into outer space; the year that the
African continent brought forth new nations, and a plane whose speed is greater
than the speed of sound broke up a Summit Conference; the year artists picketed
a great museum in protest against the hegemony of abstract art; physicists
explored the concept of anti-matter; astronomers, because of new radio
telescopes, had to alter their concepts of the expanding universe; biologists made
a breakthrough in the fundamental chemistry of life; and Negro youth in
Southern schools forced the United States, for the first time since the Civil War,
to face a moment of democratic truth. But this magazine, published for over
5,000,000 American women, almost all of whom have been through high school
and nearly half to college, contained almost no mention of the world beyond the
home. In the second half of the twentieth century in America, woman's world was
confined to her own body and beauty, the charming of man, the bearing of
babies, and the physical care and serving of husband, children, and home. And
this was no anomaly of a single issue of a single women's magazine.
I sat one night at a meeting of magazine writers, mostly men, who work for all
kinds of magazines, including women's magazines. The main speaker was a leader
of the desegregation battle. Before he spoke, another man outlined the needs of
the large women's magazine he edited:
Our readers are housewives, full time. They're not interested in the broad public
issues of the day. They are not interested in national or international affairs.
They are only interested in the family and the home. They aren't interested in
politics, unless it's related to an immediate need in the home, like the price of
coffee. Humor? Has to be gentle, they don't get satire. Travel? We have almost
completely dropped it. Education? That's a problem. Their own education level is
going up. They've generally all had a highschool education and many, college.
They're tremendously interested in education for their children--fourth-grade
arithmetic. You just can't write about ideas or broad issues of the day for
women. That's why we're publishing 90 per cent service vice now and 10 per cent
general interest.
Another editor agreed, adding plaintively: "Can't you give us something else
besides 'there's death in your medicine cabinet'? Can't any of you dream up a new
crisis for women? We're always interested in sex, of course."
At this point, the writers and editors spent an hour listening to Thurgood
Marshall on the inside story of the desegregation battle, and its possible effect on
the presidential election. "Too bad I can't run that story," one editor said. "But
you just can't link it to woman's world."
As I listened to them, a German phrase echoed in my mind-- "Kinder, Kuche,
Kirche,"the slogan by which the Nazis decreed that women must once again be
confined to their biological role. But this was not Nazi Germany. This was
America. The whole world lies open to American women. Why, then, does the
image deny the world? Why does it limit women to "one position, one role, one
occupation"? Not long ago, women dreamed and fought for equality, their own
place in the world. What happened to their dreams; when did women decide to
give up the world and go back home?
A geologist brings up a core of mud from the bottom of the ocean and sees layers
of sediment as sharp as a razor blade deposited over the years--clues to changes
in the geological evolution of the earth so vast that they would go unnoticed
during the e lifespan of a single man. I sat for many days in the New York Public
Library, going back through bound volumes of American women's magazines for
the last twenty years. I found a change in the image of the American woman, and
in the boundaries of the woman's world, as sharp and puzzling as the changes
revealed in cores of ocean sediment.
In 1939, the heroines of women's magazine stories were not always young, but in
a certain sense they were younger than their fictional counterparts today. They
were young in the same way that the American hero has always been young: they
were New Women, creating with a gay determined spirit a new identity for
women--a life of their own. There was an aura about them of becoming, of
moving into a future that was going to be different from the past. The majority
of heroines in the four major women's magazines (then Ladies' Home Journal,
McCall's, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Home Companion)were career women--
happily, proudly, adventurously, attractively career women--who loved and were
loved by men. And the spirit, courage, independence, deter determination--the
strength of character they showed in their work as nurses, teachers, artists,
actresses, copywriters, saleswomen--were part of their charm. There was a
definite aura that their individuality was something to be admired, not
unattractive to me n, that men were drawn to them as much for their spirit and
character as for their looks.
These were the mass women's magazines--in their heyday. The stories were
conventional: girl-meets-boy or girl-gets-boy. But very often this was not the
major theme of the story. These heroines were usually marching toward some
goal or vision of their o own, struggling with some problem of work or the world,
when they found their man. And this New Woman, less fluffily feminine, so
independent and determined to find a new life of her own, was the heroine of a
different kind of love story. She was less aggressive in pursuit of a man. Her
passionate in involvement with the world, her own sense of herself as an
individual her self-reliance, gave a different flavor to her relationship with the
man. The heroine and hero of one of these stories meet and fall in lo ve at an ad
agency where they both work. "I don't want to put you in a garden behind a
wall," the hero says. "I want you to walk with me hand in hand, and together we
could accomplish whatever we wanted to("A Dream to Share," Redbook,January,
These New Women were almost never housewives; in fact, the stories usually
ended before they had children. They were young because the future was open.
But they seemed, in another sense, much older more mature than the childlike,
kittenish young housewife heroines today. One, for example, is a nurse ("Motherin-
Law," Ladies' Home Journal, June, 1939). "She was, he thought, very lovely.
She hadn't an ounce of picture book prettiness, but there was strength in her
hands, pride in her carriage and nobility in the lift of her chin, in her blue eyes.
She had been on her own ever since she left training, nine years ago. She had
earned her way, she need consider nothing but her heart."
One heroine runs away from home when her mother insists she must make her
debut instead of going on an expedition as a geologist. Her passionate
determination to live her own life does not keep this New Woman from loving a
man, but it makes her rebel from her parents; just as the young hero often must
leave home to grow up. "You've got more courage than any girl I ever saw. You
have what it takes," says the boy who helps her get away ("Have a Good Time,
Dear," Ladies' Home Journal, May 1939).
Often, there was a conflict between some commitment to her work and the man.
But the moral, in 1939, was that if she kept her commitment to herself, she did
not lose the man, if he was the right man. A young widow ("Between the Dark
and the Daylight, " Ladies' Home Journal, February, 1939) sits in her office,
debating whether to stay and correct the important mistake she has made on the
job, or keep her date with a man. She thinks back on her marriage, her baby, her
husband's death . . "the time afterward which held the struggle for clear
judgment, not being afraid of new and better jobs, of having confidence in one's
decisions" How can the boss expect her to give up her date! But she stays on the
job. "They'd put their life 's blood into this campaign. She couldn't let him down."
She finds her man, too--the boss!
These stories may not have been great literature. But the identity of their
heroines seemed to say something about the housewives who, then as now, read
the women's magazines. These magazines were not written for career women. The
New Woman heroines were the ideal of yesterday's housewives; they reflected the
dreams, mirrored the yearning for identity and the sense of possibility that
existed for women hen. And if women could not have these dreams for
themselves, they wanted their daughters to have them. They wanted their
daughters to be more than housewives, to go out in the world that had been
denied hem.
It is like remembering a long-forgotten dream, to recapture the memory of what a
career meant to women before "career woman" became a dirty word in America.
Jobs meant money, of course, at the end of the depression. But the readers of
these magazines were not the omen who got the jobs; career meant more than
job. It seemed to mean doing something, being somebody yourself, not just
existing in and through others.
I found the last clear note of the passionate search for individual identity that a
career seems to have symbolized in the pre-1950 decades in a story called "Sarah
and the Seaplane," (Ladies' Home Journal, February, 1949). Sarah, who for
nineteen years has played the part of docile daughter, is secretly learning to fly.
She misses her flying lesson to accompany her mother on a round of social calls.
An elderly doctor houseguest says: "My dear Sarah, every day, all the time, you
are committing suicide. It's a greater crime than not pleasing ot hers, not doing
justice to yourself." Sensing some secret, he asks if she is in love. "She found it
difficult to answer. In love? In love with the good-natured, the beautiful Henry
[the flying teacher]? In love with the flashing water and the lift of wings at the
instant of freedom, and the vision of the smiling, limitless world? 'Yes,' she
answered, 'I think I am.'"
The next morning, Sarah solos. Henry "stepped away, slamming the cabin door
shut, and swung the ship about for her. She was alone. There was a heady
moment when everything she had learned left her, when she had to adjust herself
to be alone, entirely alone in the familiar cabin. Then she drew a deep breath and
suddenly a wonderful sense of competence made her sit erect and smiling. She
was alone! She was answerable to herself alone, and she was sufficient.
"'I can do it!' she told herself aloud.... The wind blew back from the floats in
glittering streaks, and then effortlessly the ship lifted itself free and soared." Even
her mother can't stop her now from getting her flying license. She is not "afraid of
discovering my own way of life." In bed that night she smiles sleepily,
remembering how Henry had said, "You're my girl."
"Henry's girl! She smiled. No, she was not Henry's girl. She was Sarah. And that
was sufficient. And with such a late start it would be some time before she got to
know herself. Half in a dream now, she wondered if at the end of that time she
would need someone else and who it would be."
And then suddenly the image blurs. The New Woman, soaring free, hesitates in
midflight, shivers in all that blue sunlight and rushes back to the cozy walls of
home. In the same year that Sarah soloed, the Ladies' Home Journal printed the
prototype of the innumerable paeans to "Occupation: Housewife" that started to
appear in the women's magazines, paeans that resounded throughout the fifties.
They usually begin with a woman complaining that when she has to write
"housewife" on the census blank, she gets an inferiority complex. ("When I write
it I realize that here I am, a middle-aged woman, with a university education,
and I've never made anything out of my life. I'm just a housewife.") Then the
author of the paean, who somehow never is a housewife (in this case, Dorothy
Thompson, newspaper woman, foreign correspondent, famous columnist, in Lad
Ladies'' Home Journal, March, 1949), roars with laughter. The trouble with you,
she scolds, is you don't realize you are expert in a dozen careers, simultaneously.
"You might write: business manager, cook, nurse, chauffeur, dressmaker, interior
decorator, accountant, caterer, teacher, private secretary--or just put down
philanthropist.... All your life you have been giving away your energies, your
skills, your talents, your services,, for love." But still, the housewife complains,
I'm nearly fifty and I've never done what I hoped to do in my youth--music--I've
wasted my college education.
Ho-ho, laughs Miss Thompson aren't your children musical because of you, and
all those struggling years while your husband was finishing his great work, didn't
you keep a charming home on 53,000 a year, and make all your children's clothes
and your own, a and paper the living room yourself, and watch the markets like
a hawk for bargains? And in time off, didn't you type and proofread your
husband's manuscripts, plan festivals to make up the church deficit, play piano
duets with the children to make practice more fun, read their books in highschool
to follow their study? "But all this vicarious living--through others," the
housewife sighs. "As vicarious as Napoleon Bonaparte," Miss Thompson scoffs, "or
a Queen. I simply refuse to share your selfpity. You are one of the most
successful women I know."
As for not earning any money, the argument goes, let the housewife compute the
cost of her services. Women can save more money by their managerial talents
inside the home than they can bring into it by outside work. As for woman's
spirit being broken by t he boredom of household tasks, maybe the genius of
some women has been thwarted, but "a world full of feminine genius, but poor in
children, would come rapidly to an end.... Great men have great mothers."
And the American housewife is reminded that Catholic countries in the Middle
Ages "elevated the gentle and inconspicuous Mary into the Queen of Heaven, and
built their loveliest cathedrals to 'Notre Dame--Our Lady.' . . . The homemaker,
the nurturer, the creator of children's environment is the constant recreator of
culture, civilization, and virtue. Assuming that she is doing well that great
managerial task and creative activity, let her write her occupation proudly:
'housewife.' "
In 1949, the Ladies' Home Journal also ran Margaret Mead's Male and Female.
All the magazines were echoing Farnham and Lundberg's Modern Woman: The
Lost Sex,which came out in 1942, with its warning that careers and higher
education w ere leading to the "masculinization of women with enormously
dangerous consequences to the home, the children dependent on it and to the
ability of the woman, as well as her husband, to obtain sexual gratification."
And so the feminine mystique began to spread through the land, grafted onto old
prejudices and comfortable conventions which so easily give the past a
stranglehold on the future. Behind the new mystique were concepts and theories
deceptive in their sophistication and their assumption of accepted truth. These
theories were supposedly so complex that they were inaccessible to all but a few
initiates, and therefore irrefutable. It will be necessary to break through this wall
of mystery and look more closely at these complex concepts, these accepted
truths, to understand fully what has happened to American women.
The feminine mystique says that the highest value and the only commitment for
women is the fulfillment of their own femininity. It says that the great mistake of
Western culture, through most of its history, has been the undervaluation of this
femininity. It says this femininity is so mysterious and intuitive and close to the
creation and origin of life that man-made science may never be able to
understand it. But however special and different, it is in no way inferior to the
nature of man; it may even in certain respects be superior. The mistake, says the
mystique, the root of women's troubles in the past is that women envied men,
women tried to be like men, instead of accepting their own nature, which can
find fulfillment only in sexual passivity, male domination, and nurturing maternal
But the new image this mystique gives to American women is the old image:
"Occupation: housewife." The new mystique makes the housewife-mothers, who
never had a chance to be anything else, the model for all women; it presupposes
that history has reached a final and glorious end in the here and now, as far as
women are concerned. Beneath the sophisticated trappings, it simply makes
certain concrete, finite, domestic aspects of feminine existence--as it was lived by
women whose lives were confined, by necessity, to cooking, cleaning, washing,
bearing children--into a religion, a pattern by which all women must now live or
deny their femininity.
Fulfillment as a woman had only one definition for American women after 1949--
the housewife-mother. As swiftly as in a dream, the image of the American
woman as a changing, growing individual in a changing world was shattered. Her
solo flight to find her own identity was forgotten in the rush for the security of
togetherness. Her limitless world shrunk to the cozy walls of home.
The transformation, reflected in the pages of the women's magazines, was sharply
visible in 1949 and progressive through the fifties. "Femininity Begins at Home,"
"It's a Man's World Maybe," "Have Babies While You're Young, " "How to Snare
a Male," "Should I Stop Work When We Marry?" "Are You Training Your
Daughter to be a Wife?" "Careers at Home," "Do Women Have to Talk So
Much?" "Why GI's Prefer Those German Girls ," "What Women Can Learn from
Mother Eve," "Really a Man's World, Politics," "How to Hold On to a Happy
Marriage," "Don't Be Afraid to Marry Young," "The Doctor Talks about BreastFeeding,"
"Our Baby Was Born at Home," "Cooking to Me is Poetry," "The
Business of Running a Home."
By the end of 1949, only one out of three heroines in the women's magazines was
a career woman--and she was shown in the act of renouncing her career and
discovering that what she really wanted to be was a housewife. In 1958, and
again in 1959, I we went through issue after issue of the three major women's
magazines (the fourth, Woman's Home Companion, had died) without finding a
single heroine who had a career, a commitment to any work, art, profession, or
mission in the world, other than "Occupation: housewife." Only one in a hundred
heroines had a job; even the young unmarried heroines no longer worked except
at snaring a husband.
These new happy housewife heroines seem strangely younger than the spirited
career girls of the thirties and forties. They seem to get younger all the time--in
looks, and a childlike kind of dependence. They have no vision of the future.
except to have a baby. The only active growing figure in their world is the child.
The housewife heroines are forever young, because their own image endsin
childbirth. Like Peter Pan, they must remain young, while their children grow up
with the world. They must keep on having babies, because the feminine mystique
says there is no other way for a woman to be a heroine. Here is a typical
specimen from a story called "The Sandwich Maker" (Ladies' Home Journal,
April, 1959). She took home economics in college, learned how to cook, never held
a job, and still plays the child bride, though she now has three children of her
own. Her problem is money. "Oh nothing boring, like taxes or reciprocal trade
agreements, or foreign aid programs. I leave all that economic jazz to my
constitutionally elected representative in Washington, heaven help him."
The problem is her $42 allowance. She hates having to ask her husband for
money every time she needs a pair of shoes, but he won't trust her with a charge
account. "Oh, how I yearned for a little money of my own! Not much, really. A
few hundred a year would have done it. Just enough to meet a friend for lunch
occasionally, to indulge in extravagantly colored stockings, a few small items,
without having to appeal to Charley. But, alas, Charley was right. I had never
earned a dollar in my life, and had no idea how money was made. So all 1 did for
a long time was brood, as I continued with my cooking, cleaning, cooking,
washing, ironing, cooking."
At last the solution comes--she will take orders for sandwiches from other men at
her husband's plant. She earns $52.50 a week, except that she forgets to count
costs, and she doesn't remember what a gross is so she has to hide 8,640
sandwich bags behind the furnace. Charley says she's making the sandwiches too
fancy. She explains: "If it's only ham on rye, then I'm just a sandwich maker, and
I'm not interested. But the extras, the special touches--well, they make it sort of
creative." So she chop s, wraps, peels, seals, spreads bread, starting at dawn and
never finished, for $9.00 net, until she is disgusted by the smell of food, and
finally staggers downstairs after a sleepless night to slice a salami for the eight
gaping lunch boxes. "It wa s too much. Charley came down just then, and after
one quick look at me, ran for a glass of water." She realizes that she is going to
have another baby.
"Charley's first coherent words were 'I'll cancel your lunch orders. You're a
mother. That's your job. You don't have to earn money, too.' It was all so
beautifully simpler 'Yes, boss,' I murmured obediently, frankly relieved." That
night he brings her home a checkbook; he will trust her with a joint account. So
she decides just to keep quiet about the 8,640 sandwich bags. Anyhow, she'll have
used them up, making sandwiches for four children to take to school, by the time
the youngest is ready for college.
The road from Sarah and the seaplane to the sandwich maker was traveled in
only ten years. In those ten years, the image of American woman seems to have
suffered a schizophrenic split. And the split in the image goes much further than
the savage obliteration of career from women's dreams.
In an earlier time, the image of woman was also split in two--the good, pure
woman on the pedestal, and the ***** of the desires of the flesh. The split in the
new image opens a different fissure--the feminine woman, whose goodness
includes the desires of the flesh, and the career woman whose evil includes every
desire of the separate self. The new feminine morality story is the exorcising of
the forbidden career dream, the heroine's victory over Mephistopheles: the devil,
first in the form of a care er woman, who threatens to take away the heroine's
husband or child, and finally, the devil inside the heroine herself, the dream of
independence, the discontent of spirit, and even the feeling of a separate identity
that must be exorcised to win or keep the love of husband and child.
In a story in Redbook("A Man Who Acted Like a Husband," November, 1957)
the child-bride heroine, "a little freckle-faced brunette" whose nickname is
"Junior," is visited by her old college roommate. The roommate Kay is "a man's
girl, really, with a good head for business . . . she wore her polished mahogany
hair in a high chignon, speared with two chopstick affairs." Kay is not only
divorced, but she has also left her child with his grandmother while she works in
television. This career-woman-devil tempts Junior with the lure of a job to keep
her from breast-feeding her baby. She even restrains the young mother from
going to her baby when he cries at 2 A.M. But she gets her comeuppance when
George, the husband, discovers the crying baby uncovered, in a freezing wind
from an open window, with blood running down its cheek. Kay, reformed and
repentant, plays hookey from her job to go get her own child and start life anew.
And Junior, gloating at the 2 A. M. feeding--"I'm glad, glad, glad I'm just a
housewife" starts to dream about the baby, growing up to be a housewife, too.
With the career woman out of the way, the housewife with interests in the
community becomes the devil to be exorcised. Even PTA takes on a suspect
connotation, not to mention interest in some international cause (see "Almost a
Love Affair," M McCall's,November, 1955). The housewife who simply has a mind
of her own is the next to go. The heroine of "I Didn't Want to Tell You"
(McCall's,January, 1958) is shown balancing the checkbook by herself and
arguing with her husband about a small domestic detail. It develops that she is
losing her husband to a "helpless little widow" whose main appeal is that she
can't "think straight" about an insurance policy or mortgage. The betrayed wife
says: "She must have sex appeal and what weapon has a wife against that?" But
her best friend tells her: "You're making this too simple. You're forgetting how
helpless Tania can be, and how grateful to the man who helps her . . ."
"I couldn't be a clinging vine if I tried," the wife says. "I had a better than
average job after I left college and I was always a pretty independent person. I'm
not a helpless little woman and I can't pretend to be." But she learns, that night.
She hears a noise that might be a burglar; even though she knows it's only a
mouse, she calls helplessly to her husband, and wins him back. As he comforts
her pretended panic, she murmurs that, of course, he was right in their argument
that morning. "She lay still in the soft bed, smiling sweet, secret satisfaction,
scarcely touched with guilt."
The end of the road, in an almost literal sense, is the disappearance of the
heroine altogether, as a separate self and the subject of her own story. The end of
the road is togetherness, where the woman has no independent self to hide even
in guilt; she exists only for and through her husband and children.
Coined by the publishers of McCall'sin 1954, the concept "togetherness" was
seized upon avidly as a movement of spiritual significance by advertisers,
ministers, newspaper editors. For a time, it was elevated into virtually a national
repose. But very quickly there was sharp social criticism, and bitter jokes about
"togetherness" as a substitute for larger human goals--for men. Women were
taken to task for making their husbands do housework, instead of letting them
pioneer in t he nation and the world. Why, it was asked, should men with the
capacities of statesmen, anthropologists, physicists, poets, have to wash dishes
and diaper babies on weekday evenings or Saturday mornings when they might
use those extra hours to fulfill la larger commitments to their society?
Significantly, critics resented only that men were being asked to share "woman's
world." Few questioned the boundaries of this world for women. No one seemed
to remember that women were once thought to have the capacity and vision of
statesmen, poets, and physicists. Few saw the big lie of togetherness for women.
Consider the Easter 1954 issue of McCall's which announced the new era of
togetherness, sounding the requiem for the days when women fought for and won
political equality, and the women's magazines "helped you to carve out large
areas of living formerly forbidden to your sex." The new way of life in which "men
and women in ever increasing numbers are marrying at an earlier age, having
children at an earlier age, rearing larger families and gaining their deepest
satisfaction" from their own homes, is one which "men, women and children are
achieving together . . . not as women alone, or men alone, isolated from one
another, but as a family, sharing a common experience."
The picture essay detailing that way of life is called "a man's place is in the
home." It describes, as the new image and ideal, a New Jersey couple with three
children in a gray-shingle split-level house. Ed and Carol have "centered their
lives almost completely around their children and their home." They are shown
shopping at the supermarket, carpentering, dressing the children, making
breakfast together. "Then Ed joins the members of his car pool and heads for the
Ed, the husband, chooses the color scheme for the house and makes the major
decorating decisions. The chores Ed likes are listed: putter around the house,
make things, paint, select furniture, rugs and draperies, dry dishes, read to the
children and put t hem to bed, work in the garden, feed and dress and bathe the
children, attend PTA meetings, cook, buy clothes for his wife, buy groceries.
Ed doesn't like these chores: dusting, vacuuming, finishing jobs he's started,
hanging draperies, washing pots and pans and dishes, picking up after the
children, shoveling snow or mowing the lawn, changing diapers, taking the babysitter
home, doing the laundry, ironing. Ed, of course, does not do these chores.
For the sake of every member of the family, the family needs a head. This means
Father, not Mother.... Children of both sexes need to learn, recognize and respect
the abilities and functions of each sex.... He is not just a substitute mother, even
though he's ready and willing to do his share of bathing, feeding, comforting,
playing. He is a link with the outside world he works in. If in that world he is
interested, courageous, tolerant, constructive, he will pass on these values to his
There were many agonized editorial sessions, in those days at McCall's.
"Suddenly, everybody was looking for this spiritual significance in togetherness,
expecting us to make some mysterious religious movement out of the life
everyone had been leading for the last five years--crawling into the home, turning
their backs on the world--but we never could find a way of showing it that wasn't
a monstrosity dullness," a former McCall'seditor reminisces. "It always boiled
down to, goody, goody, goody, Daddy is out there in the garden barbecuing. We
put men in the fashion pictures and the food pictures, and even the perfume
pictures. But we were stifled by it editorially.
"We had articles by psychiatrists that we couldn't use because they would have
blown it wide open: all those couples propping their whole weight on their kids
but what else could you do with togetherness but child care? We were
pathetically grateful to find anything else where we could show father
photographed with mother. Sometimes, we used to wonder what would happen to
women, with men taking over the decorating, child care, cooking, all the things
that used to be hers alone. But we couldn't show women getting out of the home
and having a career. The irony is, what we meant to do was to stop editing for
women as women, and edit for the men and women together. We wanted to edit
for people, not women."
But forbidden to join man in the world, can women be people? Forbidden
independence, they finally are swallowed in an image of such passive dependence
that they want men to make the decisions, even in the home. The frantic illusion
that togetherness can impart a spiritual content to the dullness of domestic
routine, the need for a religious movement to make up for the lack of identity,
betrays the measure of women's loss and the emptiness of the image. Could
making men share the housework compensate women for their loss of the world?
Could vacuuming the living-room floor together give the housewife some
mysterious new purpose in life?
In 1956, at the peak of togetherness, the bored editors of McCall's ran a little
article called "The Mother Who Ran Away." To their amazement, it brought the
highest readership of any article they had ever run. "It was our moment of truth,"
said a former editor. "We suddenly realized that all those women at home with
their three and a half children were miserably unhappy."
But by then the new image of American woman, "Occupation: housewife," had
hardened into a mystique, unquestioned and permitting no questions, shaping the
very reality is distorted.
By the time I started writing for women's magazines, in the fifties, it was simply
taken for granted by editors, and accepted as an immutable fact of life by
writers, that women were not interested in politics, life outside the United States,
national issues, art, science, ideas, adventure, education, or even their own
communities, except where they could be sold through their emotions as wives
and mothers.
Politics, for women, became Mamie's clothes and the Nixons' home life. Out of
conscience, a sense of duty, the Ladies' Home Journal might run a series like
"Political Pilgrim's Progress," showing women trying to improve their children's
schools and playgrounds. But even approaching politics through mother love did
not really interest women, it was thought in the trade. Everyone knew those
readership percentages. An editor of Redbook ingeniously tried to bring the bomb
down to the feminine level by showing the emotions of a wife whose husband
sailed into a contaminated area.
"Women can't take an idea, an issue, pure," men who edited the mass women's
magazines agreed. "It had to be translated in terms they can understand as
women." This was so well understood by those who wrote for women's magazines
that a natural childbirth expert submitted an article to a leading woman's
magazine called "How to Have a Baby in a Atom Bomb Shelter." "The article was
not well written," an editor told me, "or we might have bought it." According to
the mystique, women, in their mysterious femininity, might be interested in the
concrete biological details of having a baby in a bomb shelter, but never in the
abstract idea of the bomb's power to destroy the human race.
Such a belief, of course, becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. In 1960, a perceptive
social psychologist showed me some sad statistics which seemed to prove
unmistakably that American women under thirty-five are not interested in
politics. "They may have the vote, but they don't dream about running for
office," he told me. "If you write a political piece, they won't read it. You have to
translate it into issues they can understand--romance, pregnancy, nursing, home
furnishings, clothes. Run a n article on the economy, or the race question, civil
rights, and you'd think that women had never heard of them."
Maybe they hadn't heard of them. Ideas are not like instincts of the blood that
spring into the mind intact. They are communicated by education, by the printed
word. The new young housewives, who leave high school or college to marry, do
not read books, the psychological surveys say. They only read magazines.
Magazines today assume women are not interested in ideas. But going back to
the bound volumes in the library, I found in the thirties and forties that the
mass-circulation magazines like Ladies' Home Journal carried hundreds of articles
about the world outside the home. "The first inside story of American diplomatic
relations preceding declared war"; "Can the U.S. Have Peace After This War?" by
Walter Lippmann; "Stalin at Midnight," by Harold Stassen; "General Stilwell
Reports on China"; articles about the last days of Czechoslovakia by Vincent
Sheean; the persecution of Jews in Germany; the New Deal; Carl Sandburg's
account of Lincoln's assassination; Faulkner's stories of Mississippi, and Margaret
Sanger's battle for birth control.
In the 1950's they printed virtually no articles except those that serviced women
as housewives, or described women as housewives, or permitted a purely feminine
identification like the Duchess of Windsor or Princess Margaret. "If we get an
article a bout a woman who does anything adventurous, out of the way,
something by herself, you know, we figure she must be terribly aggressive,
neurotic," a Ladies' Home Journal editor told me. Margaret Sanger would never
get in today.
In 1960, I saw statistics that showed that women under thirty-five could not
identify with a spirited heroine of a story who worked in an ad agency and
persuaded the boy to stay and fight for his principles in the big city instead of
running home to the security of a family business. Nor could these new young
housewives identify with a young minister, acting on his belief in defiance of
convention. But they had no trouble at all identifying with a young man
paralyzed at eighteen. ("I regained consciousness to discover that I could not
move or even speak. I could wiggle only one finger of one hand." With help from
faith and a psychiatrist, "I am now finding reasons to live as fully as possible.")
Does it say something about the new housewife readers that, as any editor can
testify, they can identify completely with the victims of blindness, deafness,
physical maiming, cerebral palsy, paralysis, cancer, or approaching death? Such
articles about people who cannot see or speak or move have been an enduring
staple of the women's magazines in the era of "Occupation: housewife." They are
told with infinitely realistic detail over and over again, replacing the articles
about the nation, the world, ideas, issues, art and science; replacing the stories
about adventurous spirited women. And whether the victim is man, woman or
child, whether the living death is incurable cancer or creeping paralysis, the
housewife reader can identify....
A baked potato is not as big as the world, and vacuuming the living room floor--
with or without makeup--is not work that takes enough thought or energy to
challenge any woman's full capacity. Women are human beings, not stuffed dolls,
not animals. Down through the ages man has known that he was set apart from
other animals by his mind's power to have an idea, a vision, and shape the future
to it. He shares a need for food and sex with other animals, but when he loves, he
loves as a man, and when he discovers and creates and shapes a future different
from his past, he is a man, a human being.
This is the real mystery: why did so many American women, with the ability and
education to discover and create, go back home again, to look for "something
more" in housework and rearing children? For paradoxically, in the same fifteen
years in which the spirited New Woman was replaced by the Happy Housewife,
the boundaries of the human world have widened, the pace of world change has
quickened, and the very nature of human reality has become increasingly free
from biological and material necessity. Does the mystique keep American woman
from growing with the world? Does it force her to deny reality, as a woman in a
mental hospital must deny reality to believe she is a queen? Does it doom women
to be displaced persons, if not virtual schizophrenics, in our complex, changing
It is more than a strange paradox that as all professions are finally open to
women in America, "career woman" has become a dirty word; that as higher
education becomes available to any woman with the capacity for it, education for
women has become so suspect that more and more drop out of high school and
college to marry and have babies; that as so many roles in modern society
become theirs for the taking, women so insistently confine themselves to one role.
Why, with the removal of all the legal, political, economic, and educational
barriers that once kept woman from being man's equal, a person in her own right,
an individual free to develop her own potential, should she accept this new image
which insists she is not a person but a "woman," by definition barred from the
freedom of human existence and a voice in human destiny?
The feminine mystique is so powerful that women grow up no longer knowing
that they have the desires and capacities the mystique forbids. But such a
mystique does not fasten itself on a whole nation in a few short years, reversing
the trends of a century, without cause. What gives the mystique its power? Why
did women go home again?
My purpose here is to offer a defence of existentialism against several reproaches that have been laid against it.

First, it has been reproached as an invitation to people to dwell in quietism of despair. For if every way to a solution is barred, one would have to regard any action in this world as entirely ineffective, and one would arrive finally at a contemplative philosophy. Moreover, since contemplation is a luxury, this would be only another bourgeois philosophy. This is, especially, the reproach made by the Communists.

From another quarter we are reproached for having underlined all that is ignominious in the human situation, for depicting what is mean, sordid or base to the neglect of certain things that possess charm and beauty and belong to the brighter side of human nature: for example, according to the Catholic critic, Mlle. Mercier, we forget how an infant smiles. Both from this side and from the other we are also reproached for leaving out of account the solidarity of mankind and considering man in isolation. And this, say the Communists, is because we base our doctrine upon pure subjectivity - upon the Cartesian "I think": which is the moment in which solitary man attains to himself; a position from which it is impossible to regain solidarity with other men who exist outside of the self. The ego cannot reach them through the cogito.

From the Christian side, we are reproached as people who deny the reality and seriousness of human affairs. For since we ignore the commandments of God and all values prescribed as eternal, nothing remains but what is strictly voluntary. Everyone can do what he likes, and will be incapable, from such a point of view, of condemning either the point of view or the action of anyone else.

It is to these various reproaches that I shall endeavour to reply today; that is why I have entitled this brief exposition "Existentialism is a Humanism." Many may be surprised at the mention of humanism in this connection, but we shall try to see in what sense we understand it. In any case, we can begin by saying that existentialism, in our sense of the word, is a doctrine that does render human life possible; a doctrine, also, which affirms that every truth and every action imply both an environment and a human subjectivity. The essential charge laid against us is, of course, that of over-emphasis upon the evil side of human life. I have lately been told of a lady who, whenever she lets slip a vulgar expression in a moment of nervousness, excuses herself by exclaiming, "I believe I am becoming an existentialist." So it appears that ugliness is being identified with existentialism. That is why some people say we are "naturalistic," and if we are, it is strange to see how much we scandalise and horrify them, for no one seems to be much frightened or humiliated nowadays by what is properly called naturalism. Those who can quite well keep down a novel by Zola such as La Terre are sickened as soon as they read an existentialist novel. Those who appeal to the wisdom of the people - which is a sad wisdom - find ours sadder still. And yet, what could be more disillusioned than such sayings as "Charity begins at home" or "Promote a rogue and he'll sue you for damage, knock him down and he'll do you homage"? We all know how many common sayings can be quoted to this effect, and they all mean much the same - that you must not oppose the powers that be; that you must not fight against superior force; must not meddle in matters that are above your station. Or that any action not in accordance with some tradition is mere romanticism; or that any undertaking which has not the support of proven experience is foredoomed to frustration; and that since experience has shown men to be invariably inclined to evil, there must be firm rules to restrain them, otherwise we shall have anarchy. It is, however, the people who are forever mouthing these dismal proverbs and, whenever they are told of some more or less repulsive action, say "How like human nature!" - it is these very people, always harping upon realism, who complain that existentialism is too gloomy a view of things. Indeed their excessive protests make me suspect that what is annoying them is not so much our pessimism, but, much more likely, our optimism. For at bottom, what is alarming in the doctrine that I am about to try to explain to you is - is it not? - that it confronts man with a possibility of choice. To verify this, let us review the whole question upon the strictly philosophic level. What, then, is this that we call existentialism?

Most of those who are making use of this word would be highly confused if required to explain its meaning. For since it has become fashionable, people cheerfully declare that this musician or that painter is "existentialist." A columnist in Clartes signs himself "The Existentialist," and, indeed, the word is now so loosely applied to so many things that it no longer means anything at all. It would appear that, for the lack of any novel doctrine such as that of surrealism, all those who are eager to join in the latest scandal or movement now seize upon this philosophy in which, however, they can find nothing to their purpose. For in truth this is of all teachings the least scandalous and the most austere: it is intended strictly for technicians and philosophers. All the same, it can easily be defined.

The question is only complicated because there are two kinds of existentialists. There are, on the one hand, the Christians, amongst whom I shall name Jaspers and Gabriel Marcel, both professed Catholics; and on the other the existential atheists, amongst whom we must place Heidegger as well as the French existentialists and myself. What they have in common is simply the fact that they believe that existence comes before essence - or, if you will, that we must begin from the subjective. What exactly do we mean by that?

If one considers an article of manufacture as, for example, a book or a paper-knife - one sees that it has been made by an artisan who had a conception of it; and he has paid attention, equally, to the conception of a paper-knife and to the pre-existent technique of production which is a part of that conception and is, at bottom, a formula. Thus the paper-knife is at the same time an article producible in a certain manner and one which, on the other hand, serves a definite purpose, for one cannot suppose that a man would produce a paper-knife without knowing what it was for. Let us say, then, of the paperknife that its essence - that is to say the sum of the formulae and the qualities which made its production and its definition possible - precedes its existence. The presence of such-and-such a paper-knife or book is thus determined before my eyes. Here, then, we are viewing the world from a technical standpoint, and we can say that production precedes existence.

When we think of God as the creator, we are thinking of him, most of the time, as a supernal artisan. Whatever doctrine we may be considering, whether it be a doctrine like that of Descartes, or of Leibnitz himself, we always imply that the will follows, more or less, from the understanding or at least accompanies it, so that when God creates he knows precisely what he is creating. Thus, the conception of man in the mind of God is comparable to that of the paper-knife in the mind of the artisan: God makes man according to a procedure and a conception, exactly as the artisan manufactures a paper-knife, following a definition and a formula. Thus each individual man is the realisation of a certain conception which dwells in the divine understanding. In the philosophic atheism of the eighteenth century, the notion of God is suppressed, but not, for all that, the idea that essence is prior to existence; something of that idea we still find everywhere, in Diderot, in Voltaire and even in Kant. Man possesses a human nature; that "human nature," which is the conception of human being, is found in every man; which means that each man is a particular example of a universal conception, the conception of Man. In Kant, this universality goes so far that the wild man of the woods, man in the state of nature and the bourgeois are all contained in the same definition and have the same fundamental qualities. Here again, the essence of man precedes that historic existence which we confront in experience.

Atheistic existentialism, of which I am a representative, declares with greater consistency that if God does not exist there is at least one being whose existence comes before its essence, a being which exists before it can be defined by any conception of it. That being is man or, as Heidegger has it, the human reality. What do we mean by saying that existence precedes essence? We mean that man first of all exists, encounters himself, surges up in the world - and defines himself afterwards. If man as the existentialist sees him is not definable, it is because to begin with he is nothing. He will not be anything until later, and then he will be what he makes of himself. Thus, there is no human nature, because there is no God to have a conception of it. Man simply is. Not that he is simply what he conceives himself to be, but he is what he wills, and as he conceives himself after already existing - as he wills to be after that leap towards existence. Man is nothing else but that which he makes of himself. That is the first principle of existentialism. And this is what people call its "subjectivity," using the word as a reproach against us. But what do we mean to say by this, but that man is of a greater dignity than a stone or a table? For we mean to say that man primarily exists - that man is, before all else, something which propels itself towards a future and is aware that it is doing so. Man is, indeed, a project which possesses a subjective life, instead of being a kind of moss, or a fungus or a cauliflower. Before that projection of the self nothing exists; not even in the heaven of intelligence: man will only attain existence when he is what he purposes to be. Not, however, what he may wish to be. For what we usually understand by wishing or willing is a conscious decision taken - much more often than not - after we have made ourselves what we are. I may wish to join a party, to write a book or to marry - but in such a case what is usually called my will is probably a manifestation of a prior and more spontaneous decision. If, however, it is true that existence is prior to essence, man is responsible for what he is. Thus, the first effect of existentialism is that it puts every man in possession of himself as he is, and places the entire responsibility for his existence squarely upon his own shoulders. And, when we say that man is responsible for himself, we do not mean that he is responsible only for his own individuality, but that he is responsible for all men. The word "subjectivism" is to be understood in two senses, and our adversaries play upon only one of them. Subjectivism means, on the one hand, the freedom of the individual subject and, on the other, that man cannot pass beyond human subjectivity. It is the latter which is the deeper meaning of existentialism. When we say that man chooses himself, we do mean that every one of us must choose himself; but by that we also mean that in choosing for himself he chooses for all men. For in effect, of all the actions a man may take in order to create himself as he wills to be, there is not one which is not creative, at the same time, of an image of man such as he believes he ought to be. To choose between this or that is at the same time to affirm the value of that which is chosen; for we are unable ever to choose the worse. What we choose is always the better; and nothing can be better for us unless it is better for all. If, moreover, existence precedes essence and we will to exist at the same time as we fashion our image, that image is valid for all and for the entire epoch in which we find ourselves. Our responsibility is thus much greater than we had supposed, for it concerns mankind as a whole. If I am a worker, for instance, I may choose to join a Christian rather than a Communist trade union. And if, by that membership, I choose to signify that resignation is, after all, the attitude that best becomes a man, that man's kingdom is not upon this earth, I do not commit myself alone to that view. Resignation is my will for everyone, and my action is, in consequence, a commitment on behalf of all mankind. Or if, to take a more personal case, I decide to marry and to have children, even though this decision proceeds simply from my situation, from my passion or my desire, I am thereby committing not only myself, but humanity as a whole, to the practice of monogamy. I am thus responsible for myself and for all men, and I am creating a certain image of man as I would have him to be. In fashioning myself I fashion man.

This may enable us to understand what is meant by such terms - perhaps a little grandiloquent - as anguish, abandonment and despair. As you will soon see, it is very simple. First, what do we mean by anguish? - The existentialist frankly states that man is in anguish. His meaning is as follows: When a man commits himself to anything, fully realising that he is not only choosing what he will be, but is thereby at the same time a legislator deciding for the whole of mankind - in such a moment a man cannot escape from the sense of complete and profound responsibility. There are many, indeed, who show no such anxiety. But we affirm that they are merely disguising their anguish or are in flight from it. Certainly, many people think that in what they are doing they commit no one but themselves to anything: and if you ask them, "What would happen if everyone did so?" they shrug their shoulders and reply, "Everyone does not do so." But in truth, one ought always to ask oneself what would happen if everyone did as one is doing; nor can one escape from that disturbing thought except by a kind of self-deception. The man who lies in self-excuse, by saying "Everyone will not do it" must be ill at ease in his conscience, for the act of lying implies the universal value which it denies. By its very disguise his anguish reveals itself. This is the anguish that Kierkegaard called "the anguish of Abraham." You know the story: An angel commanded Abraham to sacrifice his son; and obedience was obligatory, if it really was an angel who had appeared and said, "Thou, Abraham, shalt sacrifice thy son." But anyone in such a case would wonder, first, whether it was indeed an angel and secondly, whether I am really Abraham. Where are the proofs? A certain mad woman who suffered from hallucinations said that people were telephoning to her, and giving her orders. The doctor asked, "But who is it that speaks to you?" She replied: "He says it is God." And what, indeed, could prove to her that it was God? If an angel appears to me, what is the proof that it is an angel; or, if I hear voices, who can prove that they proceed from heaven and not from hell, or from my own subconsciousness or some pathological condition? Who can prove that they are really addressed to me?

Who, then, can prove that I am the proper person to impose, by my own choice, my conception of man upon mankind? I shall never find any proof whatever; there will be no sign to convince me of it. If a voice speaks to me, it is still I myself who must decide whether the voice is or is not that of an angel. If I regard a certain course of action as good, it is only I who choose to say that it is good and not bad. There is nothing to show that I am Abraham: nevertheless I also am obliged at every instant to perform actions which are examples. Everything happens to every man as though the whole human race had its eyes fixed upon what he is doing and regulated its conduct accordingly. So every man ought to say, "Am I really a man who has the right to act in such a manner that humanity regulates itself by what I do." If a man does not say that, he is dissembling his anguish. Clearly, the anguish with which we are concerned here is not one that could lead to quietism or inaction. It is anguish pure and simple, of the kind well known to all those who have borne responsibilities. When, for instance, a military leader takes upon himself the responsibility for an attack and sends a number of men to their death, he chooses to do it and at bottom he alone chooses. No doubt under a higher command, but its orders, which are more general, require interpretation by him and upon that interpretation depends the life of ten, fourteen or twenty men. In making the decision, he cannot but feel a certain anguish. All leaders know that anguish. It does not prevent their acting, on the contrary it is the very condition of their action, for the action presupposes that there is a plurality of possibilities, and in choosing one of these, they realize that it has value only because it is chosen. Now it is anguish of that kind which existentialism describes, and moreover, as we shall see, makes explicit through direct responsibility towards other men who are concerned. Far from being a screen which could separate us from action, it is a condition of action itself.

And when we speak of "abandonment" - a favorite word of Heidegger - we only mean to say that God does not exist, and that it is necessary to draw the consequences of his absence right to the end. The existentialist is strongly opposed to a certain type of secular moralism which seeks to suppress God at the least possible expense. Towards 1880, when the French professors endeavoured to formulate a secular morality, they said something like this: God is a useless and costly hypothesis, so we will do without it. However, if we are to have morality, a society and a law-abiding world, it is essential that certain values should be taken seriously; they must have an a priori existence ascribed to them. It must be considered obligatory a priori to be honest, not to lie, not to beat one's wife, to bring up children and so forth; so we are going to do a little work on this subject, which will enable us to show that these values exist all the same, inscribed in an intelligible heaven although, of course, there is no God. In other words - and this is, I believe, the purport of all that we in France call radicalism - nothing will be changed if God does not exist; we shall rediscover the same norms of honesty, progress and humanity, and we shall have disposed of God as an out-of-date hypothesis which will die away quietly of itself. The existentialist, on the contrary, finds it extremely embarrassing that God does not exist, for there disappears with Him all possibility of finding values in an intelligible heaven. There can no longer be any good a priori, since there is no infinite and perfect consciousness to think it. It is nowhere written that "the good" exists, that one must be honest or must not lie, since we are now upon the plane where there are only men. Dostoevsky once wrote: "If God did not exist, everything would be permitted"; and that, for existentialism, is the starting point. Everything is indeed permitted if God does not exist, and man is in consequence forlorn, for he cannot find anything to depend upon either within or outside himself. He discovers forthwith, that he is without excuse. For if indeed existence precedes essence, one will never be able to explain one's action by reference to a given and specific human nature; in other words, there is no determinism - man is free, man is freedom. Nor, on the other hand, if God does not exist, are we provided with any values or commands that could legitimise our behaviour. Thus we have neither behind us, nor before us in a luminous realm of values, any means of justification or excuse. - We are left alone, without excuse. That is what I mean when I say that man is condemned to be free. Condemned, because he did not create himself, yet is nevertheless at liberty, and from the moment that he is thrown into this world he is responsible for everything he does. The existentialist does not believe in the power of passion. He will never regard a grand passion as a destructive torrent upon which a man is swept into certain actions as by fate, and which, therefore, is an excuse for them. He thinks that man is responsible for his passion. Neither will an existentialist think that a man can find help through some sign being vouchsafed upon earth for his orientation: for he thinks that the man himself interprets the sign as he chooses. He thinks that every man, without any support or help whatever, is condemned at every instant to invent man. As Ponge has written in a very fine article, "Man is the future of man." That is exactly true. Only, if one took this to mean that the future is laid up in Heaven, that God knows what it is, it would be false, for then it would no longer even be a future. If, however, it means that, whatever man may now appear to be, there is a future to be fashioned, a virgin future that awaits him - then it is a true saying. But in the present one is forsaken.

As an example by which you may the better understand this state of abandonment, I will refer to the case of a pupil of mine, who sought me out in the following circumstances. His father was quarrelling with his mother and was also inclined to be a "collaborator"; his elder brother had been killed in the German offensive of 1940 and this young man, with a sentiment somewhat primitive but generous, burned to avenge him. His mother was living alone with him, deeply afflicted by the semi-treason of his father and by the death of her eldest son, and her one consolation was in this young man. But he, at this moment, had the choice between going to England to join the Free French Forces or of staying near his mother and helping her to live. He fully realised that this woman lived only for him and that his disappearance - or perhaps his death - would plunge her into despair. He also realised that, concretely and in fact, every action he performed on his mother's behalf would be sure of effect in the sense of aiding her to live, whereas anything he did in order to go and fight would be an ambiguous action which might vanish like water into sand and serve no purpose. For instance, to set out for England he would have to wait indefinitely in a Spanish camp on the way through Spain; or, on arriving in England or in Algiers he might be put into an office to fill up forms. Consequently, he found himself confronted by two very different modes of action; the one concrete, immediate, but directed towards only one individual; and the other an action addressed to an end infinitely greater, a national collectivity, but for that very reason ambiguous - and it might be frustrated on the way. At the same time, he was hesitating between two kinds of morality; on the one side the morality of sympathy, of personal devotion and, on the other side, a morality of wider scope but of more debatable validity. He had to choose between those two. What could help him to choose? Could the Christian doctrine? No. Christian doctrine says: Act with charity, love your neighbour, deny yourself for others, choose the way which is hardest, and so forth. But which is the harder road? To whom does one owe the more brotherly love, the patriot or the mother? Which is the more useful aim, the general one of fighting in and for the whole community, or the precise aim of helping one particular person to live? Who can give an answer to that a priori? No one. Nor is it given in any ethical scripture. The Kantian ethic says, Never regard another as a means, but always as an end. Very well; if I remain with my mother, I shall be regarding her as the end and not as a means: but by the same token I am in danger of treating as means those who are fighting on my behalf; and the converse is also true, that if I go to the aid of the combatants I shall be treating them as the end at the risk of treating my mother as a means. If values are uncertain, if they are still too abstract to determine the particular, concrete case under consideration, nothing remains but to trust in our instincts. That is what this young man tried to do; and when I saw him he said, "In the end, it is feeling that counts; the direction in which it is really pushing me is the one I ought to choose. If I feel that I love my mother enough to sacrifice everything else for her - my will to be avenged, all my longings for action and adventure then I stay with her. If, on the contrary, I feel that my love for her is not enough, I go." But how does one estimate the strength of a feeling? The value of his feeling for his mother was determined precisely by the fact that he was standing by her. I may say that I love a certain friend enough to sacrifice such or such a sum of money for him, but I cannot prove that unless I have done it. I may say, "I love my mother enough to remain with her," if actually I have remained with her. I can only estimate the strength of this affection if I have performed an action by which it is defined and ratified. But if I then appeal to this affection to justify my action, I find myself drawn into a vicious circle.

Moreover, as Gide has very well said, a sentiment which is play-acting and one which is vital are two things that are hardly distinguishable one from another. To decide that I love my mother by staying beside her, and to play a comedy the upshot of which is that I do so - these are nearly the same thing. In other words, feeling is formed by the deeds that one does; therefore I cannot consult it as a guide to action. And that is to say that I can neither seek within myself for an authentic impulse to action, nor can I expect, from some ethic, formulae that will enable me to act. You may say that the youth did, at least, go to a professor to ask for advice. But if you seek counsel - from a priest, for example you have selected that priest; and at bottom you already knew, more or less, what he would advise. In other words, to choose an adviser is nevertheless to commit oneself by that choice. If you are a Christian, you will say, consult a priest; but there are collaborationists, priests who are resisters and priests who wait for the tide to turn: which will you choose? Had this young man chosen a priest of the resistance, or one of the collaboration, he would have decided beforehand the kind of advice he was to receive. Similarly, in coming to me, he knew what advice I should give him, and I had but one reply to make. You are free, therefore choose, that is to say, invent. No rule of general morality can show you what you ought to do: no signs are vouchsafed in this world. The Catholics will reply, "Oh, but they are!" Very well; still, it is I myself, in every case, who have to interpret the signs. While I was imprisoned, I made the acquaintance of a somewhat remarkable man, a Jesuit, who had become a member of that order in the following manner. In his life he had suffered a succession of rather severe setbacks. His father had died when he was a child, leaving him in poverty, and he had been awarded a free scholarship in a religious institution, where he had been made continually to feel that he was accepted for charity's sake, and, in consequence, he had been denied several of those distinctions and honours which gratify children. Later, about the age of eighteen, he came to grief in a sentimental affair; and finally, at twenty-two - this was a trifle in itself, but it was the last drop that overflowed his cup - he failed in his military examination. This young man, then, could regard himself as a total failure: it was a sign - but a sign of what? He might have taken refuge in bitterness or despair. But he took it - very cleverly for him - as a sign that he was not intended for secular success, and that only the attainments of religion, those of sanctity and of faith, were accessible to him. He interpreted his record as a message from God, and became a member of the Order. Who can doubt but that this decision as to the meaning of the sign was his, and his alone? One could have drawn quite different conclusions from such a series of reverses - as, for example, that he had better become a carpenter or a revolutionary. For the decipherment of the sign, however, he bears the entire responsibility. That is what "abandonment" implies, that we ourselves decide our being. And with this abandonment goes anguish.

As for "despair," the meaning of this expression is extremely simple. It merely means that we limit ourselves to a reliance upon that which is within our wills, or within the sum of the probabilities which render our action feasible. Whenever one wills anything, there are always these elements of probability. If I am counting upon a visit from a friend, who may be coming by train or by tram, I presuppose that the train will arrive at the appointed time, or that the tram will not be derailed. I remain in the realm of possibilities; but one does not rely upon any possibilities beyond those that are strictly concerned in one's action. Beyond the point at which the possibilities under consideration cease to affect my action, I ought to disinterest myself. For there is no God and no prevenient design, which can adapt the world and all its possibilities to my will. When Descartes said, "Conquer yourself rather than the world," what he meant was, at bottom, the same - that we should act without hope.

Marxists, to whom I have said this, have answered: "Your action is limited, obviously, by your death; but you can rely upon the help of others. That is, you can count both upon what the others are doing to help you elsewhere, as in China and in Russia, and upon what they will do later, after your death, to take up your action and carry it forward to its final accomplishment which will be the revolution. Moreover you must rely upon this; not to do so is immoral." To this I rejoin, first, that I shall always count upon my comrades-in-arms in the struggle, in so far as they are committed, as I am, to a definite, common cause; and in the unity of a party or a group which I can more or less control - that is, in which I am enrolled as a militant and whose movements at every moment are known to me. In that respect, to rely upon the unity and the will of the party is exactly like my reckoning that the train will run to time or that the tram will not be derailed. But I cannot count upon men whom I do not know, I cannot base my confidence upon human goodness or upon man's interest in the good of society, seeing that man is free and that there is no human nature which I can take as foundational. I do not know where the Russian revolution will lead. I can admire it and take it as an example in so far as it is evident, today, that the proletariat plays a part in Russia which it has attained in no other nation. But I cannot affirm that this will necessarily lead to the triumph of the proletariat: I must confine myself to what I can see. Nor can I be sure that comrades-in-arms will take up my work after my death and carry it to the maximum perfection, seeing that those men are free agents and will freely decide, tomorrow, what man is then to be. Tomorrow, after my death, some men may decide to establish Fascism, and the others may be so cowardly or so slack as to let them do so. If so, Fascism will then be the truth of man, and so much the worse for us. In reality, things will be such as men have decided they shall be. Does that mean that I should abandon myself to quietism? No. First I ought to commit myself and then act my commitment, according to the time-honoured formula that "one need not hope in order to undertake one's work." Nor does this mean that I should not belong to a party, but only that I should be without illusion and that I should do what I can. For instance, if I ask myself "Will the social ideal as such, ever become a reality?" I cannot tell, I only know that whatever may be in my power to make it so, I shall do; beyond that, I can count upon nothing.

Quietism is the attitude of people who say, "let others do what I cannot do." The doctrine I am presenting before you is precisely the opposite of this, since it declares that there is no reality except in action. It goes further, indeed, and adds, "Man is nothing else but what he purposes, he exists only in so far as he realises himself, he is therefore nothing else but the sum of his actions, nothing else but what his life is." Hence we can well understand why some people are horrified by our teaching. For many have but one resource to sustain them in their misery, and that is to think, "Circumstances have been against me, I was worthy to be something much better than I have been. I admit I have never had a great love or a great friendship; but that is because I never met a man or a woman who were worthy of it; if I have not written any very good books, it is because I had not the leisure to do so; or, if I have had no children to whom I could devote myself it is because I did not find the man I could have lived with. So there remains within me a wide range of abilities, inclinations and potentialities, unused but perfectly viable, which endow me with a worthiness that could never be inferred from the mere history of my actions." But in reality and for the existentialist, there is no love apart from the deeds of love; no potentiality of love other than that which is manifested in loving; there is no genius other than that which is expressed in works of art. The genius of Proust is the totality of the works of Proust; the genius of Racine is the series of his tragedies, outside of which there is nothing. Why should we attribute to Racine the capacity to write yet another tragedy when that is precisely what he did not write? In life, a man commits himself, draws his own portrait and there is nothing but that portrait. No doubt this thought may seem comfortless to one who has not made a success of his life. On the other hand, it puts everyone in a position to understand that reality alone is reliable; that dreams, expectations and hopes serve to define a man only as deceptive dreams, abortive hopes, expectations unfulfilled; that is to say, they define him negatively, not positively. Nevertheless, when one says, "You are nothing else but what you live," it does not imply that an artist is to be judged solely by his works of art, for a thousand other things contribute no less to his definition as a man. What we mean to say is that a man is no other than a series of undertakings, that he is the sum, the organisation, the set of relations that constitute these undertakings.

In the light of all this, what people reproach us with is not, after all, our pessimism, but the sternness of our optimism. If people condemn our works of fiction, in which we describe characters that are base, weak, cowardly and sometimes even frankly evil, it is not only because those characters are base, weak, cowardly or evil. For suppose that, like Zola, we showed that the behaviour of these characters was caused by their heredity, or by the action of their environment upon them, or by determining factors, psychic or organic. People would be reassured, they would say, "You see, that is what we are like, no one can do anything about it." But the existentialist, when he portrays a coward, shows him as responsible for his cowardice. He is not like that on account of a cowardly heart or lungs or cerebrum, he has not become like that through his physiological organism; he is like that because he has made himself into a coward by actions. There is no such thing as a cowardly temperament. There are nervous temperaments; there is what is called impoverished blood, and there are also rich temperaments. But the man whose blood is poor is not a coward for all that, for what produces cowardice is the act of giving up or giving way; and a temperament is not an action. A coward is defined by the deed that he has done. What people feel obscurely, and with horror, is that the coward as we present him is guilty of being a coward. What people would prefer would be to be born either a coward or a hero. One of the charges most often laid against the Chemins de la Liberté is something like this: "But, after all, these people being so base, how can you make them into heroes?" That objection is really rather comic, for it implies that people are born heroes: and that is, at bottom, what such people would like to think. If you are born cowards, you can be quite content, you can do nothing about it and you will be cowards all your lives whatever you do; and if you are born heroes you can again be quite content; you will be heroes all your lives eating and drinking heroically. Whereas the existentialist says that the coward makes himself cowardly, the hero makes himself heroic; and that there is always a possibility for the coward to give up cowardice and for the hero to stop being a hero. What counts is the total commitment, and it is not by a particular case or particular action that you are committed altogether.

We have now, I think, dealt with a certain number of the reproaches against existentialism. You have seen that it cannot be regarded as a philosophy of quietism since it defines man by his action; nor as a pessimistic description of man, for no doctrine is more optimistic, the destiny of man is placed within himself. Nor is it an attempt to discourage man from action since it tells him that there is no hope except in his action, and that the one thing which permits him to have life is the deed. Upon this level therefore, what we are considering is an ethic of action and self-commitment. However, we are still reproached, upon these few data, for confining man within his individual subjectivity. There again people badly misunderstand us.

Our point of departure is, indeed, the subjectivity of the individual, and that for strictly philosophic reasons. It is not because we are bourgeois, but because we seek to base our teaching upon the truth, and not upon a collection of fine theories, full of hope but lacking real foundations. And at the point of departure there cannot be any other truth than this, I think, therefore I am, which is the absolute truth of consciousness as it attains to itself. Every theory which begins with man, outside of this moment of self-attainment, is a theory which thereby suppresses the truth, for outside of the Cartesian cogito, all objects are no more than probable, and any doctrine of probabilities which is not attached to a truth will crumble into nothing. In order to define the probable one must possess the true. Before there can be any truth whatever, then, there must be an absolute truth, and there is such a truth which is simple, easily attained and within the reach of everybody; it consists in one's immediate sense of one's self.

In the second place, this theory alone is compatible with the dignity of man, it is the only one which does not make man into an object. All kinds of materialism lead one to treat every man including oneself as an object - that is, as a set of pre-determined reactions, in no way different from the patterns of qualities and phenomena which constitute a table, or a chair or a stone. Our aim is precisely to establish the human kingdom as a pattern of values in distinction from the material world. But the subjectivity which we thus postulate as the standard of truth is no narrowly individual subjectivism, for as we have demonstrated, it is not only one's own self that one discovers in the cogito, but those of others too. Contrary to the philosophy of Descartes, contrary to that of Kant, when we say "I think" we are attaining to ourselves in the presence of the other, and we are just as certain of the other as we are of ourselves. Thus the man who discovers himself directly in the cogito also discovers all the others, and discovers them as the condition of his own existence. He recognises that he cannot be anything (in the sense in which one says one is spiritual, or that one is wicked or jealous) unless others recognise him as such. I cannot obtain any truth whatsoever about myself, except through the mediation of another. The other is indispensable to my existence, and equally so to any knowledge I can have of myself. Under these conditions, the intimate discovery of myself is at the same time the revelation of the other as a freedom which confronts mine, and which cannot think or will without doing so either for or against me. Thus, at once, we find ourselves in a world which is, let us say, that of "inter-subjectivity". It is in this world that man has to decide what he is and what others are.

Furthermore, although it is impossible to find in each and every man a universal essence that can be called human nature, there is nevertheless a human universality of condition. It is not by chance that the thinkers of today are so much more ready to speak of the condition than of the nature of man. By his condition they understand, with more or less clarity, all the limitations which a priori define man's fundamental situation in the universe. His historical situations are variable: man may be born a slave in a pagan society or may be a feudal baron, or a proletarian. But what never vary are the necessities of being in the world, of having to labor and to die there. These limitations are neither subjective nor objective, or rather there is both a subjective and an objective aspect of them. Objective, because we meet with them everywhere and they are everywhere recognisable: and subjective because they are lived and are nothing if man does not live them - if, that is to say, he does not freely determine himself and his existence in relation to them. And, diverse though man's purpose may be, at least none of them is wholly foreign to me, since every human purpose presents itself as an attempt either to surpass these limitations, or to widen them, or else to deny or to accommodate oneself to them. Consequently every purpose, however individual it may be, is of universal value. Every purpose, even that of a Chinese, an Indian or a Negro, can be understood by a European. To say it can be understood, means that the European of 1945 may be striving out of a certain situation towards the same limitations in the same way, and that he may reconceive in himself the purpose of the Chinese, of the Indian or the African. In every purpose there is universality, in this sense that every purpose is comprehensible to every man. Not that this or that purpose defines man for ever, but that it may be entertained again and again. There is always some way of understanding an idiot, a child, a primitive man or a foreigner if one has sufficient information. In this sense we may say that there is a human universality, but it is not something given; it is being perpetually made. I make this universality in choosing myself; I also make it by understanding the purpose of any other man, of whatever epoch. This absoluteness of the act of choice does not alter the relativity of each epoch.

What is at the very heart and center of existentialism, is the absolute character of the free commitment, by which every man realises himself in realising a type of humanity - a commitment always understandable, to no matter whom in no matter what epoch - and its bearing upon the relativity of the cultural pattern which may result from such absolute commitment. One must observe equally the relativity of Cartesianism and the absolute character of the Cartesian commitment. In this sense you may say, if you like, that every one of us makes the absolute by breathing, by eating, by sleeping or by behaving in any fashion whatsoever. There is no difference between free being - being as self-committal, as existence choosing its essence - and absolute being. And there is no difference whatever between being as an absolute, temporarily localised that is, localised in history - and universally intelligible being.

This does not completely refute the charge of subjectivism. Indeed that objection appears in several other forms, of which the first is as follows. People say to us, "Then it does not matter what you do," and they say this in various ways.

First they tax us with anarchy; then they say, "You cannot judge others, for there is no reason for preferring one purpose to another"; finally, they may say, "Everything being merely voluntary in this choice of yours, you give away with one hand what you pretend to gain with the other." These three are not very serious objections. As to the first, to say that it does not matter what you choose is not correct. In one sense choice is possible, but what is not possible is not to choose. I can always choose, but I must know that if I do not choose, that is still a choice. This, although it may appear merely formal, is of great importance as a limit to fantasy and caprice. For, when I confront a real situation - for example, that I am a sexual being, able to have relations with a being of the other sex and able to have children - I am obliged to choose my attitude to it, and in every respect I bear the responsibility of the choice which, in committing myself, also commits the whole of humanity. Even if my choice is determined by no a priori value whatever, it can have nothing to do with caprice: and if anyone thinks that this is only Gide's theory of the acte gratuit over again, he has failed to see the enormous difference between this theory and that of Gide. Gide does not know what a situation is, his "act" is one of pure caprice. In our view, on the contrary, man finds himself in an organised situation in which he is himself involved: his choice involves mankind in its entirety, and he cannot avoid choosing. Either he must remain single, or he must marry without having children, or he must marry and have children. In any case, and whichever he may choose, it is impossible for him, in respect of this situation, not to take complete responsibility. Doubtless he chooses without reference to any pre-established value, but it is unjust to tax him with caprice. Rather let us say that the moral choice is comparable to the construction of a work of art.

But here I must at once digress to make it quite clear that we are not propounding an aesthetic morality, for our adversaries are disingenuous enough to reproach us even with that. I mention the work of art only by way of comparison. That being understood, does anyone reproach an artist, when he paints a picture, for not following rules established a priori. Does one ever ask what is the picture that he ought to paint? As everyone knows, there is no pre-defined picture for him to make; the artist applies himself to the composition of a picture, and the picture that ought to be made is precisely that which he will have made. As everyone knows, there are no aesthetic values a priori, but there are values which will appear in due course in the coherence of the picture, in the relation between the will to create and the finished work. No one can tell what the painting of tomorrow will be like; one cannot judge a painting until it is done. What has that to do with morality? We are in the same creative situation. We never speak of a work of art as irresponsible; when we are discussing a canvas by Picasso, we understand very well that the composition became what it is at the time when he was painting it, and that his works are part and parcel of his entire life.

It is the same upon the plane of morality. There is this in common between art and morality, that in both we have to do with creation and invention. We cannot decide a priori what it is that should be done. I think it was made sufficiently clear to you in the case of that student who came to see me, that to whatever ethical system he might appeal, the Kantian or any other, he could find no sort of guidance whatever; he was obliged to invent the law for himself. Certainly we cannot say that this man, in choosing to remain with his mother - that is, in taking sentiment, personal devotion and concrete charity as his moral foundations - would be making an irresponsible choice, nor could we do so if he preferred the sacrifice of going away to England. Man makes himself; he is not found ready-made; he makes himself by the choice of his morality, and he cannot but choose a morality, such is the pressure of circumstances upon him. We define man only in relation to his commitments; it is therefore absurd to reproach us for irresponsibility in our choice.

In the second place, people say to us, "You are unable to judge others." This is true in one sense and false in another. It is true in this sense, that whenever a man chooses his purpose and his commitment in all clearness and in all sincerity, whatever that purpose may be, it is impossible for him to prefer another. It is true in the sense that we do not believe in progress. Progress implies amelioration; but man is always the same, facing a situation which is always changing, and choice remains always a choice in the situation. The moral problem has not changed since the time when it was a choice between slavery and anti-slavery - from the time of the war of Secession, for example, until the present moment when one chooses between the M.R.P. [Mouvement Republicain Poputaire] and the Communists.

We can judge, nevertheless, for, as I have said, one chooses in view of others, and in view of others one chooses himself. One can judge, first - and perhaps this is not a judgment of value, but it is a logical judgment - that in certain cases choice is founded upon an error, and in others upon the truth. One can judge a man by saying that he deceives himself. Since we have defined the situation of man as one of free choice, without excuse and without help, any man who takes refuge behind the excuse of his passions, or by inventing some deterministic doctrine, is a self-deceiver. One may object: "But why should he not choose to deceive himself?" I reply that it is not for me to judge him morally, but I define his self-deception as an error. Here one cannot avoid pronouncing a judgment of truth. The self-deception is evidently a falsehood, because it is a dissimulation of man's complete liberty of commitment. Upon this same level, I say that it is also a self-deception if I choose to declare that certain values are incumbent upon me; I am in contradiction with myself if I will these values and at the same time say that they impose themselves upon me. If anyone says to me, "And what if I wish to deceive myself?" I answer, "There is no reason why you should not, but I declare that you are doing so, and that the attitude of strict consistency alone is that of good faith." Furthermore, I can pronounce a moral judgment. For I declare that freedom, in respect of concrete circumstances, can have no other end and aim but itself; and when once a man has seen that values depend upon himself, in that state of forsakenness he can will only one thing, and that is freedom as the foundation of all values. That does not mean that he wills it in the abstract: it simply means that the actions of men of good faith have, as their ultimate significance, the quest of freedom itself as such. A man who belongs to some communist or revolutionary society wills certain concrete ends, which imply the will to freedom, but that freedom is willed in community. We will freedom for freedom's sake, in and through particular circumstances. And in thus willing freedom, we discover that it depends entirely upon the freedom of others and that the freedom of others depends upon our own. Obviously, freedom as the definition of a man does not depend upon others, but as soon as there is a commitment, I am obliged to will the liberty of others at the same time as my own. I cannot make liberty my aim unless I make that of others equally my aim. Consequently, when I recognise, as entirely authentic, that man is a being whose existence precedes his essence, and that he is a free being who cannot, in any circumstances, but will his freedom, at the same time I realize that I cannot not will the freedom of others. Thus, in the name of that will to freedom which is implied in freedom itself, I can form judgments upon those who seek to hide from themselves the wholly voluntary nature of their existence and its complete freedom. Those who hide from this total freedom, in a guise of solemnity or with deterministic excuses, I shall call cowards. Others, who try to show that their existence is necessary, when it is merely an accident of the appearance of the human race on earth - I shall call scum. But neither cowards nor scum can be identified except upon the plane of strict authenticity. Thus, although the content of morality is variable, a certain form of this morality is universal. Kant declared that freedom is a will both to itself and to the freedom of others. Agreed: but he thinks that the formal and the universal suffice for the constitution of a morality. We think, on the contrary, that principles that are too abstract break down when we come to defining action. To take once again the case of that student; by what authority, in the name of what golden rule of morality, do you think he could have decided, in perfect peace of mind, either to abandon his mother or to remain with her? There are no means of judging. The content is always concrete, and therefore unpredictable; it has always to be invented. The one thing that counts, is to know whether the invention is made in the name of freedom.

Let us, for example, examine the two following cases, and you will see how far they are similar in spite of their difference. Let us take The Mill on the Floss. We find here a certain young woman, Maggie Tulliver, who is an incarnation of the value of passion and is aware of it. She is in love with a young man, Stephen, who is engaged to another, an insignificant young woman. This Maggie Tulliver, instead of heedlessly seeking her own happiness, chooses in the name of human solidarity to sacrifice herself and to give up the man she loves. On the other hand, La Sanseverina in Stendhal's Chartreuse de Parme, believing that it is passion which endows man with his real value, would have declared that a grand passion justifies its sacrifices, and must be preferred to the banality of such conjugal love as would unite Stephen to the little goose he was engaged to marry. It is the latter that she would have chosen to sacrifice in realising her own happiness, and, as Stendhal shows, she would also sacrifice herself upon the plane of passion if life made that demand upon her. Here we are facing two clearly opposed moralities; but I claim that they are equivalent, seeing that in both cases the overruling aim is freedom. You can imagine two attitudes exactly similar in effect, in that one girl might prefer, in resignation, to give up her lover while the other preferred, in fulfilment of sexual desire, to ignore the prior engagement of the man she loved; and, externally, these two cases might appear the same as the two we have just cited, while being in fact entirely different. The attitude of La Sanseverina is much nearer to that of Maggie Tulliver than to one of careless greed. Thus, you see, the second objection is at once true and false. One can choose anything, but only if it is upon the plane of free commitment.

The third objection, stated by saying, "You take with one hand what you give with the other," means, at bottom, "your values are not serious, since you choose them yourselves." To that I can only say that I am very sorry that it should be so; but if I have excluded God the Father, there must be somebody to invent values. We have to take things as they are. And moreover, to say that we invent values means neither more nor less than this; that there is no sense in life a priori. Life is nothing until it is lived; but it is yours to make sense of, and the value of it is nothing else but the sense that you choose. Therefore, you can see that there is a possibility of creating a human community. I have been reproached for suggesting that existentialism is a form of humanism: people have said to me, "But you have written in your Nausée that the humanists are wrong, you have even ridiculed a certain type of humanism, why do you now go back upon that?" In reality, the word humanism has two very different meanings. One may understand by humanism a theory which upholds man as the end-in-itself and as the supreme value. Humanism in this sense appears, for instance, in Cocteau's story Round the World in 80 Hours, in which one of the characters declares, because he is flying over mountains in an airplane, "Man is magnificent!" This signifies that although I personally have not built aeroplanes, I have the benefit of those particular inventions and that I personally, being a man, can consider myself responsible for, and honoured by, achievements that are peculiar to some men. It is to assume that we can ascribe value to man according to the most distinguished deeds of certain men. That kind of humanism is absurd, for only the dog or the horse would be in a position to pronounce a general judgment upon man and declare that he is magnificent, which they have never been such fools as to do - at least, not as far as I know. But neither is it admissible that a man should pronounce judgment upon Man. Existentialism dispenses with any judgment of this sort: an existentialist will never take man as the end, since man is still to be determined. And we have no right to believe that humanity is something to which we could set up a cult, after the manner of Auguste Comte. The cult of humanity ends in Comtian humanism, shut-in upon itself, and - this must be said - in Fascism. We do not want a humanism like that.

But there is another sense of the word, of which the fundamental meaning is this: Man is all the time outside of himself: it is in projecting and losing himself beyond himself that he makes man to exist; and, on the other hand, it is by pursuing transcendent aims that he himself is able to exist. Since man is thus self-surpassing, and can grasp objects only in relation to his self-surpassing, he is himself the heart and center of his transcendence. There is no other universe except the human universe, the universe of human subjectivity. This relation of transcendence as constitutive of man (not in the sense that God is transcendent, but in the sense of self-surpassing) with subjectivity (in such a sense that man is not shut up in himself but forever present in a human universe) - it is this that we call existential humanism. This is humanism, because we remind man that there is no legislator but himself; that he himself, thus abandoned, must decide for himself; also because we show that it is not by turning back upon himself, but always by seeking, beyond himself, an aim which is one of liberation or of some particular realisation, that man can realize himself as truly human.

You can see from these few reflections that nothing could be more unjust than the objections people raise against us. Existentialism is nothing else but an attempt to draw the full conclusions from a consistently atheistic position. Its intention is not in the least that of plunging men into despair. And if by despair one means as the Christians do - any attitude of unbelief, the despair of the existentialists is something different. Existentialism is not atheist in the sense that it would exhaust itself in demonstrations of the non-existence of God. It declares, rather, that even if God existed that would make no difference from its point of view. Not that we believe God does exist, but we think that the real problem is not that of His existence; what man needs is to find himself again and to understand that nothing can save him from himself, not even a valid proof of the existence of God. In this sense existentialism is optimistic. It is a doctrine of action, and it is only by self-deception, by confining their own despair with ours that Christians can describe us as without hope.

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