Youth vs. Elderly in Fire in the blood by Irene Nemirovsky
EWRT 1B Fall 2015 Essay #4: Fire in the Blood : Fire in the Blood is a story about passion, which is described as an irresistible force, overwhelming in youth, forgotten in maturity. The novel is set in a community very similar to that of Issy-l’Evêque. The principal inhabitants of this unnamed region are landowners, the often wealthy paysans who made up the French rural social class, taciturn men and women in whom respect for land and property is deeply ingrained. “Everyone lives in his own house, on his own land, distrusts his neighbors, harvests his wheat, counts his money and doesn’t give a thought to the rest of the world.” The story is told by Silvestre (commonly known as Silvio for his ‘gondolier’ good looks). Driven by “the fire in his blood,” Silvio has wasted his inheritance in travel and adventure, gradually selling off his lands to more prudent neighbors, and he now lives in a simple cottage in the woods. He is not unhappy. The fever that drove him as a young man has burned out; now he is content to doze in his chair, a bottle of wine warming on the hearth. Silvio’s tranquility is disturbed when a young mill-owner is drowned and rumors begin to spread of a fight between rival lovers, and a possible murder. As suspicion and conjecture ripple through the neighborhood, Silvio abandons his role as onlooker in order to protect Colette, the mill-owner’s wife and daughter of his cousin Hélène, and her family from a police investigation. In confronting the passions of the younger generation, he is forced to look back on his own longburied love affair, and the novel ends with Silvio’s account of the torments and pleasures of love. In her notes for this book, Némirovsky called it “The Young and the Old”. The gap between the generations is a major theme: while the young are rocked by emotions that they seem unable to resist or control, the older generation look back at their own youthful passions with incredulity. A second, related theme, explored through Némirovsky’s portrait of Colette’s parents, is the “austerity, purity of parents who were guilty when they were young.” The intimacy and happiness of Hélène and François’s marriage, and the warmth and welcome of their home, are contrasted with the “hovel” in which Silvio has ended up, and the isolation and silence of his bachelor life. But even the devoted Hélène has her secrets: a love affair and an illegitimate child. “Who knows the real woman? The lover or the husband?” asks Silvio, when Hélène dismisses her youthful indiscretion as a moment of madness. In Némirovsky’s thoughtful exploration of love and marriage, the ardent girl and the blameless matron are ‘subtly interwoven and inseparable’. But, marriage creates a stronger bond than even the most passionate sexual affair. For this essay, you are to explore the contrasts between the young and the old. What does age/time seem to have taught the elders in the novel, and what do the youth have to learn? Pick any philosophical outlook, whether it is love, human nature, the world in general, and examine how each group looks at it (or all of them). Some of the philosophical outlooks can also be themes in the novel. Remember that you are looking at contrasting views. Your essay should be at least 4 full pages in length.
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