Friday 7 October 2022

A happiness sought by fools

Madame de Renal tried to work, and fell into a deep sleep; when she awoke, she was less alarmed than she should have been. She was too happy to be able to take anything amiss. Artless and innocent as she was, this honest provincial had never tormented her soul in an attempt to wring from it some little sensibility to some novel shade of sentiment or distress. Entirely absorbed, before Julien came, in that mass of work which, outside Paris, is the lot of a good wife and mother, Madame de Renal thought about the passions, as we think about the lottery: a certain disappointment and a happiness sought by fools alone.

Stendhal - The Red and the Black (1830)

In modern times we appear to have become entirely familiar with people who torment their souls in an attempt to wring from it some little sensibility to some novel shade of sentiment or distress. Clearly this is not a recent aspect of social life if Stendhal could describe it so acutely nearly two centuries ago, but modern life appears to have made it more widespread. 

Staying with Stendhal, perhaps we could say it is more widespread because it is more popular. Taking it even further along the same lines, perhaps we would have to say that this kind of emotional foolishness is more popular. It is certainly popular with the media - they love it.


DiscoveredJoys said...

In the most sexually equal societies (e.g. Sweden) the gender preferences in employment tend to be 'free' so are more polarised into traditional male and female roles.

So perhaps in countries where, for all the shouting about poverty etc., concerns about keeping body and soul together are less pressing, then concerns about emotion and sensibility become a higher priority item?

Tammly said...

Certainly. The more 'feather bedded' a society, the more room there is for such preoccupations amongst more people.

Sam Vega said...

Expressing emotional foolishness has certainly increased. Obviously, technology makes it a lot easier for people to express themselves. But I don't remember people doing it even in small groups in the '70s and '80s. Perhaps they were always emotional fools, but only now have the leisure to express it. When a robot is doing a lot of your work for you, you've time to waste.

A K Haart said...

DJ - it certainly seems like it. As if too much security reduces our focus on raw survival. This winter may highlight that - to some.

Tammly - I agree, a soft life seems to be far more corrosive than we imagined.

Sam - and working in offices or similar situations does not seem conducive to emotional stability, especially when people don't really have enough to do.