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Natural Effects on a Boy Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s Confessions has the entire life of its author’s experiences, virtues, and detailed imperfections. Rousseau’s Confessions is one of the first notable autobiographies and has influenced many forms of narratives. It inaugurated modern day autobiography and inspired a narrative technic used in many great novels. Rousseau wrote this autobiography in order to tell the world about himself and express the nature of man. He did not want to be known by how people thought of him, but rather be able to tell people exactly what happened in his life and let them be the judge. Rousseau begins Confessions by stating, “this is the only portrait of a man, painted exactly according to nature and in all of its truth, that exists and will probably ever exist” (57). He included embarrassing experiences and personal thoughts from throughout his life to show every possible virtue of his life. He portrays what every boy encounters from mischievous trickery to entering sexual adulthood. The events that change his life and himself become a consistent theme while he describes his childhood, sexual cravings, and natural thoughts of a boy’s life. One of the most common subjects in Rousseau autobiography is the story of his childhood and the nature of a boy. Rousseau’s mother passed away during his birth, which strained the relation between him and his father. When they tried to speak of her the conversation would end with tears because his father saw Rousseau’s mother through Rousseau. Losing one’s mother is a very heartbreaking occurrence to a young boy. His father never forgave him for taking his mother’s life even “forty years after losing her he died in the arms of a second wife, but the name of the first on his lips” (60). No one could replace the love Rousseau’s father had for his mother causing mental anguish on young Rousseau. It must be very painful to lose your mother and not be loved by you father, which dramatized Rousseau. Although he suffered this he still managed to play and do common boy activities. He still partook in mischievous actions such as stealing fruit and urinating in a neighbor’s cooking pot. Rousseau kept his autobiography unfiltered by included childhood pranks that every boy does in spite of boredom. He even questions himself “how could I have learnt bad ways, when I was offered nothing but example of mildness and surrounded by the best people in the world” (62). Boys naturally desire to cause havoc even if they are never surrounded by it and told to do otherwise. It is the rebellious side of most males to do something just for the thrill of escaping trouble. Rousseau did not let his unfortunate relationship with his parents stop him from acting like a normal boy. A boy’s natural interest in sexual adulthood differs by age and can be sparked by a girl in a class or something odd such as being punished by an authoritative woman. For Rousseau, his sexual opening began when Mlle Lambercier punished him by inflicting physical pain. He found that every hit made him have a special feeling for her. He could not understand why. Instead of learning his lesson in fear of repetition he chose trouble to insure another strike. He found “the pain inflicted, and even in the shame that accompanied it, an element of sensuality which left [him] with more desire than fear” (65). Rousseau did not understand why he enjoyed the pain afflicted on him but this minor event inspired his tastes, desires, and passions for the rest of his life. He included this embarrassing event to show he was not afraid to tell all about his life. He wanted the reader to believe everything he wrote was the truth, unfiltered. This event was not forgotten but became more distinct as he entered adulthood. It seems like he wanted to ask a women to afflict pain on him but he knew “[his] pleasure… cannot be extracted by the man who desires it, nor guessed by the women who alone can bestow it” (67). He is too embarrassed to ask a woman to do what Mlle Lambercier did to him, but craves the chance it will happen again. Sex is a natural way of life; the urges and everything that comes with it cannot be explained but only felt. These extravagant feelings are a way to keep humankind around through reproduction. Nature intended us to feel these strong feeling to the point of no control. Women make men feel this way which gives them power over men’s mind and body. Because an autobiography can include the author’s thoughts and actions, we see how often men instinctively think about women through Rousseau. Again, men and women were created for one another. It only makes sense that you think about the opposite sex regularly. Rousseau proves how much men think about women. The women could be a stranger or a long love that was never revealed. Rousseau worked as a servant for Mme de Vercellis before she passed away from illness. Because Rousseau was a servant he had a lot of time to talk to her. He witnessed her entire family trying to sweet-talk her in order to get some of her inheritance. Rousseau attempted to do the same but was crowded out by the family and other workers. So when he found out he was not getting anything out of the inheritance other than a months pay, he stole a ribbon from her. He did not think he would get caught. When he did he lied and said Marion, a young girl who worked for the family, gave it to him. He felt pressured and decided to blame her to save himself. He later states how beautiful and smart she is to justify why her name came out. Rousseau fancied Marion and stated, “I accused her of having done what I wanted to do, and of having given me the ribbon, because my intention had been to give it to her” (72). They are later forced to a sort of trial in front of a large crowd. She is appalled that Rousseau would blame her for his crime. He included this event from his life in Confessions because remembered how bad he hurt this girl. Because he was thinking of her she got in trouble. Rousseau states “I fear, too, that wretchedness and destitution were not the worst of the dangers I exposed her to” (71). Her life may have been dramatically changed after Rousseau’s accusation. He regrets the pain his lie had on her life. Marion taught Rousseau the consequences of lying and also how to love a girl. Certain minor events have the opportunity to change your life. As humans we live and we learn from our mistakes. Sometimes these mistakes hurt you temporary but help you grow in the long run. Rousseau events as a boy taught him toughness through the loss of his mother. He learned how to grow from simply being curious of women to loving one. The events in Confessions shaped him into the marvelous writer he became. People buy his book to learn about his life and how average boys think. The story of Rousseau’s life is great way to look back at your own childhood and think about how you shaped into yourself.

WC: 1284

Works Cited

Rousseau, Jean-Jacques. Confessions. Trans. Angela Scholar. The Norton Anthology of World Literature Volume E. Ed. Martin Puchner. NY: W.W. Norton and Company, 2012. 57-72. Print.

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