Natural Metaphor III


Moss finds metaphor to be the natural way to make wholes of Proust’s characters.

…Realism in fiction never corresponds to reality in life, because it presupposes an impossible point of view–that one which lacks a viewer. A reality is always real to somebody. As soon as it is, the viewer must be included with the view. Proust argues against realism effectively and provides the ultimate demonstration. Proust is the most honest of novelists because he shows us not only how little we know about other people but how impossible it is to know them. It is a suspicion we have always had but hate to see confirmed. The confirmation does not warm us; nevertheless, we cannot deny it. Proust, like the genius psychologist he is, makes the inconsistencies take on a consistency of their own, just as Chekhov, in the theatre, shows us how the seemingly irrelevant lies at the heart of relevance. The patching together of what appear to be opposing traits performs a function similar to that of a metaphor, for only those actions that are dissimilar but capable of connection can create a whole character out of superficially irreconcilable kinds of behavior. The power of metaphor is not merely descriptive but psychological; the link between two things we were not aware of is revealed to us. Far-fetched it may be, even bizarre; we know instantly, though, whether it rings true. When it is successful, it has two virtues: it increases our sense of credibility by refusing to win us over easily, and it sharpens our sense of revelation. Mme. Verdurin’s anti-Semitism and her Dreyfusism would seem incompatible. Once we understand that she is a professional cause-monger who needs only a cause célèbre and can switch from Dreyfus to Debussy without a qualm, the inconsistency vanishes. It has helped, nevertheless, to make Mme. Verdurin real. (38-39)

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One Response to “Natural Metaphor III”

  1. Proust as Philosopher: Looking for Joy | Proust Reader Says:

    […] Just how metaphor has this power is the subject of de Beistegui’s book (and in this blog here, here, here and here). […]

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