I’m spending the summer as a CIT at my favorite place… camp! Although this year, as a counselor, I have technology at my disposal, and like always I have been reading a ton. Reading at camp brings me so much joy and is a great way to get some quiet relaxation time in a cabin full of loud, hormonal, teenage girls. My love for reading blossomed at camp and keeps my brain fresh over the summer.
The first book I’ve finished this summer is The Woman Destroyed by Simone De Beauvoir. I read about Beauvoir in my AP European History textbook, as her non-fiction work The Second Sex was at the forefront of second wave feminism. The second-wave feminism movement focused on issues of equality and discrimination. It forced people to look into their personal lives and reflect on sexist power structures. The Second Sex confronted human history from a feminist perspective, acknowledging the issue that what it means to be a woman is given by men. Simone De Beauvoir was an engaged feminist who combined philosophical and literary work with political action to create real change for women. The Woman Destroyed, published in 1967 is one of Beauvoir’s many works of fiction.
The Woman Destroyed tells the story of three adult women facing unexpected crises. The first depicts a retired woman still full of life and passion, and her husband, a man who feels his age begins to isolate himself as a result. The challenge for the woman to maintain her spirit while accommodating her husband and encouraging him to continue enjoying life is exhausting. As a young person reading this, it’s incredibly eye-opening and insightful and reminds me to enjoy my life and surround myself with others who want the same. The second story relayed the story of a woman’s internal conflict, as she sorts through her loneliness and bitter attitude. Personally, the second chapter didn’t move me as deeply as the others. The Third, and by far the most incredible story was that of a woman in her forties who finds out her husband is having an affair, then watches her marriage unravel and her husband fall in love with another woman. As she begins to lose herself and question her entire life she falls into a depressive state depicted by Beauvoir raw and organic diction. What is the most fascinating for me as a reader is the clear generational gap. In 1967 when the book was written women could not speak up for themselves in the way they are starting to in the twenty-first century. The woman is not in a position to stop her husbands’ affair or speak up about its effects on her mental health. The man (surprise, surprise) holds all the power. Other small details show the age of the book such as normalizing the use of sleeping pills and other now regulated drugs, outdated leisure activities, and references no longer relevant.
Simone De Beauvoir’s writing is exceptional. The small details make the larger story sing. She captures the female brain and emotion in a way that is perfectly accurate and still relevant today. You feel empathy for these women because you are these women, no matter your age or time period. Beauvoir’s insight into the female life inspires you to study yourself and what you want out of your future. The Woman Destroyed is a timeless piece of fiction that I highly recommend.