…to assume that this post will be read with any enthusiasm, or be read at all, what with fall break at our fingertips. But bear with me for a paragraph or two; after today’s class, I simply wanted to lay something out before it all left me. I promise it will be over soon.
Today’s discussion, especially the part pertaining to the documented death of Colonel Chabert, really got me thinking about its relation to (possibly our most-visited theme of this class) story-telling, even after our discussion had moved past this. What immediately popped into my head was something that Professor Rosenburg mentioned the day he subbed, that being something along the lines of when we judge others, or attempt to define them, we deny them a story. We deny them an opportunity to define themselves, and as humans, we do that through story telling.
The relevance of this struck me when I applied this to what we know of Colonel Chabert’s situation at the moment. Through the irrefutable documentation of his death, he has been denied repeatedly – ceaselessly – a story. This story being the most important of all, the story of his very existence. So he comes to a place where, finally, a person – namely, Derville – hears this story in its entirety. And how apt that it occur in a legal office, in the presence of a lawyer, whose responsibility, with the court system, is to verify and prove the validity of stories. But when looked at more analytically (and spoiler alert, here, courtesy of the back cover of our copy), alas, how truly ironic that it occur in a lawyer’s office where it will come to no fruition, where “everyone goes … but no one stays,” where “no one takes a personal interest in their day-to-day upkeep.” (6) [Insert indignant noise here.] Where no one takes a personal interest? But isn’t this supposed to be where stories are upheld and infused with power? Whether that power be the power to disprove or, as in Chabert’s case, prove?
Further down in page 6, the narrator gives us more to work with, a possible answer to the above inquiries: “Perhaps because in these places the drama being enacted in the soul of man gives him only a bit part.” Ah. Something to ponder.
And now, my burst of thought has come to an inconclusive close. I don’t have a definitive question to ask, and I’m not entirely sure what I wanted to accomplish by posting this, but read it, perhaps comment – do with it what you will.
Well, Laura, I can say that it wasn’t too presumptuous to assume that your post would be read with enthusiasm, because it was quite entertaining, both in its content and its style. It does seem that Colonel Chabert is particularly distressed because he is unable to explain his dire predicament to hardly anyone, as his claim to be a resurrected war hero is often dismissed with laughter. It doesn’t help that his home, wife, and riches have been swept out from under him, yet all of these things are connected to his identity and therefore to his story. Without his identity, he cannot hope to retrieve anything else that he’s lost. To further prove the importance of story telling, one can examine Chabert’s mood after he finally speaks to someone “who has had the patience to listen. . .” (26). For the disconsolate colonel, a response other than laughter, that is the acceptance of his story, is what satisfies him, for “the young lawyer’s words were like a miracle to this man rebuffed for ten years. . .” (28). If colonel Chabert desires the return of all that he has lost, he must rely upon his story of survival. But as you point out, a law office doesn’t seem to be the safest place to tell a story without having its credibility doubted at every turn. Perhaps a change of setting will help.
Also, how did you get italics to work? Last time I tried that, my whole post ended up slanted.
Laura, the irony between what should ideally happen in a lawyer’s office and what does happen is a great point. Personally, I think that the reason that what the lawyer’s office did (or did not do) with Chabert’s story and case is a result of wanting to bury the past. As we discussed in class, the lawyer’s office seemed to be a place where we ignored and rewrote history in such a way to pretend that Napoleon and his regime did not happen at all. In this sense, the lawyer’s office does not just do the small injustice of denying Chabert his story, but they deny the stories of an entire nation. It’s not that they specifically decided to deny Chabert’s story to add greater misfortune to his already sad life. I think it’s a matter of government and politics that try to uphold their rule by creating a story with no interruptions of rebellion or revolt. Besides, isn’t that the best way to make the new government seem powerful in an attempt to prevent future revolts?