I have always been a sole believer of self-discipline. I see it as an important trait that enhances one’s well-being. To adhere to one’s personal development amidst one’s changing circumstances has been a priority for me. Self- control teaches us to prioritize the necessities of family, education, while being capable of helping yourself and your society. In reference, M. Scott Peck, regards an escape from freedom as, “Whenever we seek to avoid the responsibility for our own behavior, we do so by attempting to give that responsibility to some other individual or organization or entity” (42). This gives grounding to my argument that my chosen narrators behaved in contrary by disregarded their sole duty as an individual and instead made their extrinsic desires be the cause of their actions. Freedom, thus, becomes an instrument towards destruction.
An excessive sense of freedom becomes a hindrance to one’s personal development. The question that becomes apparent is: “Is freedom a quality that should be rendered with laws while being closely monitored for our own safety and development?” I choose the prose readings of Domingo Faustino Sarmiento’s “Facundo,” Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s “Confessions,” and Ihara Saikaku’s “Life of a Sensuous Woman” because each narrative revolves around the idea of the protagonist being unencumbered by the law, social constructs, or towards the consideration of the other or self. There is an understanding that their behaviors are caused by a need for freedom—Juan Facundo Quiroga is accountable for his violence because he is fighting against the injustice of the law, The aging narrator in “Life of a Sensuous Woman” decides to indulge with ever-seeking pleasure on her path towards sexual satisfaction, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s “Confessions” exposes his human imperfections to wash away his guilt through the purging of his uncensored emotions. They are all mutually looking for a sense of liberation.
I believe that too much freedom can allow one to break the freedom of another being. This results to endangering the safety of the other, which is a violation. It is a profound reasoning that to limit our rights means we protect ourselves and others as well. In Domingo’s narrative biography of “Facundo,” he asserts Facundo as a stubborn Gaucho that condemns the law, implicates numerous acts of violence, and is idle in regards to any form of improvement. “On his becoming an adult, the thread of his life disappears in an intricate labyrinth of bouts and broils among the people of the surrounding region. Sometimes lying hid, always pursued, he passed his time in gambling, working as a common laborer, domineering over everybody around him, and distributing stabs among them” (225). He acts as if he is unaccountable to any form of governance or punishment. He embodies the unsupervised liberty through acts that disregards the better countenance of the law and the other people. Therefore, he becomes a danger to himself and to others as well. He becomes an example of the said negative impact that excessive freedom brings. “He is the natural man, as yet unused either to repress or disguise his passions; he does not restrain their energy, but gives free reign to their impetuosity. This is the character of the human race” (229). He becomes the narrative’s flux towards violations and crime as well.
However, his narration also creates a framework on the state of the narrative: Argentina is a reflection of such turmoil, “This constant insecurity of life outside the towns, in my opinion, stamps upon the Argentine character a certain stoical resignation to death by violence, which is regarded as one of the inevitable probabilities of existence” (213). This is the physical aspect of the Argentine Republic in which will effectively form one’s character, habits, and ideas. Facundo becomes a product of such a predicament of disorganization. The gauchos are a result of this society as they struggle to survive from poverty by merely using their physical strength and savagery. Educational means becomes impossible to attain because of the lack of availability of the government. Sarmiento narrates such observations while praising the genius of Facundo—even though he was never given adequate opportunities from the republic he is seen as a great man of unrevealed talent. He is seen as a type of barbarism given that he disregards subjection of any form.
Ihara Saikaku’s “Life of a Sensuous Woman” portrays through the narrative of the aging woman an epiphany: Attaining sensuous love can indulge one’s deep desires but it also has its price to pay. (For the constant pursuit of love and lust depraves one of tranquility and rebirth)
Acting as a libertine, the narrator recounts her tale of amorous exploits and insatiable thirsts. She did not mind about her principles as became a monk’s wife, a mistress, and a lover of thousands of men. Her way of narrating progresses into a form of a confession as she repents on her voraciousness. The narratives of her sexual adventures is represented through the articulations of a wiser version of the aging woman. “With this single body of mine I’d slept with more than ten thousand men. It made me feel low and ashamed to go on living so long. My heart roared in my chest like a burning wagon in hell, and hot tears poured from my eyes and scattered in every direction like water from one of hell’s cauldrons” (610). Her past reflects on how she turned her back on traditional moralities and harmed herself. This kind of Libertine way of thinking declined her social status and life fulfillment. She sees men only as a means to physical gratification and in effect was denied of a meaningful relationship with the other.
Her narration is also a reflection of the Ukiyo lifestyle. Through her narrative, she was able to show the corrupt, unequal, and hypocritical nature of the place—the monks indulge in sexual relations, the women are bought by wealth and casted away, and everything is centered towards pleasure. There is an opposing value of one’s mental and spiritual state as they solely prioritize their carnal needs. “It is the narrator’s mistake of following this very perspective, therefore, taking down her peace of mind and the way of the Buddha. Therefore, she becomes an example of someone who turned her back on social constructs that could have effectively serve as her protection against such vices.
Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s autobiographical book “Confessions” exposes his human imperfections and uncensored feelings with the explanation of this being a great influence of his degenerate past. Here he explains how society and the people around him helped him develop his perverse preferences. “I am resolved on an undertaking that has no model and will have no imitator. I want to show my fellow-men a man in all the truth of nature; and this man is to be myself” (58). He explains through his narratives his relationship with the world while acknowledging the irrational aspects of his emotions.
The narrator in itself, brings us to scrutinize the experiences of his immoral life. Through his liberated revelations, we see for ourselves, the danger of irrationality. “I had feelings before I had thoughts: that is the common lot of humanity” (60). The dilemma upon Rousseau’s self-confessions is that he excessively uses his emotional side as the motive of his actions. He steals, he lies, and he yearns for violence because of his sentimental whims. He goes without considering its consequences and experience remorse only after the aftermath of the situation. An example would be his stealing a ribbon and framing the poor girl as the thief. “I would rather be a man of paradoxes than a man of prejudices” (57). He behaves against the rational outlook of his society at the time.
Like Facundo, Rousseau lacks the opportunity of formal schooling. However, in contrary, he chooses to read voraciously and soon developed a passion for writing. Rousseau in this aspect, becomes an example of an individual who improves himself instead of being a victim moral corruption or wrong governance. He uses “Confessions” as a way to explore the relationship between the individual and the society. Similar to Ihara Saikaku’s “Life of A Sensuous Woman,” Rousseau also alludes to his own insatiable sexual desires. However, he focuses on his tendency to become arouse with beatings and motherly figures.
Freedom for all of the mentioned narratives has an excessive state which resulted to a distorted sense of satisfaction. Juan Facundo engaged in violence, The woman endlessly participated in sexual acts, and Rousseau overly expelled his emotions. The narrators, each to their own inclination, became self-destructive due to their lack of understanding of their essential principles. Discipline and a sense of servitude towards the other becomes an act that one should not disregard. To oppose this conformity of virtuousness results to harming oneself and others. It is still important to participate in the principles of family, spirit, and the self in order to have a guide that will restraint one to go beyond one’s shadow.
Peck, Scott. The Road Less Traveled. Simon & Schuster Inc., 1978.
Puchner, Martin, et al. (Editors). The Norton Anthology of World Literature (3rd Ed.) New York:
W.W. Norton & Company, 2012.