Kevin's Week Three: because as Schoolhouse Rock tells us, Three is a Magic Number

While we divided up a lot of the reading load of Diderot's plays and creative work, I seem to have initially by dumb luck and later by design sunk a bit more into his philosophical and really almost pedagogical creative work. Over the holiday I finally got a chance to dig into Denis Diderot's play La Pere de Famille, and found it amusingly similar in tone to what I'd read in his letters and in The Paradox of Acting, which is practically a Socratic lecture. With Diderot's tone and beliefs alive in my head and a bed of historical background about the Enlightenment and the coming violent social and political changes in France, it's almost impossible to miss the laser-like clarity of a certain thread in this play about interfering patricians and obtuse people of status and means, and the high-minded meddling that everyone must do.

I feel like I can summarize this essential thread of the entire play with one statement: if anyone, literally any character in this play, was willing to let any other single character make their own decisions, the entire plot of the play would collapse right at that point. It is driven by bullying, and that bullying is inevitably driven not by the desires of the individual characters but by their fervent belief that they know what is best for everyone else and the tools they have at their disposal to enforce their "goodwill". I suppose Charles is the single exception, because his desire for Sophie sets the entire plot in motion, and they did require some kind of crisis they could all intervene into, but curiously even Sophie shows no desires of her own, only a noble desire to protect Charles by leaving him, which technically could be covering the fact that she wants to get away from this creepy guy and let him down gently since he's a major stalker with questionable morals.

I should obviously re-read it with a closer eye to Sophie's scenes, since like Pamphila in The Eunuch she does tend to disappear into the woodwork a bit as the play goes on, despite being the lynchpin of the entire plot. An interesting comparison, which tends to undermine the analysis we began that unit with, if Diderot (who is very much not a slave, and gives people of Sophie's class and gender agency and opinion in this play) still uses the love interest in the same way as a necessity of comic structure more than politics. Or maybe I'm missing something... food for thought as I return to this play.

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