Roland Barthes' Analysis of Balzac's Sarrasine

  • Category: Books, Literature,
  • Words: 891 Pages: 4
  • Published: 08 May 2021
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Roland Barthes, a French philosopher, and writer was known for dabbling in several schools of theory and made substantial benefactions to quite a few, including semiotics, social theory, anthropology, and his work structuralism. As its name suggests, structuralism suggests that there is always an even bigger realm of reason that can explain the more complex samples of human phenomena. Structuralism is applied to almost any field related to humans, so Barthes used structuralism, additionally while post-structuralism, as a way in which to see through what he analyzes in "Sarrasine" in S/Z.

The narrator features a pessimistic, if not fatalistic, view of life. As an example, he sees many trees partially covered by snow before the Lantys' house. However, this tranquil winter scene reminds him of nothing but a "ball of the deceased." He then explains the polished beauty of this party as a "ball of the living." This speaker declares that such reprobates the facts as life and destruction, passion and brutality, and delight and harsh impediment always exist together in a reflection. The narrator also mentions that people should not confuse appearance with reality. The story of Sarrasine and Zambinella demonstrates the tragic consequences of mistaking appearance for reality. The ambiguity that nothing can exist without its opposite. 

For example, much of what viewers see is not what they are. Only what the creator wants its viewers to see. The narrative commences with the narrator describing a dark, cold, ghostly display as he looks out the window during a dynamic, joyful, brightly-lit ball. While the ball attendees look beautiful and pristine on the surface, they are shallow and jealous within. Here the narrator is demonstrating the comparing and contrasting of the elites. That even underneath all their refined elegance that they portray is all a shallow cover of themselves and what is indeed the reality.  Everyone at the party favors the hosts, the Lanty’s, for their wealthiness and generosity, yet their wealth came at the worth and humiliation of their granduncle, Zambinella, who was altered to be a grand opera vocalist. Although he was cherished for his value, it led to his bitterness and inability to like. Finally, the thought that true love often ends up suffering is revealed when Sarrasine discovers Zambinella's true identity. For me, concerning Sarrazin, His example is that he instantly falls for this Huge Opera Singer. Later on, he finds out that She is not a she but rather a He. Sarrasines astonishments leave him conflicted because he had this perfect image in his head of Zambinella. Who turned out in "her" truth deviated him and his passion for her.  This symbolizes that The image created in his head of Zambinella was just his made-up perception of what he thought of her. Furthermore, As humans, we tend to make people's expectations and what we feel we want or expect from them, when in reality, what they can offer us is all they have is thee the truth. 

Another theme that I can point out is the Lanty family's illusion, and their secrets define it. The narrator's love interest, a young dancer, is surprised and interested in an old, strange man at the party whom nobody seems to understand much about. She is additionally mesmerized by a beautiful painting of what appears to be Adonis, the young man treasured by the Greek goddess Aphrodite, but is held by a sculpture representing the proper woman. Much like we do today. I see that much like Adonis, Zambeinella is much of a symbol of what women are portrayed as or held up to higher standards based on society's aspects and identification of beauty standards.  

Another important theme is that the fleeting nature of beauty as symbolized by the shape of Adonis. As an artist, Sarrasine himself was dedicated to his vigorous pursuance of class in which, He let it deceive him to the characteristics that matter in life. Moreover, Zambinella's beauty, which has faded in the world, endures only within the painting he represented. Much like today, readers can connect Sarrazinne's situation to what we face in our current society. We as people have come so far in the world. As a reader, I can understandably see why Sarrasine's obsession with his art and Zambinella's beauty which he portrays, can only live so long. The beauty standards then compared to today are not that far off. As we try to perfect the imperfections and hold on to our youth as humans, That is similar to what we are still trying to hold on to today. 

To conclude Roland Barth's "Sarrsine". The text widely demonstrates the various aspects of the elite's and the characters themselves get caught up in the glamor of ideas and expectations. However, also see the harsh realities for what they are. The representations and connection through which readers can see the Semiotics of the characters and their situations demonstrate. As the main character sarrasine, his semiotic (symbol/ representation) is shown through his imagination and idea of the person he falls in love with. That then turns into irony or contradiction because he was so infatuated with his concept of Zabinella that when faced with reality, the truth was hard for him to handle. Furthermore, as for Zabinella's situation, she has to face the spotlight and treasured for her Vocals. Nevertheless, she hides the truth of who she is and why she can sing the way she does. Moreover, once the truth is told, it is hard for people to face the reality of the truth. The standard that represents the beauty standard Zimbella has to live up to is never fulfilled because time fades all things. And that she has to live up to these expectations symbolizes what many celebrities and actors in or world live up to. 


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