Essay on The Marquise of O by Kleist

Essay on The Marquise of O by Kleist

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In Kleist’s novella The Marquise of O, the narrative depicts the account of the Marquise of O’s, a young Italian window and a “lady of unblemished reputation”(Kleist 68), sudden impregnation and her subsequent attempts to solve the question of the paternity of her child. Through the contrasting interactions between the characters from the Marquise’s estrangement with her family to her eventual reconciliation, Kleist utilizes the search for her unborn child’s father to provide a social commentary on how tensions of uncertainty complicate the search for truth and identity within established gender relationships and traditional social constructs.
Throughout the narrative, the text utilizes the conflict over the crisis of cognition, or the very mystery regarding the Marquise’s lack of knowledge surrounding her mysterious pregnancy, as a catalyst for the presentation of the plurality of opinions associated with the Marquise’s current status in society and presumptions to the father’s identity. In itself, this state of cognitive dissonance prevents the Marquise from making any attempts at atoning for her supposed sin, as she herself is unaware of any possible transgressions responsible for her current predicament. In turn, this separation from the truth pushes the marquise to fall into the conviction that the “incomprehensible change[s] in her figure” and “inner sensations” (85) she felt were due to the god of Fantasy or Morpheus or even “one of his attendant dreams,” (74) thereby relinquishing her subconscious from any guilt. However, despite her self-assurance of innocence and desperate pleas at expressing her clear conscience, the marquise becomes subject to external pressures from both her family and society, who come to perc...

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...appearance with a sense of revulsion and harshness, which shows the differing nature in which males are able to evade serious repercussions as well as responsibility whereas females are left for judgment. In this way, the text appears to lower the significance and value of having knowledge and being informed while simultaneously highlighting the deceptive and complex nature that lies within each individual.
Holistically, Kleist manages to imbue the notion that the presence of ambiguities serves as a hindrance to understanding and discovering the true nature of things as well as in defining one’s role within the constructs of a given society. In choosing to conform to society’s expectations and allowing oneself to remain incognizant about reality, people subject themselves to a sense of complacency and ignorance that can provide for detrimental results.

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