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 Post subject: Happy Days Question #10 - Mireille & Antoine
PostPosted: Wed Dec 13, 2006 10:21 am 
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Pg. 54. “This is the first time I’ve laid eyes on her.,,,,I sit down next to her and share her contemplation. We stay like that, side by side, without speaking, united in a mutual presence that is subtle and pleasant. If I were younger, or if I were not wary of a religious interpretation, I would speak fearlessly of love to describe the inexpressible feeling that draws me to her at this moment, but I will speak instead of an intimate complicity, of the—accidental—collusion of minds that meet and reveal themselves to one another. This impalpable embrace lasts only as long as the breathing space our bodies will give us, so in the biting cold, it’s not long before my neighbor shows signs of fatigue. Then I turn toward her, discovering her face.”

What attracted Antoine to Mireille?
What did you think of the relationship between them?
What did Antoine hope to learn from her?
What did he actually learn?



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PostPosted: Wed Dec 13, 2006 12:19 pm 
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Okay, this one needs to be broken down (sum of the parts, etc.) so I'll answer the first question first ~
What attracted Antoine to Mireille?
Well, she was 'on the bench', as it were, for starters. I think we've established that Antoine (Laurent) considers benches to be quite special as a vantage point. Then there's the issue of energy between the two, which Antoine can feel but has some difficulty describing. It's 'inexpressible'. He describes what it could be, if he were younger or religious, but he's not. He uses the words 'subtle' and 'pleasant' (an unusual emotion for him, me thinks) and he says the meeting is 'accidental' but that there's some 'complicity' involved. So it's unique ~ this encounter where two minds 'meet and reveal' in an 'impalpable embrace'. (Actually, he does a great job of describing it!)

My guess is that most of us have experienced something similar to this meeting...where we feel an instant connection to another person but can't explain why. It can be a little unnerving, but it's usually 'pleasant', is it not? Sort of an instant 'knowing' of the other person in a deep, non-superficial way. The term, Soul Mates comes to mind.
(???)



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 Post subject: Re: Happy Days Question #10 - Mireille & Antoine
PostPosted: Wed Dec 13, 2006 2:12 pm 
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Liz wrote:
[b]Pg. 54. “This is the first time I’ve laid eyes on her.,,,,I sit down next to her and share her contemplation. We stay like that, side by side, without speaking, united in a mutual presence that is subtle and pleasant. If I were younger, or if I were not wary of a religious interpretation, I would speak fearlessly of love to describe the inexpressible feeling that draws me to her at this moment, but I will speak instead of an intimate complicity, of the—accidental—collusion of minds that meet and reveal themselves to one another. This impalpable embrace lasts only as long as the breathing space our bodies will give us, so in the biting cold, it’s not long before my neighbor shows signs of fatigue. Then I turn toward her, discovering her face.”


Quote:

What attracted Antoine to Mireille?

Is this the first person who has already been sitting on the bench? I think so. And I think he's intrigued by it. Like, 'Oh, someone's already sitting there. Well, hello.'

Quote:
What did you think of the relationship between them?

I feel the relationship is a balanced give/take, and they both give and take what they need from eachother.

Quote:
What did Antoine hope to learn from her?

I think he hoped to learn the same thing he hoped to learn from others he had met so far, the meaning of life.

Quote:
What did he actually learn?

Now this is the whopper big question. (And I will only answer in terms of Mirielle, not what possibly lays ahead in future questions.) With Mirielle, he is not 'floating' any more. I think I mentioned this transition once before. He is sitting beside her, and actually WITH her, because he is SHARING her contemplation. I beleive this is the first time in the book he has done this. And he's finding it SUBTLE and PLEASANT, another first. She is dying, and he loves the concept. He is showing importance of the mind over what a person looks like. The last thing he discovers is her face. Antoine is finally, down to earth, meeting someone he can be with through this (rather odd) phase of his life. Perhaps, he's learned to be at peace with himself, and death, and perhaps even life.



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PostPosted: Wed Dec 13, 2006 3:54 pm 
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I think he made that connection with Mirelle and realized this would be the perfect person to study, to connect with her death. He started out as an observer only to try an understand the human mind and it's relationship to dying. I think he tried to make his mind a blank and "meld" with her for lack of a better term. He says he would call it love but he can't because he is trying to rid his life of any such distraction. The problem comes because he can't deny that he has human feelings for her. I think that is why he gets mad at her when they are on their trip. He wants to use his anger to deny his caring.

Parlez, I also wanted to say that I think it is definitely possible to have that sense of immediate connection with someone. Like a bolt, you feel an intense connection. A rare and wonderful thing!



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PostPosted: Wed Dec 13, 2006 4:19 pm 
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Yes, I agree Mireille 'grounds' Antoine and brings him back into life, living and caring. Against his wishes, perhaps, but maybe not. His indifferent attitude changes significantly and he becomes less of a disconnected observer and more of a companion, involved with a real, flesh-and-blood person. Yikes!
That's quite a shift! Even though he says he's merely 'curious',
he contends (on page 58) that 'love always remains a temptation'
and he's not immune.
What he wanted to learn was clinical ~ the mechanics of dying and death and how one (anyone) accomplishes that. What he did learn was less quantifiable, and more human. It's easy to talk about death in analytical, medical, or philosophical terms, but when you're connected to someone
real, death, in the end, is decidedly not clinical!
I still haven't come to a conclusion about Mireille's part of this
relationship, other that than she simply allows it to happen. Like the other residents of Happy Days, she seems to have shed expectations in general and is open to accepting what/who comes her way, and, more importantly, to enjoy it/him, with no hidden agenda. If that's the case, their relationship is balanced, though different for each of them.
(???)



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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Dec 13, 2006 6:14 pm 
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Parlez wrote:
I still haven't come to a conclusion about Mireille's part of this
relationship, other that than she simply allows it to happen. Like the other residents of Happy Days, she seems to have shed expectations in general and is open to accepting what/who comes her way, and, more importantly, to enjoy it/him, with no hidden agenda. If that's the case, their relationship is balanced, though different for each of them.
(???)


I think Mireille accepts Antoine and allows him to do his study of her because she feels this is the last thing she can give to someone before she leaves this life. Maybe for her, that makes her life have some meaning in the end. But I also think that she accepts it because she is tired.

DITHOT wrote:
I think he tried to make his mind a blank and "meld" with her for lack of a better term. He says he would call it love but he can't because he is trying to rid his life of any such distraction. The problem comes because he can't deny that he has human feelings for her. I think that is why he gets mad at her when they are on their trip. He wants to use his anger to deny his caring.

Parlez, I also wanted to say that I think it is definitely possible to have that sense of immediate connection with someone. Like a bolt, you feel an intense connection. A rare and wonderful thing!


Interesting idea, DITHOT. It had not occurred to me that his anger could stem from his resistance to feeling. I guess that would mean that she was interfering with his ability to merely observe.

I, too, agree that it is possible to meet someone and immediately feel a connection to that person. And it can be hard to explain, as with Antoine. He seems a little confused by the feeling.



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PostPosted: Wed Dec 13, 2006 8:02 pm 
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About the anger... There's something about the process of a person dying that is very frustrating, and often generates anger in family members and friends. The person doing the dying may be happy to prolong the process (and why not?) but those who are waiting have a different point of view. Waiting for anything to be over is hard; waiting for a person's life to be over is the hardest waiting of all. Those of you who have been caregivers know what I mean ~ the service, the caring, the compassion, the putting your life on hold never seems to end.
Sometimes you just want to scream, "Get better or GO!" Harsh but true. That's what I got from the scene with Antoine and Mirielle. Antoine was caught unexpectedly in the 'gap' of time it takes for a person to die, and he was unprepared for the fact that death can take its time, so to speak...it comes and goes in fits and starts..it's not particularly clean, or pretty, or dramatic. It's can be a long, drawnout process...and it's very easy to start blaming the person who's dying for intentionally hanging on!



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PostPosted: Wed Dec 13, 2006 10:40 pm 
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Parlez wrote:
About the anger... There's something about the process of a person dying that is very frustrating, and often generates anger in family members and friends. The person doing the dying may be happy to prolong the process (and why not?) but those who are waiting have a different point of view. Waiting for anything to be over is hard; waiting for a person's life to be over is the hardest waiting of all. Those of you who have been caregivers know what I mean ~ the service, the caring, the compassion, the putting your life on hold never seems to end.
Sometimes you just want to scream, "Get better or GO!" Harsh but true. That's what I got from the scene with Antoine and Mirielle. Antoine was caught unexpectedly in the 'gap' of time it takes for a person to die, and he was unprepared for the fact that death can take its time, so to speak...it comes and goes in fits and starts..it's not particularly clean, or pretty, or dramatic. It's can be a long, drawnout process...and it's very easy to start blaming the person who's dying for intentionally hanging on!


That is so sad! But I can sympathize with the response. When my mom died it was hard on me. However, having been prepared that it was going to happen by a long period of dying made it easier to take once it happened. On the other hand, I wasn't getting impatient for it to happen. I can see that happening when one is the caregiver, though. I was not. I was 100's of miles away tending to my small children. So I could not be in both places.



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PostPosted: Wed Dec 13, 2006 11:00 pm 
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Be warned, if you read this
I'll steal a line from Rochester; Let me be frank you will not like me!
I think answering these questions makes me sound as jaded as Antionne. The paragraph above of how he felt when he saw her, I think was fantastic, almost love to him, because he thought he had found what he was searching for.... someone who could explain the meaning of death (not life) The points I saw made in this book go against my usual outlook of always looking for the good in everything but after each little piece of good Antionne always spoils it with his real thoughts.. I hate to be so negative but am going for truth here.

What attracted Antoine to Mireille?
That she was dying.
Here are a couple lines that follow the above paragraph of their meeting: He sees her as "not special in any way, reduced to a condition, as if she had no life before, no history. She is only what she seems today, frozen in old age, having no more future that would allow her to be seen in any other way. He said he chose her as an experiment to understand the extinction of life.

What did you think of the relationship between them?
It is a pact where each gets something from the other. Actually I think she wins and he looses.
My opinion of Mireille is different from some of you. I think her illness and frail look is opposite of her stong disposition. I think she sees Antionne for what he is and accepts him for her own selfish reasons. . Actually she is the one I admire the most in this story. There is no mention of her family visiting her and it is Christmas and New Years holidays. This is strange as we know she has a son and grandchildren. I assume her husband has passed away and as a strong woman she chose Happy Days for her end to avoid a hospital. Her family are either out of the picture or she choose to be alone, maybe even to save them the pain of watching her die...
Mireille seems to see through Antionne and without words knows what he is up to. Antionne says" she seems to have grasped my motivations and my growing interest in her. She calls him a vulture before asking him to take her on a last trip. One morning she uses sarcasm to greet him with" don't worry you didn't miss anything". Strangly enough she says this as she tells him to close the curtains just as he see's Bebel has hung himself. "You didn't miss anything", is this to imply that maybe Mirielle meant not only her death but Bebel's when she made the remark? She knows how desperate Antionne is to witness death.

What did Antoine hope to learn from her?
I still think he is trying to find some meaning in dying.

What did he actually learn?
I think he misses the answer to his big experiment.
He thinks they are there for her to die, quickly if possible. She has to insist that they go out. After she demands oysters he momentarily contemplates running the car into a tree as she has no seat belt on. He considers his promise to care for the car and then tells her her how lucky she is. She dies that night in her bed.

These lines tell me that he is impatient and not finding what he set out to find and she is trying to enjoy, to the end, what little time she has left. In the end he is not there for her death, but she does get a glimmer of enjoyment away from her deathbed. She gets what she wanted out of their deal. He missed the great moment he hung around with her to witness so nothing changes for him. He goes on with his life just as before, Since he is somewhat of an expert at death he deals with the authorities and plans her funeral arrangements for her son just like nothing has really changed.


Last edited by gemini on Thu Dec 14, 2006 12:37 am, edited 3 times in total.


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PostPosted: Wed Dec 13, 2006 11:34 pm 
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gemini, I agree with you that Antoine was in the relationship to witness death, not understand life. She was what he had been looking for when he checked into Happy Days. I do think though that he was not ready for the humanity and the feelings he felt invaded him as he went through the process with her. I also think Mirelle wanted a witness and she used Antoine for that purpose. As you said, her family was nowhere around and she didn't want to be alone. When you think of it, she had a somewhat morbid purpose as well, using him.



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PostPosted: Wed Dec 13, 2006 11:41 pm 
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DeppInTheHeartOfTexas wrote:
gemini, I agree with you that Antoine was in the relationship to witness death, not understand life. She was what he had been looking for when he checked into Happy Days. I do think though that he was not ready for the humanity and the feelings he felt invaded him as he went through the process with her. I also think Mirelle wanted a witness and she used Antoine for that purpose. As you said, her family was nowhere around and she didn't want to be alone. When you think of it, she had a somewhat morbid purpose as well, using him.

I see your point but my thinking was that she was not so much wanting a witness but that she didn't like the aspect of just waiting for death and wanted to get any last moments of life she could and he was her way of doing so.

And Antionne was rather nonplus about her death if he really had developed any feelings for her.



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PostPosted: Thu Dec 14, 2006 12:13 am 
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I am pretty aligned with Gemini on this one. I think that Antoine thought that by experiencing death, it might reveal a different Antoine. I think he was looking for the kind of transforming experience most of us seek in love, friendship and parenthood. To borrow a JDism, he wanted the fog lifted and the world to come into focus.

What he got was someone using him for essentially the same reason. I think Mireille hoped that by recreating a perfect moment of happiness, she could make peace with death. I think Antoine had a pretty miserable time but Mirielle found the peace she was looking for. What did Antoine really get? I think he came to the realization that we own our happiness and no one else has the right to take that away, but beyond that…. Not much.



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PostPosted: Thu Dec 14, 2006 12:24 am 
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So, are we reaching an accord that says Antoine's life was just as pointless
after his involvement with Mirielle as it was before??



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PostPosted: Thu Dec 14, 2006 12:53 am 
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Parlez wrote:
So, are we reaching an accord that says Antoine's life was just as pointless
after his involvement with Mirielle as it was before??

Ah there's the rub... pointless to us, but not to him. Our judgements shouldn't affect the happiness that belongs to him.



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PostPosted: Thu Dec 14, 2006 1:16 am 
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dharma_bum wrote:
Parlez wrote:
So, are we reaching an accord that says Antoine's life was just as pointless
after his involvement with Mirielle as it was before??

Ah there's the rub... pointless to us, but not to him. Our judgements shouldn't affect the happiness that belongs to him.


I have already come to the conclusion that I cannot judge what makes Antoine happy because I don't think like he does.



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