The educative process in the works of Duhamel, Martin du Gard and Romains, with particular reference to Chronique des Pasquier, Les Thibault and Les hommes de bonne volonte : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in French at Massey University

Thumbnail Image
Open Access Location
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Massey University
The Author
The main intention of this dissertation is to examine the treatment of the process of education in the three romans-fleuves and to relate this to the general educational background of the writers. Duhamel, Martin du Gard and Romains form a convenient trio of writers for a study of this nature. Their respective novel-cycles - Chronique des Pasquier (10 volumes, 1933-1945), Les Thibault (11 volumes, 1922-1940) and Les Hommes de bonne volonté (27 volumes, 1932-1946) - constitute important social documents of the period of French history from 1898 to 1933. Against the background of the disruption of the ordered patterns of middle-class society in 1914-18 and its aftermath, we see the effect of social change on the educational roles of the family and the school. The study is divided into three main areas. In Part I a preliminary survey is made of developments in familial and formal education during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. This is followed in Part II by a brief examination of the views which Duhamel, Martin du Gard and Romains have expressed on their own educational experiences and on education generally. The support of traditional middle-class priorities in education which is found in their later works is linked with their increasing political and social disillusionment after World War I. Their reaction to the social disequilibrium of the interwar years is a revival of the principles of order, discipline and authority of the pre-1914 bourgeoisie. However, although a cultural bias and an élitiste attitude towards education are found in the writings of all three authors, the point is made that Martin du Gard does not share to the same degree the close identification with middle-class ideologies of his two contemporaries. It is suggested that the circumstances of their upbringing and education have some bearing on the differences in their attitudes. Duhamel and Remains were boursiers who rose from lower middle-class origins and tend to prize more highly the middle-class culture which they made determined efforts to acquire than the héritier, Martin du Gard, who was born into a family of the haute bourgeoisie and received these educational privileges as of right. This serves as a background to the analysis of the parent-child and teacher-pupil relationships in the romans-fleuves in Part III. The method employed is that of establishing case histories of the central figures, drawing the appropriate details from the 48 novels studied. The educational experiences of the characters are compared and assessments are made of the effect of formative influences on later development. The conclusion is reached that the treatment of the educative process in the three romans-fleuves has a basic similarity. The authors tend to emphasise the positive contribution of a middle-class education - the inculcation of the bourgeois virtues of thrift, endeavour and honesty, the development of the reasoning powers and the transmission of a broad, balanced culture. The man of culture who represents the ideal of the writers - Duhamel's civilisé, Martin du Gard's homme de valeur, Romains's homme de bonne volonté - is the product of the pre-World War I middle-class family and school system. Laurent Pasquier (Chronique des Pasquier), Antoine Thibault (Les Thibault), Pierre Jallez and Jean Jerphanion (Les Hommes de bonne volonté closely resemble each other in their conservatism in matters of formal education and in their firm belief that the principles which have guided the upbringing of the young in the past must be preserved. It is to these members of the bourgeoisie cultivée that Duhamel, Martin du Gard and Romains look for the defence of the French intellectual, spiritual and moral patrimony in the disordered social and political climate of the interwar years.
Georges Duhamel, Roger Martin du Gard, Jules Romains, French literature, Education in literature, French authors, Educative process in French literature