What makes a ‘real man’?: Jacques and Raittolbe

It could be argued that Raittolbe in the novel acts as a direct counterpoint to our conception of Jacques, as he is what we should see as traditional male sexuality and dominance, yet even he is enthralled by homosexual panic in parts of the novel, resulting in the very sexual assault he enacts upon Jacques as we near the end of the novel. It is even explicitly stated that Raittolbe can ‘show (Jacques) what a real man is like’ when they fight in the bedroom, and it could be argued that this is because the Baron is a prototypical enactor, while Jacques, outside of his seduction of the more masculine Raittolbe, primarily exists as a character upon whom things are done, as exemplified by the tonal passivity of ‘I want to court you for real, as a bridegroom might,’ This simultaneously places Jacques in the position of a bridesmaid, reaffirming his conflicted sexuality, and reemphasises the fact that Jacques is essentially dependent on other characters to provide him with objects and beliefs to focus upon. From a structuralist viewpoint, it could even be argued that Jacques is only present in the novel by chance, as Raoule originally goes out seeking his sister and finds him, exclaiming ‘Am I mistaken?’ Jacques is therefore isolated from the action of the novel due to his passivity, reflecting the way in which he slowly transforms into being a kept mistress.

Following from this, if we are to assume that the concept of activity is what Rachilde considers to be the mark of masculinity, then this makes the love triangle we see between the three main characters inverted, as we have the two active ‘males’ in Raoule and Raittolbe chasing after the sexualized femininity of Jacques. Here, we could note that sexuality in the novel is always instigated by Raoule and Raittolbe, with the exception of the accidental seduction scene where the baron threatens to ‘call the vice squad,’ with Raoul coming over to visit Jacques under the watchful eye of the ‘marble statue of Eros’ and the rage of Raittolbe ‘knocking over a chair’ contrasted with Jacques plaintively begging that ‘Raoule doesn’t want you to (touch me).’ In fact, Jacques seems uninterested in at best, and slightly fearful at worst, the actual act of sex throughout the novel, as he seems to want the reversal of gender because of his actual desire to remain like that, while Raoule desires it due to her desire to recapture the ‘creature deliciously fatigued by ardent caresses.’ Therefore, I would argue that Raittolbe exists in the novel not as another choice for Raoule to debate, but as a counterpoint to Jacques, who is almost a warped version of himself- here, it could be maintained that the fight between the two literal men is the most physical action in the whole play. This warped similarity between the two men leads to their implicit attraction, and so of course, to the destruction of the classic romantic love triangle, resulting in the fact that we can only associate Jacques as less of a man throughout the course of the play precisely because he does not explicitly state it. As Jacques is not often active, we never understand his thoughts or desires, and so it follows that we draw the natural conclusion that Raittolbe is the more masculine because we can trace his activity.


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Filed under Week 3 Reviews: Rachilde

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