Hair in Monsieur Venus

One motif that really jumped out at me while reading Monsieur Venus was the repeated mention of hair. For example, at the end of the novel it is mainly the hair that is saved from Jacques and used in Raoule’s wax figure. While there are other parts saved, such as the nails and teeth, it was Jacques’ distinctive red and blonde hair that made the doll a representation of the deceased. It was also Jacque’s blonde chest hair that originally drew Raoule to him in the first place and began her voracious desire.

The way a character’s hair is described could be also interpreted as a representation of that person’s femininity at that time, especially in regards to Raoule and Jacques. These two characters undergo dramatic gender transformations throughout the novel. These transformations can be traced through the descriptions of the character’s hair. For example, during Jacque and Raoule’s first encounter, his hair becomes the focus of her attention and even comes up in the conversation. Rachilde writes, “‘Bah!’ he said, ‘it does not keep me from being a man!’ And his smock, still open, displayed the golden curls on his chest… Her arm relaxed, and she stroked the workman’s chest, as she would have stroked a blond beast… ‘I can see that,’ she said, with ironic daring… Jack started, taken aback… ‘Well, you know, people do have hair all over!’” (17). Not only is the hair prompting Raoule’s desire and beginning the passionate spark  in this relationship, but it is also indicative of the state of Jacque’s masculinity. At this stage he is defending his manhood and the hair on his chest signifies that he is male. In contrast, later in the novel when Jacques is becoming more and more effeminate, his hair is referenced again. At this point in the novel, Raoule is watching Jacques while he sleeps and thinking about how she has “created a being in her own image,” or made Jacques into a woman, (17). Raoule observes, “[Jacque’s] completely hairless arm stood out like beautiful marble on the satin counterpane,” (97). Now Jacques has succumbed to Raoule and the process of “gender reversal” is beginning. The focus is on his lack of hair and how feminine he looks.

Raoule’s hair is also very telling in regards to her sexual transformation. While not as much detail is given, it is clear that Raoule’s hair becomes more masculine as she herself becomes more masculine in the relationship. In the beginning her hair is described as, “brown, twisted up at the neck,” (19). While not extremely feminine, this description does imply that she at least has somewhat long hair if she is able to twist it up at the neck. Later in the novel at her wedding Raoule has different hair. When Rachilde describes Raoule at her wedding she states, “The wreath of orange blossoms was resting on her tight curls like a tiara on a boy’s head. Her bold face harmonized admirably with these short curls but in no way resembled that of a modest bride.” The duchess d’Armonville then goes on to say that, “Raoule’s had her hair cut off,” (170). The wedding night seems to represent the apex of Raoule’s sexual transformation. She finally owns Jacques and can have him however she wants. Her hair represents this moment because she wears it in a masculine style that mirrors her now almost complete masculinity in the relationship.

While not a major focus of the novel, the characters’ hair is very representative of the transformations occurring. Perhaps Rachilde takes care to include these details to help the reader keep track of the characters’ progress. These subtle hints are most likely working subconsciously and also working on the reader’s basic assumptions of gender identity. Hair is also commonly associated with desire and arousal which could be another reason Rachilde included these minute details.  IPN

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Filed under Week 3 Reviews: Rachilde

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