The Second Sex | Study Guide

Simone de Beauvoir

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The Second Sex | Chapter Summaries

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Chapter Summaries Chart

Chapter Summary
Introduction The Second Sex opens with the question, "What is a woman?" and defines a problem especially "irritating" to its female a... Read More
Volume 1, Part 1, Chapter 1 Chapter 1, titled "Biological Data," opens with a simple definition: Woman is "a womb, an ovary." Insult or exaltation, ... Read More
Volume 1, Part 1, Chapter 2 Beauvoir opens her criticism of this chapter, titled "The Psychoanalytical Point of View," noting that "Freud was not ve... Read More
Volume 1, Part 1, Chapter 3 In this chapter, "The Point of View of Historical Materialism," historical materialism refuses the definition of woman a... Read More
Volume 1, Part 2, Chapter 1 Beauvoir's historical account begins in the pre-agricultural world, of which little is reliably known. She speculates on... Read More
Volume 1, Part 2, Chapter 2 When nomads become farmers, the law appears and social structures develop. Women are highly esteemed and valued, largely... Read More
Volume 1, Part 2, Chapter 3 According to Beauvoir, "once woman is dethroned by ... private property, her fate is linked to it for centuries." She li... Read More
Volume 1, Part 2, Chapter 4 As economic, social, and political life change, women continue to suffer. Christian ideology regulates women's lives, sp... Read More
Volume 1, Part 2, Chapter 5 The shop girls and tradeswomen of the ancient regime in France have no more restrictions on their lives and movements th... Read More
Volume 1, Part 3, Chapter 1 In this untitled chapter, Beauvoir claims that woman, in the eyes of all men, remains a singular value. In Italy, for ex... Read More
Volume 1, Part 3, Chapter 2 This is the only chapter in the book containing topics broken out by Roman numerals. There are six topics, five of which... Read More
Volume 1, Part 3, Chapter 3 This final section on myth deals with the relation of the myth of woman to contemporary reality. The distinction b... Read More
Volume 2, Part 1, Chapter 1 Although women are overthrowing the myth of femininity, Beauvoir claims that "their normal destiny is marriage." Thus ... Read More
Volume 2, Part 1, Chapter 2 In Chapter 2, "The Girl," the separation between boys and girls is exacerbated as the girl succumbs to the hormonal chal... Read More
Volume 2, Part 1, Chapter 3 This chapter, titled "Sexual Initiation," examines the asymmetry of male and female eroticism that accounts for differen... Read More
Volume 2, Part 1, Chapter 4 In this chapter, "The Lesbian," although Beauvoir uses inversion—a term for homosexuality contemporaneous with her work—... Read More
Volume 2, Part 2, Chapter 5 Drawing on literature, diaries and anecdotes for Chapter 5, "The Married Woman," Beauvoir presents the beleaguered state... Read More
Volume 2, Part 2, Chapter 6 In Chapter 6, "The Mother," Beauvoir claims that since a woman's body is dedicated to the propagation of the species, mo... Read More
Volume 2, Part 2, Chapter 7 Chapter 7, titled "Social Life," examines the ways in which the family is connected to a larger community, usually a gro... Read More
Volume 2, Part 2, Chapter 8 Historically, prostitution has been the outlet for male sexual energy, even viewed as the means of preserving marriage. ... Read More
Volume 2, Part 2, Chapter 9 In Chapter 9, "From Maturity to Old Age," Beauvoir explores the similarity of the repetitions and abrupt shifts that cha... Read More
Volume 2, Part 2, Chapter 10 According to the opening paragraph, the announced goal of this chapter, titled "Woman's Situation and Character," is to ... Read More
Volume 2, Part 3, Chapter 11 In Chapter 11, appropriately titled "The Narcissist," woman is seen as both subject and object, but cannot be joined as ... Read More
Volume 2, Part 3, Chapter 12 In this chapter, "The Woman in Love," Beauvoir claims, "The word 'love' has not at all the same meaning for both sexes."... Read More
Volume 2, Part 3, Chapter 13 In Chapter 13, titled "The Mystic," the woman in love seeks to idolize the man she loves. There is another sort of woman... Read More
Volume 2, Part 4, Chapter 14 According to Beauvoir in Chapter 14, "The Independent Woman," no matter the changes in women's rights, the woman remains... Read More
Conclusion The conclusion opens with the question: do people believe the "battle of the sexes" is "an original curse," or rather "a... Read More
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