Literature Study GuidesThe Second SexVolume 2 Part 3 Chapter 11 Summary

The Second Sex | Study Guide

Simone de Beauvoir

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The Second Sex | Volume 2, Part 3, Chapter 11 : Lived Experience (Justifications) | Summary



In Chapter 11, appropriately titled "The Narcissist," woman is seen as both subject and object, but cannot be joined as a whole. Her individualism is at stake. According to Beauvoir, a woman gives herself "sovereign importance because no important object is accessible to her." She cultivates a personal style in her clothing and in her surroundings, and she engages in passionate and unusual interests designed to represent, rather than occupy her. All this is a failed hedge against objectification, which doesn't work since she simply creates and recreates herself as object. Authenticity is lost in the love of the mirror image. In the context of theater, such a woman is not a successful actress since her goal is not to transcend herself in a role, but simply to be in the spotlight, to be seen. Thus, she is a pretense of a subject—she performs a subject she cannot be. Women wish to be important, rather than accomplish something that makes them important. They prefer to serve as muse to a gifted man. A distinguished lover is not the man she loves, but the apotheosis of her narcissism. There is no reciprocity in her need for attention. She cannot love.


Narcissism is the apotheosis of immanence. It is the ultimate, predictable retreat from objectification and the failure of the retreat. It is a body trapped in its own immanence: in a sense, the extreme of the object position. A woman is not even subject to herself since she is not whole. There is no integration of the woman and her reflection.

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