Becoming Beauvoir Book Summary By Kate Kirkpatrick

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Becoming Beauvoir, published in 2019, is an engaging read for those looking to learn more about French philosopher and feminist icon Simone de Beauvoir.

By making use of previously unpublished letters and diaries, author Emma Brockes paints a vivid portrait of the famous intellectual's life and how she became who she is.

The book provides insights into Beauvoir's formative years as well as her complex inner struggles in creating her own path in life.

With thorough research and detailed descriptions of Beauvoir's thoughts and feelings, it is sure to be an enlightening journey for readers looking to gain insight into a historical figure that has left such a lasting legacy.

Becoming Beauvoir

Book Name: Becoming Beauvoir (A Life)

Author(s): Kate Kirkpatrick

Rating: 4.4/5

Reading Time: 24 Minutes

Categories: Book Summaries

Author Bio

Becoming Beauvoir is a fascinating book written by Kate Kirkpatrick, a lecturer in religion, philosophy and culture at King's College London.

Apart from Becoming Beauvoir, she has penned several books on Jean-Paul Sartre, such as Sartre and Theology, and Sartre on Sin.

A prolific writer and scholar on the subject of French Existentialism, she is well-educated in the subject and her work here reflects her expertise.

Uncovering Simone De Beauvoir’S Groundbreaking Ideas And Unconventional Life

Simone De Beauvoir'S

If you’re looking for an inspiring story of a female philosopher who changed the course of history and thought, then “Becoming Beauvoir” by Simone de Beauvoir should definitely be on your list.

Through the book, you’ll learn about Simone de Beauvoir‘s unique perspective and important contributions to society, as well as her highly-influential philosophical works such as The Second Sex.

You’ll also learn about how religion shaped her worldview, what novel she loved most as a child, and how she first considered Sartre to be extremely ugly.

So if you’re looking for an inspirational read that will spark deep conversations around womanhood or simply inspire positive change in your own life, then this is the book for you.

After all, it’s not every day that a woman can influence so much with just one book!

Simone De Beauvoir: Misrepresented By A Society Unwilling To Acknowledge Her Brilliance And Independence

Simone de Beauvoir’s whole life has been plagued by misrepresentations of her work and beliefs.

During the twentieth century, there was a lot of resistance to the idea of a woman who was independent in her thinking and living, so facts about her life were often twisted or ignored in order to fit this narrow view.

More recently, however, evidence has come forward that proves how wrong these assumptions were.

For example, Beauvoir had already explored many ideas in her student journals prior to their being attributed to Jean-Paul Sartre – suggesting she was more than just his intellectual partner.

And her letters to other men reveal that Sartre wasn’t the main romantic focus in her life.

Despite these pieces of evidence challenging long-held beliefs about Beauvoir, society continued to unjustly portray her as “Notre Dame de Sartre” (Our Lady of Sartre).

The New Yorker even wrote reductively that she was simply “the prettiest Existentialist ever saw”.

It’s clear that Simone de Beauvoir has been wrongfully misrepresented all throughout her life due to an unwillingness to accept an intelligent woman advocating for complete independence in both thought and deed.

The Upbringing Of Simone De Beauvoir: Religious Equality And Love-Friendship As Foundations For A Feminist Philosophy

Simone de Beauvoir was born into an upper-middle-class family in Paris.

She was surrounded by art, culture and exploration of the natural world on her family’s country estates.

Her precociousness lead her father to proudly exclaim that she thought like a man!

But perhaps the most important influence on Simone was the religious differences between her parents.

While her mother was a devout Catholic, her father was an atheist — which exposed Simone to two vastly different belief systems at a very young age.

It taught her that different people can think differently and respect each other’s opinions, whether or not they’re in agreement.

This understanding of differences formed the foundations of Beauvoir’s philosophy even in childhoo: disagreeing with someone doesn’t mean you don’t have to respect them or their beliefs.

By reading books like Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, Simone also began to question why it should be expected for women to give up everything for their love but men are encouraged to pursue their dreams? Eventually, this led her to develop the idea of a “love-friendship” based on equality between two people and this became one of the main messages behind all of Beauvoir’s work later in life.

It is clear that these seeds of Beauvoir’s philosophy were planted even in childhood – and as an adult, bloomed into one of the most influential feminist thinkers of our time.

Simone De Beauvoir’S Faith Shaped Her Existentialist Philosophy: Finding Freedom Without God

Existentialist Philosophy

Simone de Beauvoir saw the world around her as a perfect creation of God during her childhood, attending mass three times a week and even keeping a notebook with “saintly resolutions.” However this all changed for her when she entered her teens and began to see the world in a different light.

This shift in perspective led Beauvoir to question why women were expected to act like saints while men acted with what is seen by many as debauchery.

These growing doubts towards faith caused Beauvoir to further distance herself from the traditional beliefs that had guided her up until that point, leading her to even consider atheism.

In order find an alternative path of guidance and make sense of life’s injustices, Beauvoir decided that actions should be seen as affirmations of self; we must make our own way forward without relying on an all-powerful God who had been so integral to our lives before.

Beauvoir still found purpose in the bible’s stories however, finding inspiration in the story where God asked “Whom shall I send?” and being met with Isaiah’s reply of “Here I am.

Send me.” Through this connection she felt she could begin a similar journey; inspired by faith even though it had shifted from its much relied upon past state and into something new which would become existentialist philosophy.

Simone De Beauvoir’S Transformative Epiphany At Lourdes: Respect For Others As The Key To Living A Balanced Life

The summer of 1926 was a pivotal moment in the life of Simone de Beauvoir.

During a pilgrimage to the Catholic site Lourdes, she witnessed suffering on an entirely different level than ever before and it shaped her philosophy for years to come.

She realized that it was possible to live a good life without sacrificing one’s own existence, but rather finding a balance between self-preservation and generosity towards others.

She reasoned that being free to pursue her own interests while still giving back to those who needed her could generate positivity in the world.

This experience convinced her that philosophy should be more reflective of real life experiences, not merely theories composed from within an academic bubble.

Literature was the perfect medium for expressing tangible feelings and envisioning powerful stories with philosophical truths embedded in them.

Simone De Beauvoir Outshone Sartre When She Passed The Agrégation Exam At An Unprecedented Age

Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre’s meeting may not have been celebrated as the iconic ‘love at first sight’ event as many people romanticize it.

Their initial encounter was not one that would make you suspect that they were meant to be together forever.

At this early stage, Simone was already in love with Sartre’s friend, René Maheu.

Additionally, when Sartre tried to organize a date with Simone, she sent her sister Hélène instead.

In fact, Simone even described the man her sister was to meet as short and extremely ugly!

However, their relationship truly began to bloom when René Maheu failed the agrégation exam and had to leave École Normale Supérieure.

At this school it was obvious that Sartre presented himself differently from the prankster he appeared to be at school.

His generosity of spending time helping other classmates understand who were interested in philosophy showed his true passionate character which drew both Simone and many others near him.

They quickly developed a deep bond becoming lovers and inspiring each other’s philosophical ideas which later became known by all.

Even though in public he seemed superior for quite some times due between them there wasn’t an unequal balance in power but instead a perfect harmony looking towards mutual success

The Dark Side Of A Relationship Based On Freedom And “Contingent Loves”


Beauvoir and Sartre had a very special relationship: after spending time together on her family estate at Meyrignac in 1929, they decided to have an unusual ‘open’ relationship.

As part of this pact, they would both be able to explore ‘contingent loves’, which allowed Beauvoir the freedom she longed for.

Although this arrangement was immensely important to her, it also led to some difficult emotions and dark times.

Beauvoir’s urge to experience multiple loves was brought into sharp focus when 19-year-old Olga Kosakiewicz arrived in Rouen University, where Beauvoir was a tutor.

Both Beauvoir and Sartre were instantly smitten with Kosakiewicz’s brilliance, and started spending more time together as a trio.

Though the original agreement stipulated that the freely explore “contingent loves”, this dynamic between them proved difficult.

Beauvoir became uncomfortable when Sartre became infatuated with Olga, while Sartre felt uneasy when she took another lover.

This conflict tested how sustainable their ‘open’ relationship really was – could they both handle such complexity? From these experiences, Beauvoir learned that relationships are delicate things that have to be carefully nourished if they are to grow or even survive!

Simone De Beauvoir Challenged Jean-Paul Sartre’S Ideas Of Freedom And Transcendence In Existentialism

Beauvoir and Sartre were both strong proponents of the philosophical idea of existentialism, and they often discussed their shared ideas.

However, when Sartre published his influential book Being and Nothingness in 1943, Beauvoir disagreed with one particular argument.

This disagreement was related to the two concepts that Sartre introduced in his work: “facticity” and “transcendence”.

Facticity referred to personal attributes such as gender, family and body, while transcendence was about being able to move beyond these attributes.

According to Sartre, it is possible for us all to make the most of our circumstances regardless of our facticity.

Beauvoir argued that this wasn’t a simple matter-of-fact as she highlighted that power—the ability to choose one’s fate—plays an important factor in our ability to transcend our circumstances.

She brought up the example of women being shut up in harems who arguably have little power or control over their lives; questioning whether they had the capability “to simply ‘transcend'” their circumstances as suggested by Sartre.

From this disagreement, Beauvoir elaborated on her own approach and went on to write two important essays – Pyrrhus and Cineas & The Ethics of Ambiguity – which solidified her influence on existentialism as a whole.

The Ethics Of Freedom: Simone De Beauvoir’S Answer To A Question Of Responsibility

Simone De Beauvoir'S

The ethical life was a cornerstone of the work and life of Simone de Beauvoir.

As Jean-Paul Sartre and Beauvoir both worked to understand freedom, Sartre had only a few short paragraphs discussing ethics in his famous piece Being and Nothingness.

On the other hand, Beauvoir saw the need to go further and explore thoroughly the implications of one’s actions upon others.

In her essay Pyrrhus and Cineas, she addressed a problem raised by Cineas to his master King Pyrrhus – what difference it made if he conquered the world or simply rested at home? Beauvoir’s answer is profound; whilst freely resting at home has no effect on anyone else’s life, an action such as conquering the world means exercising tremendous power over many lives.

Beauvoir thus developed a philosophy where our interactions with others had weight and substance – unlike Sartre’s famous quote “hell is other people”.

To her, coexistence was essential for true freedom.

Wrap Up

When it comes to the life and works of Simone de Beauvoir, the final summary is this: Beauvoir’s philosophy was deeply rooted in her upbringing.

From religion to family to reading, these factors shaped her beliefs and later works.

It had long been believed that she lived in the shadows of Jean-Paul Sartre, but new material reveals her originality and gives new perspectives on her romantic life.

Moreover, while Sartre seemed to lack an ethical dimension, Beauvoir actively sought philosophical answers for leading a good life.

These are all important pieces of Beauvoir’s legacy that deserve greater acknowledgment and celebration.

Arturo Miller

Hi, I am Arturo Miller, the Chief Editor of this blog. I'm a passionate reader, learner and blogger. Motivated by the desire to help others reach their fullest potential, I draw from my own experiences and insights to curate blogs.

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