the story of O by pauline réage
a friend asked me to read The Story of O, which follows the story of a beautiful parisian fashion photographer as she gives up everything, even self-worth, for the man (Rene) she loves. she allows herself to be whipped, debased, mutilated, and used by a succession of men in the name of love.
the book was written by Anne Desclos under the pen name Pauline Réage. it was published in 1954, causing much controversy but claiming many converts. it was adapted for a movie in 1975, but like the book, suffered banishment for a long time…
O is about subjugation and submission apparently. sex is a major part of it but only a part. the relationship demands complete control or surrender, over or of the tiniest details of one’s life—what to wear, who to befriend, what to think.
so I read it, expecting much insight into the S&M relationship, which practitioners claim is liberating. at the very least, i expected to have fun reading it. but on the second page i was already bored. moving on to the following pages was a struggle. i trudged to the finish out of duty, getting nothing but a sense of having read propaganda…
alright, fine, i’d better qualify—the author writes in the intimate mode, as if talking to herself or writing a letter or diary. her character’s name is O, very fitting, if it stands for ‘object’ and accurate if it were a symbol for ‘eye’ as she lets us peek into a forbidden world (forbidden to those who won’t be wiling slaves).
O does not preach, she reveals. the book itself is not so pure though. i have an idea that it has transmogrified into a mouthpiece, a marketing tool for making dramatic lifestyle-changes. but my beef is not with that because as a fiction, The Story of O is terribly wanting.
if the story and writing were exquisite, i would be among the first to applaud unreservedly even if i was appalled by the author’s philosophy. but this book does not deliver the goods—it’s just a long list of cruel sex acts. the writing is very simplistic.
if there were meaningful messages between the lines, they were just lost on me. those who practice S&M say that with complete surrender comes strength. there is a sense of freedom in abrogating responsibility from having given up the power of saying ‘no,’ I gather.
i just think it weak—the philosophy and motivations. there are psychic holes from insecurities or sense of inadequacy in some people that can only be filled by feeding off on others, i believe. on the M side, they seem to rather merge their identity with a master rather than strengthen their own power of self.
how unappetizing! because I’d rather be so powerful, from a strong grasp of self-worth, on my own that I don’t need to impose or be needy to feel strong.
also, very rarely do we find someone who is master of him or herself. who is worthy to be master of anyone in that way? there are those who seem strong but are actually sniveling cowards. i don’t think anyone who is truly strong and powerful will have a need to be a “Master.” and if the point of this book is to give strength to someone one loves by complete surrender, i’d just say O was bamboozled.
were her masters truly strong? near the end the tables turned on rene, who fell in love with Jacqueline, an ambitious model, who was just using him. they wanted jacqueline recruited for sexual slave training but could not by their own persuasiveness or charisma but had to order O to betray her friend.
in my case, ironically, despite my protestation in this book review, complete surrender is the key. but i chose my master wisely for I am completely God’s own.