Introduction & Overview of Shame

This Study Guide consists of approximately 32 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of Shame.
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Shame Summary & Study Guide Description

Shame Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Further Reading on Shame by Annie Ernaux.

When she was twelve years old, Annie Ernaux witnessed her father threatening to kill her mother. This dramatic childhood experience changed Ernaux in ways that she could not fully comprehend. So she committed herself to fully analyzing all the circumstances of her life at the time of the incident, and the results of that examination is Ernaux's eighth published work, the memoir La Honte (1997, Paris), translated into English as Shame (1998, New York). Shame was selected by Publishers Weekly as a best book of 1998.

In this book, Ernaux does not attempt to draw any conclusions. She simply gathers as many memories as she can about her town and her school, her extended family and their social standing in the community, her parents' cafe and grocery store, and her mother and father. By searching through news stories and staring at old photographs, she recalls as closely as possible the emotions she experienced in the summer of 1952, when her father lifted a scythe in his hand and threatened her mother. Who she was before that incident and who she became after it are the driving forces behind this story.

However, the memoir is not just about the author. It is also about the small Normandy town in which she grew up and the social structure that was in place there. Ernaux explores the awkwardness of puberty, the inflexibility of the Roman Catholic Church, and the narrow-mindedness of the smalltown sentiment that decreed that everyone should strive to be like everyone else. Ernaux's shame is that she felt she had to keep a secret. She believed that she must never reveal what she witnessed between her father and mother for fear of being ostracized. She must never reveal that she, or her family, was in any way different.

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This section contains 295 words
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Nonfiction Classics for Students
Shame from Nonfiction Classics for Students. ©2005-2006 Thomson Gale, a part of the Thomson Corporation. All rights reserved.