Carles: A life of her own
Change is never easy, and as they say, it waits for no man. The sleepy little village that writer,
Emilie Carles lived in her stirring memoir, A Life Of Her Own was no exception. In 1900 the whole world was in the throes of
change. Europe had at that time been experiencing the cataclysmic changes
brought on by the industrial revolution. France was no exception. The country
had been trying to catch up to the science and technological advances of the
industrial giants, England and Germany. As a result it effected not only the
whole country of France but individuals too, from the crowned heads to the
little villages up in the Alps, like the one Emilie Carles wrote about in her
Emilie Carles’ life was not an easy one in the
face of all this change. First of all, her mother died when she was very young.
Not having that support of her mother to guide her she had to work very hard in
terrible conditions with her father in the fields of the Claree Valley. They
did not have the innovations of machines that were helping farmers all over
Europe. Her life was very simple in this village and like many families of that
time, her life was ruled by a very strong patriarchal father, but even with
this, she was somehow swept into this air of newness that was in the air. It
could have also been because she had no close female role model, that she was
not socialized as second class citizen like many of the women of that time.
Carles began going to school, she realized that she was smart and that she was
destined in the world for something more and something better. Changes were
coming slowly for some in the village but she could see that changes were
happening even there. One of the things that changed was that many of the men
and sometimes their families were giving up work in the fields for a new life
in the growing cities down off the Alps.
rural life was changing because many people were also giving up the small
cottage industries that had been so much a part of village life. Activities
like spinning, and weaving were now being done by huge machines in factories.
Many of these specialized craftsmen were put out of work because it was done so
much faster and cheaper by the machines. As a result of this many of the
villages, including the one that Emilie Carles lived in were slowly becoming
Another change that Carles noticed was the growing sense of patriotism
that many of the people in her village had. This patriotism was due to the
increased sense of nationalism that most of the countries in Europe were
passing along to their citizens. It was all a race and Germany and England and
France were in it. It was a race for technology, and it was a race to get open
markets for these technology. England was in the lead for this, they had
control of the economics of many
countries on other continents. France was also apart of this race to colonize
and get markets for its products as well.
Emilie knew that she would have to get out of this quaint but
intellectually stifling environment if she was also going to be a part of the
changes that the new century offered. She struggled and persevered and was able
to go to school and become a teacher. But she did not leave forever the
backward land of her early life, she returned to it. She married and then moved
back to this village which she felt was a very original place.
In many ways the village had changed as the
result of the war, but in many ways it was still the same place of her
book was very good because it shows you that there are good and bad to progress
and to keeping things the way they are. In her book , she likened these quaint
little villages to cheese, each town makes a cheese and it is unique because it
is not exactly like any other cheese made by anyone else. For Emilie Carles,
she saw the worth that these villages have in that they provide a glimpse of a
life that no longer exists because of the changes that all such rural
communities experienced after the turn of the century.