When threatened by predators, lizards cut their tails in an attempt to escape them. We also cut part of our heart when in a crisis of existence in order to survive. “Adieu,” novel written by French novelist Honore de Balzac when he was 31 with the background of the Napoleonic Wars, portrays how men’s defense mechanism works in an urgent situation. During the wars, the French troops needed to cross the Beresina River to escape the siege of the Russians. Colonel Philippe de Sucy hurriedly built a raft with soldiers, but when it was finished, there was not enough room for all. Philippe decided to give up getting on board himself but instead make room for his lover Stephanie de Vandieres and her husband Count Comte de Vandieres. Stephanie said her farewells “adieu!” to Philippe, filled with tears.
However, the raft started to run aground as it made its way, and the shock knocked the Count overboard. As he fell, a piece of floating ice decapitated him. Stephanie was so shocked by the scene that she lost memory. She became a wild woman who remembered neither her lover nor husband, and even the fact that she was a woman. Though a word “adieu” repetitively came out of her mouth, there was no emotion in it. Just like that, Stephanie cut her memories and went insane. It was a price she had to pay in order to survive.
After years had passed by, Philippe accidentally ran across Stephanie, but she did not recognize him at all as she became like a young child who blindly reacts to sweet candies. Following serious consideration, Philippe decided to artificially recreate the scene at the Beresina to make her recall the past memory. In the recreated scene, as he wished, Stephanie took her memory back and shouted out the name of Philippe. However, as soon as she ran into his arms, her body suddenly drooped and she only faintly said, “I love you, adieu.” What killed her was a man’s selfishness under the name of love, which can be likened to an act of taking a lizard that had cut its tails to survive back to predators. This resembles violence that we sometimes commit under a delusion that it is love, with little understanding of the depth of wounds in others’ hearts.