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With this apparent allusion to the historical succession of the prophetic religions-Mosaic, Messianic, Mohammedan-the story ends. The disenchanted tone of the allegory reflects very accurately the decadent religious sensibility, which was quite another thing from Gide's evangelical fervor. The joyless resignation of the prophet who finds himself the guardian of an empty cult is as oe- Decadence and Symbolism 49 characteristic of the end phase of Romanticism as the angry pride of Vigny's Moses was of its heroic beginnings.
His mother, on her deathbed, asks him to give up Emmanuele to another suitor. "Your affection is fraternal," she tells him. In response to her plea, Andre plots a secret virtue: he will cause Emmanuele to disapprove of him, to despise him. He will merit her all the more for having made such a sacrifice. He blesses his dying mother for separating their bodies, for their souls are thereby joined in a virtuous abnegation. "The White Notebook" is centrally, and almost exclusively, preoccupied with the erotic.
To Cocles Zeus gives a resounding slap, but this abusive indignity (compounded when Promethee's eagle blinds him in one eye) furnishes him with the pretext he has been seeking. Having suffered unjustly, he becomes the champion of all those who have suffered injustice. As a recipient of charity and a dispenser of benefits, he fills his life with philanthropy and shows that the assumption of suffering and degradation can be a triumphant choice. Decadence and Symbolism 57 Damocles and Cocles illustrate quite clearly the problematical quality of human liberty.