This thesis examines the image of the adolescent girl in contemporary French first-person novels, read from a gender perspective. It is both a thematic and a narratologic study of thirty-two novels (1950-1999), focusing on the use of stereotypical concepts of femininity.
From a thematic perspective, the female protagonists’ world stands out as dark and problematic, especially in comparison with the world of the male protagonists. The recurrent themes revolve around sexuality and violence in both worlds, but they are treated differently depending on the biological sex of the protagonist. This thematic study thus shows that the protagonists live in a patriarchal world, with different norms for girls and boys.
However, an examination of the ‘I’ narrator somewhat modifies the compact, gloomy picture of the girls’ situation. The authors introduce perspectives on the fictional universe of the adolescent, for instance by contrasting the focalization of the adolescent and potentially unreliable narrator with the supposed view of the adult reader. These perspectives are subversive in some novels, but mostly vague. Accordingly, the readers are often left to their own interpretation and evaluation of the adolescent girls’ situation.
Finally, a discussion of virtual readers and “target readers” shows a tendency to read and market the novels in question as more or less autobiographical. Such readings modify their ideological potential.