Foreign Languages & Literatures ETDs

Publication Date

Spring 5-5-1977


Despite the Marquis de Sade's rejection of the tradition-al family, the family plays an important but largely unrecognized role in his works. A careful examination of Sade's Oeuvres complètes in relation to five authors contemporary to him and an account of his own family experiences establishes a social and personal background that reveals the family's importance to Sade and the ways in which his attitudes toward the family are unique.

An analysis of the Oeuvres complètes indicates how the family influences most of the plots and subplots of Sade's novels, plays, and short stories. He consistently denigrated the family in its traditional capacities as pillar of society and as a unit of reproduction. The destruction of the traditional family is paralleled by the introduction of the libertine family. The description of traditional families' suffering and libertine families' practices varies only ac­cording to whether or not a given work was clandestine or acknowledged by Sade; he is consistent in his presentation of the family, and his three themes of exploitation of relatives, incest, and parricide reflect his negative attitude toward the family.

Sade's denunciation of the family was conscious, but, arising from his unconscious mind, there is a possible con­nection between Sade's childhood experiences, his algolania with what Freud suggests is an incestuous attachment to the father, and Sade's view of a destroying (masculine. or paternal) Nature. In preaching imitation and admiration for this kind of Nature Sade may be indirectly stating his love for his father just as he did when engaging in sadistic orgies of fantasies.

The family plays a more important part in Sade's works than has been previously acknowledged. Sade is not unique in rejecting the traditional family, but his rejection is more violent and complete than that of any contemporary author and reflects his denial of the validity of any institution that might try to limit the total freedom of the individual.

Document Type


Level of Degree


First Committee Member (Chair)

Patricia Murphy

Second Committee Member

Julian Eugene White Jr.

Third Committee Member

Ernest Truett Book