‘Laurence is not happy because she does not choose to be happy.’ In what ways, and to what extent, do you agree with this assessment of the character of Laurence?
“[Human beings] are responsible for creating their lives according to their own values...” Here summarised by Ursula Tidd, this idea suggests that we as humans are responsible for our own happiness by ‘creating [our] lives’ – in other words, through our choices. If we accept this to be true, as one is likely to when examining Simone de Beauvoir’s novel Les Belles Images (Barcelone : Gallimard, 1966), then it would seem that Laurence’s unhappiness is indeed due to her passivity. However, is it correct to imply that if one wants to be happy, one can be, simply by choosing it?
Early in the narrative one can see that Laurence believes an element of luck is involved where happiness is concerned: “Ils ont de la chance de pouvoir se passionner ainsi” (LBI, 11). She does not seem to share her relatives’ contentment – because she cannot or does not want to? The use of ‘ pouvoir ’ illustrates that she believes she is not able to feel enthusiasm, though the somewhat emphatic tone leads one to think that she desires to feel it. On the other hand, Tidd would argue that “...we try to pretend that we are not free and that we are part of the inert given situation.” Laurence does exactly this and, through pretending that she has no control, loses her choice. It is possible that, were she to except her transcendence, Laurence could be happy. In other words, by rejecting that she is a product of her situation and by accepting freedom and choosing that which would bring her happiness. Tidd’s statement could illustrate that this is possible for her character, as Laurence has not allowed herself the passive happiness of those around her; therefore knowledge of true happiness may be the real obstacle.
Laurence is certainly aware of the existence of happiness, and the popular obsession with obtaining it. In fact, Laurence is so much of an expert in this area that it is in fact her job to manipulate the aforementioned desire in order to sell products. She sees the world around her in pictures, and admires the perfect contentment they convey: “Quelle jolie image publicitaire, promettant – au profit d’un marchand de meubles, d’un chemisier, d’un fleuriste – la sécurité, le bonheur.” (LBI, 20-21). The separate middle clause demonstrates that though she may wish it to be so, Laurence understands that ‘ le bonheur’ is not actually found in the material possessions advertised and that ignorance of the fabrication is only profitable for the vendors. This is a positive step towards finding satisfaction as arguably Laurence ‘chooses’ not to be taken in by false assurances of happiness. It is also one step further along the path to knowledge of true happiness, in that it is now clear that Laurence is, to a certain extent, aware of what not to choose.
 Tidd, Ursula Simon de Beauvoir (London: Routledge, 2004) pp. 14
 Tidd, pp. 26