I want to work through some ideas from Baudrillard’s, “The Cultures of Collecting” before class.
Embedded within the text, I found the concept of “recuperation” (11), and how this concept works with objects, possessions, and the individual connects to Chris and his ultimate recuperation in Return of the Soldier. I feel these ideas are rough, so please allow me to butcher Baudrillard’s ideas.
Baudrillard writes, “objects are the sole things in existence with which it is truly possible to co-exist,” and then later in the paragraph, “This is why man so quickly seeks out the company of objects when he needs to recuperate” (11). It is interesting that these lines are in the section about pets–the neutered objects in our homes–and he calls this recuperation a “regression” and possibly even a tricking of the conscious mind. In fact, if this is a regressive crutch, to gain possessions and allow those possessions to give us comfort, to show us singularity in the world, then all importance soon comes from possession. But the possession of the item/object has to rest on the object being of unique origin and “its absolute singularity as an object depends entirely upon the fact that it is I who possess it–which, in turn, allows me to recognize myself in it as an absolutely singular being” (12). Baudrillard demonstrates the collector can be “a rich man specializing in Persian miniatures, or of the pauper who hoards matchboxes” (9) but think of this pauper hoarding matchboxes–he must know that he is not the only possesser of matchboxes or a similar collection. Singularity cannot truly exist for the pauper or those of the lower class. It strikes me that this concept of a singular being is a privileged position, and this is dealt with to some extent later, but I think it is worth transferring to Return of the Soldier.
Chris has regressed. He is sent home to be around familiar things and recuperate. But his healing comes not from Kitty, the wife who is a woman of privileged lifestyle, but instead Margaret, the “pauper”–if I’m allowed to stretch. She uses items of a collection to help Chris, but they are not the type of items that people use to seek comfort.
The bedroom of the deceased child–perfectly kept in place, but rarely entered by the grieving parents, even years after the passing of the child–is a common trope in books, television, and film (now). Grieving parents often keep the room as they would have kept it for the child, but it is not a room of solace or healing. In Return of the Soldier–the objects of Chris and Kitty’s child represent his repression, perhaps, but they also represent how Chris must regain his masculinity. There is a lot to say about the objects themselves, but here is where I am afraid I am really missing Baudrillard’s meaning. I will end with a short description of the items given to Margaret: “This is one of the blue jerseys he used to wear. This is the red ball he and his father used to play with on the lawn” (West 113). That line alone is enough to make me want to repress some things.