Whenever Daniel has been the focus of critical attention, he has invariably been seen within an ontological framework, in terms of a desire to ‘be’, in the Sartrean sense. It has now come to be regarded as a truism that Daniel’s attempts at self-punishment signify such a desire. The interpretation originates with Iris Murdoch who, quoting an extract from Le Sursis, in which Daniel expresses a desire ‘to be a pederast, as an oaktree is an oaktree’, concludes that ‘[Daniel] is never able to experience a pure coincidence with his vice; he remains detached from it, an observer, a possibility. His attempts to achieve coincidence take the form of self-punishment’.
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