Social Sensitivity

Madame Curie exhibits a degree of national prejudice. Marie’s childhood experiences lead her to distrust and despise Russia, a hatred she illustrates by spitting on a monument to the czar in Saxony Square. The Curies also feel a bitterness towards France, leading Eve to call that nation ungrateful and stingy. France is one of the last nations to recognize and honor Marie and Pierre, and the nation’s educational hierarchy is slow to offer them important positions and adequate working facilities. Eventually, however, Marie is elected to the country’s Academy of Medicine in 1922, and in the following year, Parliament unanimously votes to give her an annual pension of 40,000 francs as a “national recompense.”

The biography also suggests a measure of intellectual arrogance. Marie expresses astonishment and revulsion toward stupidity, and Pierre defends his earlier bachelorhood by writing in his diary that “women of genius are rare” and therefore few women are worthy of his companionship. Eve says her father’s major disadvantage is his “genius, which arouses secret, implacable bitterness in the competitions of personalities.” The Curies’ disdain for wealth and awards indicates that they feel above such desires, and the extent of their intellectual ambitions and their tendency towards self-sacrifice might be interpreted as obsessive.

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