| Quote #4
I wanted to upset the game and above all to destroy that flattering reputation, the thought of which threw me into a rage. "A man like you ..." people would say sweetly, and I would blanch. I didn’t want their esteem because it wasn’t general, and how could it be general, since I couldn’t share it? Hence it was better to cover everything, judgment and esteem, with a cloak of ridicule. I had to liberate at all cost the feeling that was stifling me. In order to reveal to all eyes what he was made of, I wanted to break open the handsome wag-figure I presented everywhere (4.25).
Jean-Baptiste is imprisoned by his own reputation because of the expectations that come with it. Like the friendships he avoids, or the personal ties he breaks, Jean-Baptiste is really just trying to avoid responsibility. Now go and look at what he has to say about "responsibility."
| Quote #5
Alcohol and women provided me, I admit, the only solace of which I was worthy. I’ll reveal this secret to you, cher ami, don’t fear to make use of it. Then you’ll see that true debauchery is liberating because it creates no obligations. In it you possess only yourself; hence it remains the favorite pastime of the great lovers of their own person (5.8).
Jean-Baptiste’s egotism has this larger purpose: freedom. We have to wonder, then, if he really loves himself, or if he’s just trying to avoid the obligations that come with loving anyone else.
| Quote #6
But they are the same gulls that were crying, that were already calling over the Atlantic the day I realized definitively that I was not cured, that I was still cornered and that I had to make shift with it. Ended the glorious life, but ended also the frenzy and the convulsions. I had to submit and admit my guilt. I had to live in the little-ease. To be sure, you are not familiar with that dungeon cell that was called the little-ease in the Middle Ages. […] It was not high enough to stand up in nor yet wide enough to lie down in. One had to take on an awkward manner and live on the diagonal; sleep was a collapse, and waking a squatting. Mon cher, there was genius – and I am weighing my words – in that so simple invention. Every day through the unchanging restriction that stiffened his body, the condemned man learned that he was guilty and that innocence consists in stretching joyously (5.13).
The Fall presents a complicated relationship between freedom, innocence, and judgment. What we have in this passage is one small piece of that: innocence and freedom go hand in hand, as do confinement and guilt. What’s so brilliant is that Jean-Baptiste has reversed cause and effect. Look at it this way: in a normal world, man is guilty, therefore he is put in prison. Makes sense. But in Jean-Baptiste’s world, Man is imprisoned, therefore he is guilty. This is absurd. Now think about it in the context of The Fall’s setting…