The Fall features a man steeped in isolation, in part because he finds all relationships to be confining. The problem is one of responsibility: if you interact with others, you’re confined not only by their expectations of you, but by the reputation you publically build. And yet, this very same man preaches a philosophy of slavery. Give up freedom, he says – it is too much of a burden. The burden comes in having to prove over and over your innocence in order to continue to remain free. Having to prove as much means getting judged, which the narrator seeks to avoid at all costs. Admit guilt, give up freedom, and submit to a life of slavery – that’s his solution.
Questions About Freedom and Confinement
- Jean-Baptiste for slavery – what about for himself? To whom does he hand over his freedom?
- At the beginning of his confession, Jean-Baptiste tells the story of a man who slept on the floor for the sake of his friend in prison. At the end, he declares that you will sleep on the floor for him, every night. What is he talking about?
- What does it mean to "live in the little-ease," as Jean-Baptiste so frequently references?
- Jean-Baptiste is pretty down on marriage. In fact, he says something along the lines of, "marriage has put our country into slippers and will soon lead it to the gates of death," (5.10) later adding, "For want of betrothal or uninterrupted love, it will be marriage, brutal marriage, with power and the whip" (6.16). How is marriage a set of confinements according to Jean-Baptiste’s logic? How does it imprison? Why does Jean-Baptiste interpret marriage as different from love?
Chew on This
Jean-Baptiste’s "confession" is designed both to imprison his reader and to provide the illusion of freedom.
Jean-Baptiste dislikes friendship and romantic relationships because they tie him down with obligations. Yet The Fall proves that isolation is more restrictive than companionship.