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Quotes

Quote #1

I also liked – and this is harder to say – I liked to give alms. A very Christian friend of mine admitted that one’s initial feeling on seeing a beggar approach one’s house is unpleasant. Well, with me it was worse: I used to exult. But let’s not dwell on this (2.5).

If we look closely at the way he tells his stories, we can clearly see that Jean-Baptiste feels shame at his earlier actions. When he says, "But let’s not dwell on this," it sounds a lot like embarrassment.

Quote #2

Yet I must admit that I ceased to walk along the Paris quays. When I would ride along them in a car or bus, a sort of silence would descend on me. I was waiting, I believe. But I would cross the Seine, nothing would happen, and I would breathe again (3.2).

Jean-Baptiste felt shame to such a degree that he allowed it to dictate his actions. Indeed, shame still dictates the way he lives his life – that’s what his confession is, after all; a way to deal with his self-disgust.

Quote #3

I learned at least that I was on the side of the guilty, the accused, only in exactly so far as their crime caused me no harm. Their guilt made me eloquent because I was not its victim. When I was threatened, I became not only a judge in turn but even more: an irascible master who wanted, regardless of all laws, to strike down the offender and get him on his knees. After that, mon cher compatriote, it is very hard to continue seriously believing one has a vocation for justice and is the predestined defender of the widow and orphan (3.18).

For Jean-Baptiste, guilt is inextricably tied to power. It seems that, before the fall, defending the guilty was his means to superiority, whereas afterwards, condemning the guilty is his means. Either way, Jean-Baptiste puts himself in positions of judgment for the sole purpose of feeling all-powerful.

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