by Albert Camus
The Fall Justice and Judgment Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph). We used Justin O'Brien's translation.
Furthermore, I was buoyed up by two sincere feelings: the satisfaction of being on the right side of the bar and an instinctive scorn for judges in general. […] I could not understand how a man could offer himself to perform such a surprising function. I accepted the fact because I saw it, but rather as I accepted locusts. […] I earned my living by carrying on a dialogue with people I scorned (2.2).
By comparing his scorn for judges to a reaction elicited by a biblical plague (that would be the locusts), Jean-Baptiste roots the idea of judgment in religious zeal.
Besides, if everyone told all, displayed his true profession and identity, we shouldn’t know which way to turn! Imagine the visiting cards: Dupont, jittery philosopher, or Christian landowner, or adulterous humanist – indeed, there’s a wide choice. But it would be hell! Yes, hell must be like that: streets filled with shop signs and no way of explaining oneself. One is classified once and for all (3.8).
Compare this to Jean-Baptiste’s later definition of his profession: simply a tallying up of everyone’s sins. Is he guilty of applying simple labels to others? If man is defined by such a "tallying up" of his errors, with no allowance for "extenuating circumstances" or "indiscretions," then isn’t Jean-Baptiste labeling his clients by the crimes they’ve committed – crimes like "landowner" or "adulterer," as he lists here?
The question is to slip through and, above all – yes, above all, the question is to elude judgment. I’m not saying to avoid punishment, for punishment without judgment is bearable. It has a name, besides, that guarantees our innocence: it is called misfortune. No, on the contrary, it’s a matter of dodging judgment, of avoiding being forever judged without ever having a sentence pronounced (4.5).
Jean-Baptiste changes his stance by the end of the novel. Here, he says the point is to escape judgment. Later, he expresses that you can judge, but should permit yourself to act however you please anyway. In fact, these are not contradictory statements. Jean-Baptiste sets up his conclusion here – the problem with being judged is that it means you have to try to preserve your innocence. As long as you don’t care about your innocence, as long as you’re willing to be guilty, then who cares if you’re getting judged? You’ve stripped the judgment of its meaning.