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The Fall

The Fall

by Albert Camus

Power Theme

The Fall claims that power and subjugation are necessary in the world. Only authority can absolutely determine truth in an uncertain world. In the case of the novel’s narrator, power is derived by judging others, and by taking a God-like stance of authority over them. Power is also tied to physical location, and manifests in geographical summits. For example, to live on a mountain is to be above others, and therefore to have power over them. Lastly, just as judging others yields power, so does forgiving them. This is the only way to place yourself above those who appear as authority figures.

Questions About Power

  1. What are the different ways that Jean-Baptiste garners power in The Fall? What is his most effective method?
  2. What does "power" mean in this novel? Does it necessarily involve slavery?
  3. Jean-Baptiste argues that universal slavery is the cure-all to the judgment problem. But he also says, "I’m not being crazy; I’m well aware that slavery is not immediately realizable. It will be one of the blessings of the future, that’s all" (6.18). What does he think it will take for slavery to be "immediately realizable"? Why isn’t it possible yet in The Fall?
  4. What does the physical setting have to do with power in The Fall? (Check out the passages where Jean-Baptiste discusses islands.)

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Jean-Baptiste fails in his attempt to gain power over his listener in The Fall. But it is through this failure that Camus establishes his own authorial control over the reader.

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