Study Guide

Nausea Isolation

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I live alone, entirely alone. I never speak to anyone, never; I receive nothing, I give nothing. (3.7)

In case you didn't get the point, Antoine spends his life alone. The only person he really talks to is his diary… and that doesn't really count. Even though he claims to receive nothing, though, he's a very wealthy man who has obviously made his money somewhere. The fact that he is totally silent about this prevents us from judging him too much. But we might still accuse him of being a jerk when he says he "give[s] nothing." How about helping out your fellow humans, Antoine?

In the past—even a long while after she left me—I thought about Anny. Now I think of no one any more. (3.11)

Anny used to be the only person in the world whom Antoine cared about. But now that she has left him, he doesn't care about anyone. That's called a rough breakup… especially when you eventually fall into a full-blown mental crisis.

All that is nothing new; I have never resisted these harmless emotions; far from it. You must be just a little bit lonely in order to feel them. (3.15)

Loneliness can be a painful thing. But Antoine also knows that isolation is often a necessary ingredient of deep philosophical thought. If you're constantly hanging out with people and joking around, you keep yourself distracted from the truth, which according to Antoine is that life is meaningless and the people are 100% responsible for justifying everything they do.

Perhaps it is impossible to understand one's own face. Or perhaps it is because I am a single man? People who live in society have learned how to see themselves as they appear to their friends. (6.22)

Antoine feels that he lacks basic social skills because he doesn't spend enough time around other people. He even muses that people who spend a lot of time around others learn how to see themselves as they appear to others. That's a pretty worthwhile social skill to have, especially when you're trying to make friends. Antoine, though, wouldn't know a whole lot about that.

"Before the War I was lonely and didn't realize it. I lived with my parents, good people, but I didn't get on with them." (24.163)

It turns out that—surprise surprise—Antoine isn't the only person in Bouville who has ever experienced loneliness. His acquaintance, the Self-Taught Man, also knows the sting of isolation. But unlike Antoine, the Self-Taught Man's need for other people has ultimately turned him into a humanist. That means he believes in universal human love. Antoine, on the other hand, has embraced his isolation and concluded that ultimately, individual human beings are born alone and die alone.

"When I think of those years… how could I have lived that way? I was dead, Monsieur, and I didn't know it." (24.163)

The Self-Taught Man has trouble figuring out how he was able to survive all his years of loneliness. To put it simply, he felt dead inside without other human beings in his life to love and care for. The ironic thing about this, though, is that the guy is still a total loner who spends all his time isolated in the Bouville library.

There is also a room on the side. But I have never been in it; it is reserved for couples. (16.19)

Antoine is fully aware of how alone he is, and he often feels a pinch of envy when he sees young couples dating. But at the end of the day, the only woman he has ever truly loved is Anny, and she is gone from his life forever.

But one day he had to find himself alone. Like M. Achille, like me: he is one of my race, he has good will. Now he has entered solitude—forever. (32.1)

Antoine frankly thinks that some people are born to be alone. The Self-Taught Man is one of these people. Yes, he could have suppressed his love for young boys, but Antoine knows that sooner or later, the man's perverse desires would get the best of him and he'd become a social outcast. Whether he likes it or not, it's his destiny to be alone.

This man had lived only for himself. By a harsh and well-deserved punishment, no one had come to his bedside to close his eyes. (21.7)

When looking at a painting called "The Bachelor's Death," Antoine realizes just how much society condemns people who live only for themselves. The bachelor, for example, is painted as a man who has died alone with no one to care for him. In other words, not getting married is viewed as antisocial behavior—something that people should be punished for.

This painting gave me a last warning: there was still time, I could retrace my steps. But if I were to turn a deaf ear, I had been forewarned. (21.7)

While looking at the painting of the dead bachelor, Antoine knows that he's being warned against remaining single. The painting is basically telling him to get married and have kids if he plans on having anyone mourn for him when he dies. According to Antoine, though, it doesn't matter either way, since you stop existing once you're dead, and there's no point in caring about whether people mourn for you.

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