Study Guide

Nausea Chapter 21

By Jean-Paul Sartre

Chapter 21

Afternoon

  • After hanging in the library for a bit, Antoine goes to the Bouville museum and passes a painting called "The Bachelor's Death."
  • The main point of the poem is that bachelors are selfish people who don't get mourned when they die because they've never learned to live for others.
  • Next, he goes into a room filled with portraits of all the elite members of Bouville society from the years 1875 to 1910. At this point, he gives us a little rundown of all the men who helped build the town of Bouville.
  • While staring at one of the paintings, Antoine feels like the man in the painting is judging him. He suddenly feels like there's no reason he should be alive. He is like a worm or a microbe, putting out vague feelers and trying to find some sort of pleasure. But he can't.
  • The longer he stares at the portraits of the leaders on the walls, the more Antoine tries to figure out what their lives might have been like based on their appearances in their portraits.
  • One portrait that especially catches his eye is the portrait of someone named RĂ©my Parrottin. Antoine likes the look of this man and feels like the man is watching him with compassion and trying to figure out a cure for his spiritual nausea.
  • Eventually, a woman and man come into the same room of the museum. They look at a portrait of a guy who was supposed to be a great man. But Antoine knows from the library that the man they're looking at was only five feet tall in real life. The painter painted him with miniature furniture to make him look just as big as anyone in the other pictures.
  • Antoine finds it funny that this man is talked about with so much admiration, because people don't realize how badly he was mocked when he was alive.
  • When he's had enough of the paintings, Antoine turns and leaves the room.

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