Study Guide

Nausea Life, Consciousness, Existence

By Jean-Paul Sartre

Life, Consciousness, Existence

From the first page of Nausea, we know that Antoine ain't a happy camper. He's a miserable camper… but at least he's a curious one. This guy has a lot of questions about the meaning of life and existence. He also wonders who he is and how he can learn to survive in a universe that is completely indifferent to all human happiness and suffering.

As you can imagine, it's not easy for him to answer these questions, and it's downright impossible for him not to think about them. In fact, Antoine spends the majority of his diary writing about his direct experience of the world around him, and the silent, inhuman world that will continue to exist when the last of humanity is gone. Now that's some heavythinking.

Questions About Life, Consciousness, Existence

  1. Does Antoine have a good point about the absurdity of existence, or is he just a pessimist? Why?
  2. What exactly does Antoine mean when he talks about the "pain of existence"? What kind of pain is it?
  3. Is there any upside to Antoine's theory of existence? Does it benefit him in any way to think that human life is absurd? Why or why not?
  4. How does Antoine still manage to go about his daily life when he spends so much time thinking about the nature of existence? How does it affect his relationships with other people?

Chew on This

In Nausea, Sartre warns us not to look too deeply into the question our existence, because we probably won't like what we find.

In Nausea, Sartre shows us that the only way we can move forward in a modern world is if we accept that the universe doesn't care about us and do our best to make life meaningful on our own terms.