Study Guide

Nausea Madness

By Jean-Paul Sartre

Madness

Antoine is falling down the rabbit hole, but unfortunately there's no Cheshire Cat to tell him that "we're all mad here."

Our man spends the first quarter of Nausea wondering if he is going insane, since even the most normal day-to-day activities fill him with disgust and paranoia. It's like the whole world of objects (like chairs and tables) is closing in on him, ready to destroy him. Yikes.

It's not until later in the book that Antoine realizes that his feelings of disgust aren't madness after all, but rather a sign that he has figured out the truth of all existence.

We'll leave it to you, Shmooper: is Antoine a philosopher or a nutjob?

Questions About Madness

  1. Do you think Antoine is crazy, or has he really seen a truth that the rest of the world chooses to ignore? Could it be both?
  2. What do other characters (like the Self-Taught Man) think about Antoine's outlook on life? Do they take it seriously or do they think he's crazy?
  3. What situation triggers Antoine's first feelings of "nausea"? Does it give us any insight into Antoine's conflict? Why or why not?
  4. Does Antoine think he's crazy by the end of the book? Why or why not?

Chew on This

There's no getting around it: Antoine Roquentin suffers from a deadly cocktail of paranoia, self-loathing, and antisocial thoughts. The authorities should get him off the streets ASAP.

In Nausea, Sartre shows us that it's perfectly possible for one person to be sane in an insane world.