Study Guide

The Fall Truth

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The Fall reflects the existentialist claim that there is no objective truth. What we think of as fact is a set of beliefs. In fact, that novel’s main conflict arises from those beliefs being shaken by the narrator. This narrator then concludes, almost jovially, that truth is overrated. For one, it’s boring. It’s also not that useful. According to the narrator, "truth," as we think of it, isn’t always as illuminating as lies.

Questions About Truth

  1. Jean-Baptiste repeatedly refers to the word "harmony" in The Fall. He says he was "in harmony" with life before his fall, and he claims that separating justice from innocence by keeping the van Eyck paining in his cupboard renders "everything in harmony." What does he mean by "harmony"?
  2. If we can’t take anything seriously in this confession, as Jean-Baptiste warns us, how can we examine his tale with any certainty? How should we proceed in this "soggy hell"?
  3. Before his fall, Jean-Baptiste sometimes had an inkling of "the secret of creatures and of the world" (2.15). What is this "secret"?

Chew on This

Jean-Baptiste’s purpose in confessing his sins to you is to garner understanding. He fears nothing more than isolation.

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