Themes and Meanings

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

The principal theme of the novel is the isolation of man in a world ruled by reason and logic. Throughout the novel, the contradiction between the tormented, complex world of the protagonist and the hostile, external reality is present and obvious. It is important to point out that “objective” reality is only one more element in Sábato’s narrative, whereas “subjective” reality permeates the total work. Thus, most of the action takes place in the tumultuous mind of Castel. The novel’s original title, El túnel (the tunnel), reveals the inner confinement and entrapment of the protagonist, who has become totally estranged from his exterior world. His desperate attempt to liberate himself from such a condition leads him to believe that María has spent her existence in a similar tunnel, parallel to his own. Therefore, the fusion of both paths should bring about a total union. Physical possession and subsequent jealousy gradually become frantic obsessions for Castel and seem to be the only means of bridging their inner lives. Yet sexual closeness will soon prove to be a futile way of communicating. The theory that love, and finally sex, leads only to more extreme anguish and solitude has been analyzed by Sábato in a lucid essay entitled “Solitude and Communication” in Heterodoxia (1953; heterodoxy). In The Outsider, the disenchantment with physical love is expressed in the following paragraph:I will say right away that this was...

(The entire section is 503 words.)