Themes and Meanings

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

Zazie in the Metro is a novel in which there is constant confusion about sexual roles. For example, when Zazie wants to know what a homosexual is, Marceline tells her that a homosexual is a man who wears blue jeans. When Zazie is recognized, because of her language, by a driver from her hometown, the driver says that he did not know her dressed as a boy, that is, clad in jeans. One must keep in mind that Marceline, a substitute mother to Zazie, wears dresses and is in fact Marcel.

Of all the characters, Gabriel is indisputably the most admirable: He does not take life or himself too seriously; he is essentially at ease and enjoys making others laugh. Gabriel is not concerned with any traditional image of masculinity. In spite of his size and gender, he is a superior woman in terms of all the stereotypical female virtues—for example, with his patience and forbearance with his niece. He is the only heroic figure in the novel, an amalgamof the best male and female personality traits. He is the friend, provider,and daily companion to Marceline-Marcel; the protector of those who are weaker; the trusted leader of the other male characters. Gabriel consistently reminds Zazie that she must accept the world as it is.

This novel opposes order in general: the order of any traditional concept of character, any adherence to a structured plot, any authority which attempts to impose meaning on experience but only adds to the confusion. Reality may have no metaphysical value, but by the end of the novel, the metro is running again. In Queneau’s world, what more could one ask?