Social Concerns / Themes

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

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The Fall, which has received mixed reviews from the time of its publication on, although it was hailed by Jean-Paul Sartre as the work that best reflects Camus's moral thinking, is a subtle confession. In the self-accusation of Jean-Baptiste Clamence, one finds the accusation of everyone, "the triumphant annunciation of man's total depravation," in the words of Germaine Bree. Camus satirizes the vices of an entire generation, and the basic guilt of humanity in every generation. Postwar men and women still suffered from the crimes of the early 1940s, and Holland is seen as a country of guilt for the Nazi massacres of the Jews. On the other hand, the question of universal guilt marks this work for some critics as a piece of religious writing.

Camus wrote The Fall when he was struggling with the question of Algerian independence. According to McCarthy, it marks Camus's artistic sterility and gloomy mood in the face of the possible separation of Algeria from France. Holland, with its absence of sun and its foggy atmosphere, can be seen as an anti-Algeria. The position taken by Camus in this conflict, which seemed at variance with his previous calls for freedom, is reflected in this melancholy satire.

Among the causes of guilt in this strange hero, Jean-Baptiste Clamence, is his refusal of responsibility. One night he had seen a woman on the Pont des Arts in need of help. She threw herself into the water, and he merely continued on his way. At the same time, he heard a mocking laugh behind him. The scene haunted him, and he tried in every way to assuage his guilt. Her fall was symbolically his; he became aware of the presence of evil within himself. By accusing himself, he tries to escape the accusation of others. His ruse, however, is not convincing, yet in this clever picture is a reflection of all people who are victims of the same self-deception.