Critical Evaluation

(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

In The Golden Fruits, Nathalie Sarraute breaks the traditional form of the novel. This novel does not proceed along a plot or story line developed by events. It is not anchored in a physical reality of time and place. There is no character development, and the characters do not evolve psychologically; they do not experience self-discovery or major change in attitudes or beliefs. Although Sarraute occasionally has a character refer to another by name, such as Jacques or Jean-Paul, the names are random and do not attach to a particular character. The reader simply knows that there is a Jacques or a Jean-Paul in the literary circle.

The characters are not individualized by physical descriptions, by details of their role in society, or by their relationships with each other. The novel contains no details to distinguish them as individuals. The characters are simply reacting bodies. Sarraute explores their physical changes through the approval or rejection of their gestures and ideas. Physical descriptions occur in the novel only to convey these reactions. For the members of the literary circle, interacting with others is stressful and often painful. Every time they express opinions and judgments regarding the works, they risk their reputations. They fear exhibiting a lack of good taste, a misdirected sense of artistic quality.

In The Golden Fruits, as in her other novels, Sarraute targets the interior movements of the characters—the responses of their bodies and their minds to external stimuli—to draw the reader into the novel and to experience the interior movements and sensations themselves. She avoids the use of a third-person dialogue, which would clutter the text with repeated signposts of “he said,” “she said,” or “so-and-so said.” This third-person dialogue style tends to render the narrative closed, static, and impenetrable. The reader remains an observer, deprived of experiencing what the characters experience. In contrast, Sarraute’s dialogue melds into an exchange of the accessible, and experienceable, interior movements.

Dialogue in The Golden Fruits is filled with aggression. Conversation is a fencing match...

(The entire section is 901 words.)