*Flanders. World War I battlefield overlapping France and Belgium where the narrator, Ferdinand Bardamu, discovers the absurdity of war and its meaningless slaughter. The war symbolizes the disease that has infected Europeans, perhaps all humans, and its victims are not only the wounded and killed but the mentally injured—who include Bardamu. The battlefield literalizes the irrational spirit that has taken over the world.
*Paris. Capital of France. To Ferdinand, this beautiful and historic city is seen from a hospital for mental patients. In his new abode, sexual promiscuity and superficial affairs run rampant. Although he escapes the slaughter of the battlefield by being sent to this hospital, it, too, is a place where stupidity and self-interest reign and is an apt symbol of the unstable mentality that has devastated Europe.
Ferdinand’s search for understanding, truth, and fulfillment eventually brings him back to Paris for a second time, and finally to a mental hospital in a Paris suburb. As he advances geographically, spiritually, and materially, he descends further into nihilism and despair. Paris represents the nadir of his fortunes and his emotional development. In extreme poverty himself, he treats the sick in a neighborhood that is an extension of their moral and emotional illness.
In the City of Light, dark streets, buildings perpetually in shadows, and night scenes are all part of a place that reeks of death, disease, and decay. The mental institution where Ferdinand finds lasting...
(The entire section is 651 words.)