Themes and Meanings

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

If the reader has difficulties identifying a plot, discerning characters, and making sense of the chronological sequence of events, an even more difficult task awaits anyone who seeks meaning in what Robbe-Grillet has said is a novel without “signification.” The descriptive style in this piece has as its purpose the stripping away of all metaphor, all symbolism, all universality, to reduce (or, some critics would say, return) all objects to their objectivity. According to the principles of writing that Robbe-Grillet follows, the universe is “neither significant nor absurd. It is, quite simply.”

Given the scholar’s predilection, however, for finding meaning in all literary utterances, it is clear that there are several labyrinths, a structure ubiquitous in Western literature from the time of Theseus and the Minotaur, in the landscape of Robbe-Grillet’s novel. The most obvious labyrinth in the novel, the city streets, is the site of most of the soldier’s and boy’s actions; a minor labyrinth, the hallways and doorways of private dwellings, completes the landscape. Less obvious, but apparent on closer inspection, is the meandering of the chronological sequence, which is further confused by the narrator’s use of the present tense, linking events only with such ambiguous phrases as “and now.”

Yet the act of inventing or constructing a life story, the activity of the narrator, is also the act of writing a novel, and the...

(The entire section is 434 words.)