Literature Study GuidesNauseaSunday February 25 February 28 One Hour Later Summary

Nausea | Study Guide

Jean-Paul Sartre

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Nausea | Sunday, February 25–February 28, One hour later | Summary

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Summary

Sunday, February 25

Still not quite done with Anny, Antoine Roquentin goes to meet her departing train. At five in the afternoon, he is at the Gare d'Orsay waiting for Anny. To pass the time, he looks through a lewd picture book for sale at the station, The Doctor with the Whip.

Anny and her man show up at the station. He is young, tan, and handsome. By appearance, Roquentin thinks he is "a foreigner, surely, but not English; possibly Egyptian." Anny and the man get in their carriage without seeing Roquentin. When the man leaves to get some newspapers, Anny looks out the window and meets Roquentin's gaze with her "inexpressive eyes." The man returns, and the train leaves. Roquentin thinks over his prospects. The next day, he'll return to Bouville, and shortly after that, he'll move to Paris. "Will I gain anything by the change?" he wonders.

Tuesday, in Bouville

Walking on a hill in Bouville, Roquentin wonders what freedom is. "I am free: there is absolutely no more reason for living." The reasons he has tried—Anny, the book, travel—have all collapsed. He now realizes he had hoped Anny could save him. The coming end of his time in Bouville seems like the end of his life. "Today my life is ending," thinks Roquentin. Just like Anny, he is going to "outlive" himself.

Today he is not suffering from the Nausea, but he knows it will return. "It is my normal state," thinks Roquentin. He is bored; he yawns so deeply tears come to his eyes. Looking down the hill at distant Bouville citizens, Roquentin feels far from them. "It seems as though I belong to another species," he thinks.

They are "idiots," the Bouvilleans; they don't realize "great, vague nature has slipped into their city." Suppose this nature suddenly erupted, thinks Roquentin, then the "idiots" of Bouville would take notice. He imagines scenes of inexplicable, physical horror: a hunk of meat propelling itself through the streets, people's faces oozing and splitting open. The natural world might suddenly follow other laws; new diseases like "toe-crutch" and "spider-jaw" could appear. Someone could go to sleep in his room and wake up in a forest. Psychological horror would also result. There would be "hundreds of suicides," and other people would learn, as Roquentin has, what it is to be "plunged into solitude." Then Roquentin will "burst out laughing." He will taunt people: "What have you done with your humanism?" As evening falls Roquentin wonders if anyone thinks like he does. He wonders what difference that would make.

Wednesday, My last day in Bouville

The entry starts by alluding to something that has happened to the Self-Taught Man. Antoine Roquentin imagines the Self-Taught Man is walking the streets "filled with shame and horror." Roquentin has long thought the Self-Taught Man was going to get into trouble, mainly because of his "soft, timid face." The Self-Taught Man has a "humble, contemplative love for young boys," says Roquentin. However, Roquentin downplays this love, saying it is "hardly sensuality—rather a form of humanity." Now, though, the Self-Taught Man has done something wrong, and as a result "he has entered into solitude—forever."

Backtracking, Roquentin tells the story from the beginning. At two in the afternoon, he goes to the library for the last time. He sits and reads the local news in the Journal de Bouville. A fat woman sits next to him. At 4:15, the Self-Taught Man enters, apparently a little stand-offish to Roquentin after their disagreement about humanism. Two "boys with satchels" enter, a blond schoolboy and a brown-haired one. They sit next to the Self-Taught Man, who begins talking to them. Roquentin can't hear him, but he notices the Self-Taught Man looks youthful and charming, and the brown-haired boy looks fascinated. However, the brown-haired boy reaches behind the Self-Taught Man and punches the blond boy's arm, so perhaps he is just clowning around and not really interested in what the Self-Taught Man says. Roquentin wonders what the boys are going to do to the Self-Taught Man.

Fifteen minutes later, the Self-Taught Man has started talking to the boys again. Roquentin thinks the boys look like they are about to drown a cat. The brown-haired boy's hand lies on the table, palm up. Before Roquentin's appalled gaze, the Self-Taught Man begins to stroke the boy's palm with one finger. The finger has "all the grossness of a male sex organ." The two boys have "turned pale." The woman also sees what is happening. Roquentin coughs, to try to warn the Self-Taught Man, but it's no use. The Corsican sneaks up behind the Self-Taught Man and shouts, "I saw you." The boys run away, and the Corsican goes on a tirade, berating the Self-Taught Man. The Self-Taught Man tries to defend himself. The woman joins in, siding with the Corsican. The Corsican punches the Self-Taught Man, bloodying his nose. Roquentin grabs the Corsican, but then he backs down. The Corsican bans the Self-Taught Man from the library. Roquentin follows him outside, but the Self-Taught Man only wants to be left alone.

February 28, One hour later

It is near sunset; Roquentin's train leaves for Paris in two hours. He feels as if he's already gone, and he walks in a park, enjoying the "total oblivion into which I have fallen." Everyone has forgotten him, Roquentin thinks. "Yet I know that I exist, that I am here," he says. However, saying "I" no longer feels natural to him; it feels hollow. He thinks of the Self-Taught Man, wandering the city. The Self-Taught Man has not been forgotten. On the contrary, people think of him with scorn. Roquentin wonders if the Self-Taught Man will kill himself, but he decides the Self-Taught Man isn't the type.

In the Railwaymen's Rendezvous, Roquentin says goodbye to Francoise, the bar's manager. She seems indifferent to him, and he wonders how he ever used to kiss "this large face." Still she buys him a drink on the house. Soon her current lover calls to her, and she takes her leave of Roquentin. Madeleine, the waitress, comes to say goodbye.

Now there are 45 minutes left until the train departs. Roquentin thinks about his money, "to pass the time." He has 1,200 francs a month. If he lives frugally he'll make it, although he also considers spending all his money—300,000 francs—in one year. He thinks about living like an old pensioner although he's only 30.

The Nausea seems to be stirring. Madeleine asks Roquentin if he'd like to hear his favorite record, "Some of These Days." Out of politeness, he says yes. He thinks scornfully of the "idiots who get consolation from the fine arts." However, the song interests him; the saxophone demonstrates "an exemplary suffering." Four notes on the saxophone seem to say, "You must be like us, suffer in rhythm."

Roquentin thinks back on his life, imagining his life story told as an "apologue," which is a moral fable. "There was a poor man who got in the wrong world," Roquentin imagines his apologue beginning. This man thought he lived in a world of art and literature. Then he realized, "He was in a bistro, just in front of a glass of warm beer." Now Roquentin listens to the song, and he hears a scratch in the record. The song is not affected by the scratch, Roquentin thinks. "Behind the existence," Roquentin thinks, "the melody stays the same, young and firm."

At Roquentin's request, Madeleine plays the record again. Roquentin wonders if he could try "in another medium" to create something like the song. He decides to write a novel. Unlike the history book he worked on, the novel "wouldn't stop me from existing or feeling that I exist." He might succeed in accepting himself, thinks Roquentin. Night falls as Roquentin looks up at his former home, the Hotel Printania, where two windows light up.

Analysis

When Roquentin saw Anny in Paris, she thought he was the same as ever. "I have been evolving," he protested. However, Roquentin's evolution is circular, or, at least, it moves in a spiral, repeating the same themes and phases. On Tuesday, Roquentin realizes all goal-oriented projects he once had have collapsed: Rollebon, Anny, world travel. He also realizes he will soon experience the Nausea again. Other experiences from earlier in the novel also return. As on the Sunday when he watched the bourgeoisie of Bouville promenading, Roquentin looks down at the "idiots" of Bouville. They are idiots because they have not had the vision of existence as a horrifying mass of soft matter. Vengefully, Roquentin imagines experiences that could teach them the truth of existence in upsetting ways: a side of rotten meat wriggling along the sidewalk; a oozing sore on a child's cheek; "or they might feel things gently brushing against their bodies."

The dread weight of the social order falls on the Self-Taught Man when he is exposed as a pederast, a man interested in boys. Roquentin sees the Self-Taught Man as pathetic rather than sinister. He is angered when he sees the fat woman and the Corsican colluding in denouncing the Self-Taught Man. However, it is also possible to think about the Self-Taught Man's fate as something Sartre devised for him. What better denunciation of the abstract idea of humankind than the lonely, rejected, pathetic Self-Taught Man?

At lunch on Wednesday, Roquentin had vehemently opposed the Self-Taught Man's ideas, despite their similarity to his own. A week later, on Roquentin's last day in Bouville, he scorns people who take solace in art even though he does the very same thing. When the waitress, Madeleine, offers to play his favorite song, Roquentin affects indifference, writing that he listens out of politeness. "To think that there are idiots who get consolation from the fine arts," Roquentin writes with disdain. However, in a way, this is what he does. If Madeleine pushed the record on him at first, Roquentin is the one who requests it a second time. The song's repeatability is part of what fascinates him. The song is ideal in the sense of its having an existence other than simply a worldly, material existence. It was written in the world, by a Jewish man in New York, and sung by a "Negress," and it exists materially on the scratched record. But the song also has an existence that surpasses these material conditions: "The melody is absolutely untouched by this tiny coughing of the needle on the record."

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