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Jean-Paul Sartre

Section 5

Summary Section 5

Roquentin's solitude leads him to believe that no one is thinking of him anymore. The only thing inside him now is existence: he calls his consciousness "anonymous," "transparent," "bored," and "impersonal." He thinks that consciousness is aware of its own existence, but only the fact that it is empty. Nevertheless, Sartre believed that awareness of the "nothingness" behind existence inevitably led one to exploit their freedom. In effect, rather than suffer indefinitely, Roquentin uses his recognition of the absurdity of existence (remember that this has to do with the accident or "contingency" of human existence) to reestablish his identity: "the I surges into the consciousness, it is I, Antoine Roquentin."

His defiance in the face of "nothingness" overshadows the Self-Taught Man's perversely comical attempt to touch a young boy. Sartre uses this scene to illustrate humanism's own intrinsic absurdities. As for Roquentin, rather than give up like the Self-Taught Man, he chooses a life of creation, action, and commitment. Inspired by the ragtime record's timeless quality (and the fact that he can listen to the same recording over and over again), Roquentin decides to write a novel. He doesn't think it will make him unaware of his own existence, but hopes that once it is written, it will make sense of who he was. Sartre leaves the question of how art can provide a meaning to existence unanswered. However, Roquentin feels confident that he can survive his Nausea by ignoring anxiety, living a life of action, and embracing responsibility. As Sartre wrote, "Life begins on the other side of despair."

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