Nausea Essay Questions

  1. 1

    Why does Sartre begin with the “Editors’ Note” and the “Undated Pages?” Relate your answer to other parts of the work.

    As is asserted throughout Nausea, preserving history is much more difficult than some historians would make it seem. On the one hand, by starting with a fictional “Editors’ Note,” Sartre makes Nausea seem more like a historical document. Yet, at the same time, the “Editors’ Note” and the “Undated Pages” are full of missing words that might make us question how trustworthy these documents are. Antoine’s later considerations of the pitfalls of doing historical work only emphasize this difficulty.

  2. 2

    Is “the Nausea” physical, mental, or both? Support your answer with evidence and explain why this matters.

    Because Antoine appears to experience the physical symptoms of nausea, it can’t be said to be only mental. Yet “the Nausea” doesn’t appear to simply be ordinary nausea, as it is always accompanied by certain philosophical worries. This suggests that it is both physical and mental, which serves to support Sartre’s depiction of the paradox of human existence: we are both physical, inert beings, and active, conscious mental beings.

  3. 3

    Should we accept Antoine’s thoughts as Sartre’s own? Support your claim with textual evidence.

    Although much of what Antoine states in his diaries is similar to Sartre’s existentialist philosophy, it is probably best not to assume Sartre was simply writing down his own thoughts. Sartre frequently uses irony to suggest something to the reader that Antoine himself is unaware of, and Antoine’s dialogues with the Self-Taught Man indicate that Antoine is not always in the right. Even further, Sartre works to ensure that Antoine is an “unreliable narrator.” As such, some distrust of his ideas is welcome.

  4. 4

    Why does Sartre choose to give Antoine and Anny similar names and characteristics? Support your claim with evidence.

    Much of Nausea explores the complicated relationship between the self and others. Antoine’s and Anny’s relationship, made up of both strong similarities and stark differences, allows Sartre to reveal how complicated this relationship can become. Sometimes, it seems as if they exist for each other; at other times, they both seem purely self involved. Their names, then, can be seen to symbolize their closely connected but still distinct selves.

  5. 5

    Why does Sartre focus so much on the Self-Taught Man while using his name only once?

    Although we learn his name is Ogier P. in the "Undated Pages," the Self-Taught Man remains semi-anonymous in Antoine’s journals. His nickname seems slightly dismissive, even cruel; the persistent use of this nickname also shows us that Antoine can often be unfair to others, and it creates sympathy for the Self-Taught Man. This sympathy helps us to see the tragedy of the Corsican beating him (and likely ruining his life) at the end of the novel.