Nausea Literary Elements


Philosophical novel

Setting and Context

The fictional town of Bouville, France; 1932, in the wake of World War I

Narrator and Point of View

Antoine Roquentin is the first-person narrator.

Tone and Mood

The tone of the novel is cold and distant; the mood is gloomy, disaffected, and grim.

Protagonist and Antagonist

The protagonist of the story is Antoine Roquentin; the antagonist can be seen as society itself, or more specifically, the sense of "Nausea" that it provokes in Antoine

Major Conflict

The major conflict takes place between Antoine and his Nausea. Unable to overcome it until late in the novel, Antoine attempts to work through it philosophically and analytically. This prompts much of his diary-writing. His internal conflicts also fuel the minor conflicts in the novel, like Antoine and Anny's conversation.


The culmination of the story takes place when Anne meets with Antoine.


The violence between the Corsican and Self-Taught Man is foreshadowed early in the novel, as a number of Antoine's dismissive jabs suggest that he might be homosexual.


Antoine's writing style often uses ironic understatement.


The most visible allusions are to philosophers, like Descartes or Heidegger.


Visceral, dream-like imagery is often used


Antoine often describes things with paradoxical phrases like “sweetish sickness” or “nice, gloomy face." On a larger scale, he explores a number of philosophical paradoxes.


Though verbal parallelism is not used often, Antoine and Anny display parallel thoughts.

Metonymy and Synecdoche