Nausea Summary and Analysis of Friday - Wednesday


Friday is marked by only a short note: Antoine is about to board a train to see Anny; he hears the gramophone and has “[a] strong feeling of adventure.” The next day, he meets Anny. Her greeting is terse and quick, and Antoine thinks that “she doesn’t look like a little girl anymore.” Anny laughs at Antoine’s smile, and during a silence, Antoine notices the lack of Anny’s usual decor; in the past, she would bring objects— “shawls, turbans, antillas, Japanese masks…”—and decorate rooms with them. When Antoine mentions it, she responds only with silence. She insists he hasn’t changed at all and calls him “a milestone…” adding that he “explain[s] imperturbably and for the rest of your life you’ll go on explaining…” She goes on to say that she thinks of him whenever someone around her needs to take measurements.

Despite this, Anny says that she thinks of Antoine often and was able to remember his appearance; she knows that Antoine has forgotten her own. As their conversation continues, Anny displays a remarkable ability to remember the past. “She seems to be talking of today rather than yesterday,” Antoine thinks. Soon he learns that Anny is no longer acting but instead “being kept” by a man. She refuses to give further details and goes to the bathroom to make tea. While she’s away, Antoine catches sight of “a volume of Michelet’s History of France,” which Anny used to take everywhere. Anny asks him to tell her about himself; he does, and she expresses little interest.

A tense moment passes, and Anny declares that she’s changed. Her lack of decoration and strange behavior was an attempt to elicit a reaction out of Antoine. When he retorts that he noticed the decor, their conversation quickly turns to the fact that “there are no more perfect moments.” Antoine is surprised that Anny says this, and she insists that he has remained the same; intellectual changes, she asserts, are not true changes. Anny’s face transforms “as the actors of antiquity changed masks.” When Antoine expects her to launch into “a tragic speech,” all she says is “I outlive myself.” She admits that she loved him but suggests she no longer has that capacity for passion, moving into a story from her childhood in which she jumped out of a fourth-floor window after her mother had whipped her.

Trying to explain the concept of a perfect moment, she continues: she was whipped because she had called her uncle “a dirty pig” for taking away her volumes of the History of France. She remembers, fondly, how she considered the pictures in the book “privileged situations.” As a child she thought these situations—assassinations, deaths, “the entry of Henri IV into Paris”—must have been especially important; the “perfect harmony” of these historical illustrations, Anny mentions, only increased the importance they had in her mind. In the past, she tried to recreate these privileged situations in her life. Antoine suggests her attempt to create these was similar to making art, but Anny describes it as “a duty.”

Eventually, Anny states that her sense of the inherent privilege of anything has faded. Now “everything looks so alike that you wonder how people got the idea of inventing names.” Antoine thinks that they’ve had the same revelations and summarizes his recent thoughts to her, but she replies that they haven’t thought the same thing. Their conversation continues discordantly, jumping from topic to topic. When Antoine claims that theatre is a way to create perfect moments, Anny replies that theatre only creates such moments “for the others,” i.e. for the audience. And yet, the audience isn’t living “inside” the action on stage. Anny suggests the performances were not really existent for anyone.

Antoine decides that there is nothing more to say. So that she can write to him, he gives her his address and prepares to go. She gives him a kiss at the door, but any sense of their sweet reunion ends when Antoine sees her as an old, gaunt woman. Frustrated that he says he has found her again, Anny tells him to leave; she shuts the door behind him.

On Sunday, Antoine goes to the train station, attempting to see Anny one last time. They see one another but say nothing, and now Antoine sits in a café “half-asleep,” writing this very entry. On Tuesday, he’s returned to Bouville. He declares that he is “free: there is absolutely no more reason for living” and reflects that “this freedom is rather like death.” Today, he writes, has offered him a brief respite from the nausea. He reflects on his “dead” past and watches the men of Bouville move around below him; he criticizes their bourgeois lives. The criticisms slowly morph into a series of horrible, dream-like images. Tongues become centipedes and eyes appear in wounds. He thinks that he fears existence; evening falls; he returns to his hotel.

Wednesday is his last day in Bouville. There’s been a scandal at the library, and Antoine can’t stop thinking about the Self-Taught Man. That afternoon, Antoine was visiting the library for the last time. Once there, he read the Journal de Bouville (a newspaper) until the Self-Taught Man appeared around four. The two acknowledge one another but don’t interact, still tense from their last conversation. As Antoine reads the Journal, two young boys come into the library. Antoine describes how the Corsican acts as something of a dictator, preventing them from reading the works of “Gide, Diderot, Baudelaire and medical texts.” Soon the Self-Taught Man moves over towards the boys, whispering something to them. The boys listen, and the Corsican takes notice. Slowly Antoine watches as the Self-Taught Man moves his hand towards one boy’s hand. The two seem to be attempting to play a prank on him, and although Antoine attempts to warn the Self-Taught Man that he’s being watched, he touches the boy’s hand. The Corsican sees the touch and becomes “drunk with fury.” The Self-Taught Man, unable to respond, is called “Filth.”

When he attempts to continue reading, the Corsican punches the Self-Taught Man, twice. Bleeding, he prepares to leave the library. Antoine, uncharacteristically, grabs the Corsican by the neck and is about to hurt him. Though Antoine holds back, his intervention gives the Self-Taught Man enough time to leave the library. Antoine follows him, wanting to wash the Self-Taught Man’s face of blood. He won’t let him and walks out into the night.

An hour later, Antoine is walking on Rue Boulibet. He feels as if the city is no longer recognizable to him. He is “between two cities.” The use of “‘I’ seems hollow” to him, and although he feels dissociated from his self, he thinks consciousness in general (not necessarily “his”) continues on. He remembers the events at the library and his interaction with Anny. At the “Railwayman’s Rendezvous,” he says goodbye to the patroness with whom he was having sex. The patroness leaves him and forgets to come back. Madeleine asks if he would like to hear his favorite record again; he agrees. "Some of These Days" begins, and although greatly pessimistic at the beginning of the song, soon Antoine feels the nausea calm down; he imagines that a Jewish man wrote this song and a black woman is singing it. When the song ends, he asks Madeleine to play it again. She laughs at him but plays the record, and on second listening, Antoine declares that “two of them are saved:” the Jewish writer and the black singer.

He experiences “a sort of joy” and wonders if this joy might justify existence. Unsure, he thinks he might be able to write a book. Writing a history, he thinks, would be no good, as it attempts to justify someone else’s existence. Instead, he decides to write a novel. This novel—Nausea—ends with Antoine feeling a sense of beginning. Night has fallen; he thinks, “tomorrow it will rain in Bouville.”


One of the most striking and memorable scenes in the book is Antoine and Anny’s conversation. Just like the lunch between Antoine and the Self-Taught Man, their interaction takes the form of a dialogue. Yet, rather than revealing differences of opinion, the dialogue between Anny and Antoine actually shows the extent to which the two are similar. Anny’s monologue, with some important differences, mirrors Antoine’s own thoughts about the absurdity of existence. But Anny’s beliefs surrounding perfect moments, unlike Antoine’s, seem to be much more focused on her relationship with others. Taking up the motif of theatre and theatricality, she shows how her attempts to craft existence have only proved to be for an audience of others; she has been unable to justify existence for herself. For different reasons, both Antoine and Anny have lost their belief in the essential.

The scene also builds on the themes of the self, others, and their relationship. When both Anny and Antoine emphasize the ways they’ve changed, they suggest how the self is not a constant thing. Anny’s statement, “I outlive myself,” encapsulates this dynamic, in which one is constantly leaving behind aspects of one’s identity and history. But despite this change, the two reveal a knowledge of one another and similar thinking styles that show why these two people might have once been in love. Their similar identities and their stark differences appear in dramatic form by the end of the conversation.

The pair's cold separation puts something of a damper on the mood of optimism which began to appear in the last section. Yet the scene involving Antoine, the Corsican, and the Self-Taught Man counters this cold separation with a scene of heated violence. Though not the primary focus of the scene, it is important to first consider that the confrontation in the library was politically charged. Not only does the Corsican quite obviously act as an unjust censor in the library, preventing the reading of anti-bourgeoisie literature, but his violent homophobia and verbal abuse should be put in the context of then-emergent debates about the treatment of homosexuals. The tense climax had a pressing, political edge.

The scene in the library also proves to be an important moment of Antoine’s characterization. Much different from his disdain of the Self-Taught Man at the recent lunch, Antoine here shows a willingness, without relying on humanistic precepts, to defend and assist another person. The scene not only shows Antoine making a free choice to help an “other”; it also shows his ability to do this while still acknowledging the absurdity of existence. He has no duty to help the Self-Taught Man, but in his freedom, he chooses to do so.

The final scene of the novel allows Sartre to show Antoine on the other end of despair; the tone of the novel seems to follow Antoine’s mood, and when he feels “a sort of joy” after hearing "Some of These Days," the prose becomes lighter. His thoughts about the possibility of finding harmony through writing are accompanied by a more pleasant prose style, and as Antoine prepares to move to Paris, we as readers feel that existentialism, rather than a form of repackaged nihilism, opens the doors for one to justify the self through action and to look towards tomorrow without despair, even if it “will rain in Bouville.”