Much has been written about the French writer Albert Camus (1913-1960). He was, during his short time on the planet, neither a Christian nor an Atheist not even an agnostic. Yet in the absence of a god, he devised a belief based on the contradiction which he referred to as 'the human need for meaning and the unreasonable silence of the world.' This condition drove him to the conclusion that life was certainly absurd and the only opposition to it was revolt, freedom and an unconditionally passion for life itself. This opposition expressed itself so well in his writings from his unwavering commitment to life and the celebration of the body in L'Etranger (1942) to the revolt and abhorrence of any political system without morality as in La Peste (19470) and The Rebel (1951), to his themes of exile in those wonderfully crafted short stories, L'exil et le Royaume.(1957) and his own story, written in the rawness of his voice in a search of self-discovery, a victim of the colonisation in Algeria as much as the Arabs themselves ,in the absence of a father, wealth and happiness , in Le Premier Homme (1994) . Camus' themes are parables for our present age with their searing analysis of exile, the destructive power of political ideologies and the commitment for authenticity and revolt in serving truth and freedom for future generations
In dealing with 'The Fall' as one of Camus' short masterpieces on the theme of passive human avoidance, we have the most highly personal account of the evil located within the individual himself and within the very language he uses. Unlike the main character, Meursault in L'Etranger, who is pursued by a blind fate and involuntary kills an Arab, and is misunderstood by a hypocritical society, Jean-Baptiste Clamence,
The main character in 'The Fall, a judge-penitent, is guilty of a specific crime of passivity, morally immobile and unable to act. The central event is the scene of the bridge in which he does not act and into this inertia, Camus sinks his reader into the darkness of the human condition, offering no solutions or improvements. We are left therefore to make our own conclusions on not pre-judging others and to deal with evil within us all without recourse to any external deity and Camus declines to offer his usual nostalgic longing for his Mediterranean unity or his sense of 'measure' which he so values at the end of 'The Rebel'.
Some other interesting features in this novel are the ironic use of dialogue in the manner of a confession constructed as a narrative of 6 chapters and the many multiple meanings that Camus alludes to. Biblical and religious parallels are strewn about abundantly such as the story of the Original Sin, the fall of Satan and the human sufferings of Christ even to the very name of the main character which is an allusion to John the Baptist through the symbolism of water. 'La Chute' is unique among Camus' novels in that he makes consistent use of a religious vocabulary. The action takes place in Amsterdam chosen by Camus for its circular canals to represent the circular hell in which his main character inhabits and the bar 'Mexico City' for the exiled and the disinherited of the modern world .Into this world of uprooted people Jean- Baptiste Clamence conducts his confession; informing his visitor/listener of his early life as Parisian lawyer but having left Paris ,he confesses his profession as 'double' and that he too was a Saduccee, who as in the Bible, were members of a Jewish sect recruited to the aristocracy and refused to share anything with the poor. So Clamence admits that he refused to part with his riches to the poor. Then as his visitor decides to leave ,Clamence accompanies him telling him that he likes the Dutch people so wedged into a little space of houses and canals, circles of hell( a possible reference to Dante's 'Inferno') they are like him 'double' and the canals represent for Clamence, the 'circles of hell', places of imprisonment of 'no exit'. Before he leaves his visitor to his own 'refuge,' Clamence informs him that he never crosses a bridge at night ,since if someone should jump into the water ,either you follow suit to fish him out or you forsake him there 'and suppress a dive --–leaves one strangely aching.'
The second day, Clamence explains to his visitor/listener his profession as a well known lawyer in Paris, happy in the defence of noble causes, widows and orphans and the satisfaction on being on the right side of the bar and scorning judges in general .So Clamence summaries his 'successful' life in Paris until an incident in which the hear a sudden 'a laugh' behind him as he walked up the quays of the Left Bank .and on arriving home his reflection on the mirror was smiling at him as though it was 'double' in an attempt to show, or hide his own guilt or moral inaction.
By the third day, the character of Clamence, to his visitor/listener, is becoming more transparent, self-allusory in where his revels his vanity in his so-called Don Juan obsession with women. While self-depreciating about his physical make-up, a mixture between Fernandel and a Samurai, he had notorious powers of seduction. The incident cited here is becoming crucial to that moral choice that he hinted on the first day where he heard the cry of a young woman drowning in the Seine---'I was still listening as I stood motionless. Then, slowly, in the rain I went away I told no one'
This confession by Clamence is so well structured in the novel here as to implicate everyone in the moral choice of having the courage to take the hand of the drowning woman or not.