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Clamence Is Not Alone
The Fall, a 1957 novel written by Nobel Prize winner Albert Camus, is a story
based on confession. The main character, Jean-Baptiste Clamence, portrays himself to be
the epitome of good citizenship and acceptable behavior and now he has come to face the
reality that his existence has been deeply seated in hypocrisy. Clamence also openly enjoys
the wealth of cheap dreams that the prostitutes and bars his Amsterdam home has to offer.
In a bar called Mexico City, Clamence begins to recall his life as a respected lawyer,
supposedly immune to judgment. There are different theories on whether Clamence recalls
his life to himself or to another person, but it is in fact a random acquaintance from the bar
that Clamence shares stories of his life’s triumphs and failures.
While Clamence is in the bar, he asks another person who is trying to order a drink
if he “may offer his services without running the risk of intruding” because unless the man
authorizes him to perform his services, the bartender will not guess that he wants gin. The
service Clamence is referring to is his ability to speak Dutch, the only language the
bartender speaks and understands. What suggests that Clamence is speaking to another
person in the bar is the fact that if someone wants to do something, they do not need to be
given permission by himself. If a person feels they are not allowed to do something, it is
because one of two reasons. One, the person might feel the action is inappropriate and that
would directly deal with that persons set of morals and discipline. Secondly, the person
might not be allowed to perform the task by the person it would deal with and that would
have to do with power of authority. Also, if Clamence was alone and tried to order the gin
for himself, there is no reason for him needing help from some other person to order the
drink if he is capable of communicating with the bartender.
The second instance suggesting an acquaintance again happens in a bar when
Clamence is invited to sit with the man he ordered the gin for. Clamence responds by
saying “Thank you, I’d accept if I were not sure of being a nuisance. You are too kind.
Then I shall bring my glass over beside yours.” Clamence can not be alone and talking to
himself. There is already a drink set down on the table and Clamence said he is going to
set his drink next to it. Now if both the drinks were Clamence’s, then the drinks would
both be “his” and that would leave no other drinks on the table. Since he said “yours,” that
means that some other person has possession or ownership of that drink.
A third instance of an acquaintance being present occurs when Clamence is talking
about his experience’s while he was visiting Greece. Clamence later asks the question, “By
the way, do you know Greece? What should we do there, I ask you”? Clamence goes on
to explain that in Greece the males are often found “striding along the sidewalks, his
fingers locked in those of his friend”. Jokingly, Clamence asks , “Would you take my hand
in the streets of Paris”? Clamence is indubitably with another person at this point. By
asking what should we do, this implies that two people are present. If Clamence was by
himself, the question should be asked from a first person point of view, what should I do.
The second inquiry about joining hands is also directed towards another person. If
Clamence is directing the question towards himself, the same principals of ownership and
possession need to be used.
Later on in the story, Clamence has a secret that he reveals to his friend from the
bar. Clamence says that the only relief he gets in life is from women and alcohol. “I’ll
reveal this secret to you” he says and then instructs the person to make use of it as if it
were a piece of advice. By Clamence calling his advice a secret, this serves as concrete
evidence that another person is present. A secret is something that is concealed from
others. Clamence can not keep something concealed from his own knowledge, so in order
to reveal a secret, another person assumed to have no knowledge of the information needs
to be present.
Towards the end of the story, Clamence develops a fever that he is treating with
gin. At this point, someone goes to pay him a visit. Clamence states that he is
“embarrassed to be in bed when you arrive.” This quote clearly states that Clamence is in
one location and another person enters this place unexpectedly and catches him by
surprise, thus causing the embarrassment of possibly an unkempt house or a unattractive
personal appearance due to the sickness. The reason why there are two people present is
because Clamence says “you” which means he is addressing some one else.
Although different theories on whether or not Clamence is alone when he recalls
his life may exist, it is in fact an acquaintance that he shares his life with. In order for
Camus’ choice of wording that deal with ownership and possession and by definition of
key words such as “secret” to be used in accordance with rules of proper grammar,
another person must be present for the meaning of the words to be applied correctly.