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Barchilon, J. (1971). A Study of Camus' Mythopoeic Tale The Fall with Some Comments about the Origin of Esthetic Feelings. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 19:193-240.

(1971). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 19:193-240

A Study of Camus' Mythopoeic Tale The Fall with Some Comments about the Origin of Esthetic Feelings

Jose Barchilon, M.D.


The Fall reveals an exquisite relationship between an unconscious, easily reconstructed conflict and the manifest tale about the tribulations

of its hero. Repetitive symbolic episodes facilitate a precise metapsychological formulation of J. Baptiste Clamence's character.

The father of this Don Juan, this successful saviour of widows and orphans, must have died during World War I when his son was still an infant. After five blissful years came The Fall—he discovered his mother's infidelity, his own sexual inadequacy, and ultimately never recovered from that narcissistic blow. This led to an overerotization of his body, the penis becoming an umbilical cord by which he related to the mother alone through a succession of women. All women must: not love him, be exclusively faithful, and then die. Hence, when a young woman jumps off a bridge, he fails intentionally to rescue her, a murder which suggests dual annihilation—the female and the "murderer's" feminine side.

In an attempt to unite superego and ego, he becomes a "judgepenitent." Blaming the mother and searching for the father are reached by identifications with John the Baptist and Christ. John was beheaded for denouncing Herodias' second marriage, while Christ also owed his life to a Massacre of Innocents (World War I). Like Jesus, he can finally cry: Father, why have you forsaken me! Thus, his existential dread is based on experiential factors. The story, far from dramatizing the "absurdity" of life, is polarized to express symbolically his intrapsychic conflicts and attempts at restitution.

Being humiliated by an old man, hallucinating benevolent laughter on a bridge, in front of the statue of Henry IV, are attempts to "put things back in their proper place," because this restores him to a child's role. Camus, aware of the power of the repetition compulsion, gives the hero a second chance to save the drowning woman, but the tale ends with these pathetic words: "… let's not worry! It's too late now. It will always be too late. Fortunately!" One hears echoes of Orpheus who also let Eurydice die twice.

These studies suggest that novels elicit esthetic feelings (affective and other responses) which are predicated on the type of relationship between manifest tale and unconscious substrate described here. This inner order and complex harmony of art may allow one to experience a novel more completely than if one

had actually lived it. In receptive readers esthetic reactions might act in a manner similar to assimilated experiences and foster further growth and maturity.

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