The point of view an author chooses to use when writing is often an integral choice to make in describing a story (Hawke 1). The most common points of view used by writers are first person, second person, and third person. Although they affect different aspects of writing, they are mostly instrumental in influencing a reader’s experience when reading a work of art. From all the available points of view an author could use, the second person narrative is one of the most ambiguous and problematic to understand (Rosenfeld 19). Indeed, as Hawke points out, using the second-person point of view is a confusing and unusual way of writing fiction articles (1). However, Albert Camus uses this approach in his novel, The Fall. The consistent use of the article “you” as a character in the book characterizes it.
To some people, the use of the second-person narrative is essential in describing a story, but in this paper, we advance the view that Camus used it in The Fall to increase the readers’ interest in it. We also argue that doing so boosts the author’s artistic integrity in the novel because the second person narrative helps him to combine different points of view in ways that could be confusing and intriguing to the audience at the same time. In this regard, the readers are hooked on the book because they are intrigued by the second-person narrative, which makes them “active participants” in the novel’s storylines.
Sections of this report demonstrate the difficulty of denying the author’s creativity in drawing the readers’ interest in the novel because the second person narrative appears as a “genius” way Camus uses to keep the readers engaged and invested in the book. He does so by drawing the attention of the readers to the intersubjectivity of his narration by continually shifting his narratives across three personas of the reader, protagonist, and narrator. Thus, the use of the second-person point of view intensifies the readers’ interest by exploiting alternating perspectives for comprehending the story. Consequently, the author can create multiple patterns of identification and displacement of characters that add to the novel’s intrigue. This stylistic approach adds to the interest a reader could have in the book.
The use of the second-person point of view in The Fall may seem confusing to many readers, but it is merely an artistic attempt by the author to separate the reader from the pronoun “you,” while, at the same time, replacing and displacing others in and from the same article. Therefore, in a problematic, but interesting way, the author, Camus, uses the second-person viewpoint to draw the readers’ attention to the text, while at the same time excluding them from it. This artistic expression of the storyline allows the author to capture the attention of the readers in a way that the use of the first person or third person narratives would not approve. In other words, the author could exchange the subjects within the text in ways that do not only add mystery to the novel but also interest from the readers as well. In this narrative, the pronoun “you” is used by the author to identify or address characters in the book.
One notable way Camus increases the readers’ interest in The Fall is by hiding the truth in the different storylines presented in the novel. This problem emerges from the challenges that arise in finding a stable point of view from which to judge the author’s works. In other words, it is difficult for readers to understand his position regarding specific issues, such as the identity of the main character. Furthermore, even when it is possible to get a hint of the same, it is difficult to know whether it is truthful, or not because the author uses different narratives to explain one storyline.
The creativity involved in the use of the second-person point of view in The Fall mainly lies in the understanding that it is difficult for the readers to understand who is speaking and who is listening. In other words, there is a strong sense of ambiguity that not only adds mystery to the novel but also makes it exceptionally intriguing to the readers. For example, Camus uses the second-person point of view to depict trauma in ways that draw readers closer to his world. Through this literary skill, the author tends to mute the melodrama associated with some of his texts and instead amplifies the sense of shock in his narration, which contributes to the audiences’ interest in it.
Using this strategy, he manages to make an individualized experience of the main characters one for the authors to marvel at and, at the same time, create a strong sense of universalism that the readers could thrive on as if they were part of the author’s initial experience. The benefit enjoyed by the author from using the second-person point of view this way is the close connection he develops with the audience. Similarly, it is difficult to deny the possibility that the readers feel more intimately associated with the characters in the novel. Many commentators have lauded this type of artistic creativity for increasing the readers’ interest, but caution that when they feel excluded from the narration, they may quickly lose their motivation to continue reading the story (Rosenfeld 19).
Albeit readers could view the use of the second-person narrative in The Fall as a creative, but peculiar, method of storytelling, it is important to point out that their interest in the novel primarily stems from the author’s description of the story setting. For example, there is a sense of similarity we could draw between Camus’s love for the open/high spaces and his attempt to make the audience more invested in the novel. His fondness for the high places and the use of the second person narrative both require a “big picture” perspective in the sense that they both allow for the use of multiple views in storytelling, which contribute to the book’s intrigue. At the same time, they both give the readers an omnipresent status in the novel because the author employs different perspectives in storytelling, such as using “we,” “us,” “you” and “them,” while at the same time maintaining control of the entire narrative. In other words, although the reader feels included as a character in some parts of the novel, he/she does not have control of the narrative. This dichotomy of narration adds to the readers’ interest in the novel.
Camus’s love for the high spaces, which we could compare with the second-person point of view, is more of a controlling position, which he uses to add intrigue to the life and story of the main characters. The critical area of commonality between this talented narration and the author’s setting of the novel is control and power. On one page of the best-seller, the author says, “I have never felt comfortable, except in lofty surroundings. Even in the details of daily life, I need to feel above” (Camus 9). The position he talks about is similar to a position of power, which allows him to be elusive and manipulative, both of which add to the readers’ interest in the novel. He exudes these attributes by using the second-person point of view in the novel. Camus does so by making the reader one of the characters in the novel. This statement could not be explained better than through an excerpt in the novel where the author writes the following,
Have you noticed that Amsterdam’s concentric canals resemble the circles of hell? The middle-class hell, of course, peopled with bad dreams. When one comes from the outside, as one gradually goes through those circles, life — and hence its crimes — becomes denser, darker. Here, we are in the last circle. (Camus 6)
The start of the above statement presents a scenario where the author assumes that the reader has visited Amsterdam and has noticed the concentric canals that resemble hell. It is as if the author was having a conversation with a friend, or a peer, about a shared experience. The dialogue with the reader, which he maintains throughout the novel, increases the audience’s interest in it because it makes them feel like they are part of the story.
This ability of the author to use the second-person narrative to draw readers to his story also appears in his ability to make new friends in Amsterdam at a bar known as Mexico City. Here, the main character in the novel, Clamence, strikes a conversation with a stranger and makes him feel as though he were a part of his experiences. Camus uses the same approach with the audience as well (using the second-person narrative) to make them feel like part of his story. Similarly, he can highlight the connections between him and his acquaintance at the bar. Here, the audience could quickly become more interested in the novel because they can draw comparisons between their life experiences and those of the author. This strategy is the main hook Camus exploits throughout the story. Symbolically, we could use the same argument to decipher an instance where Clamence met the stranger at the bar and said,
You are my age in a way, with the sophisticated eye of a man in his forties who has seen everything, in a way; you are well dressed in a way, that is as people are in our country, and your hands are smooth. Hence a bourgeois, in a way! But a cultured bourgeois! (Camus 4)
It is essential to analyze the above statement in the proper context because it is meant to increase a reader’s interest in the novel. Indeed, Camus only highlights what the audience needs to hear to create enough rapport with them to move to the next stage of emotional investment in the characters, which intensifies their interest in the novel. In other words, he uses the second-person narration to give the audience enough information to make them realize that they share some semblance with the author but denies them the knowledge they would use to make sense of the main character.
Therefore, a sense of mystery is added to his narration, which makes his work more interesting than it could have otherwise been without the use of the second-person narrative. Evidence of this manipulation emerges from the fact that there is a lot of uncertainty associated with the main character, Clamence. For example, the cast presents himself as a judge-penitent to strangers but fails to let them know how this unique role works in his life. If we go back to the bar scene again, we also find evidence of the same expression because Clamence intentionally omits crucial information about his identity that would be useful to other people. For example, in the conversation with the stranger, he says, “A few years ago I was a lawyer in Paris and, indeed, a rather well-known lawyer. Of course, I did not tell you my real name” (Camus 6).
The use of the second-person narrative appears to be instrumental in elevating the readers’ interest in The Fall because it gives the author the power to flip the story from the characters to the audience. Thus, Camus makes the audience emotionally invested in the novel in an intriguing way. To do so, he gives them just enough information to allow them to draw some similarities with some characters and almost without notice; he leaves the audience wondering whether they know enough information about the characters that they have been closely associating with throughout the novel. We argue that this creativity helps to add to the readers’ interest in the novel.
Therefore, considerable interest in this analysis is the ability of the author to use the second-person narrative to increase the readers’ attention to the novel. This approach allows the author to have an active command of his work in ways that other writers would not readily do (Armstrong 7-8). In other words, Camus can convey his narrative interestingly and in a way that is equal, if not better than how other writers who use the first person or third person narrations do.
What emerges from the use of the second-person narrative in The Fall is the intelligent strategy of attracting the audience to the story in a way that seems voluntary, but in the end, it is not. This approach is similar to the consumerism culture in America where, although people have the free will to choose what to buy, they ultimately find themselves “slaves” of their own choices. This enslavement is largely the case with the second person narrative, as used by Camus because he makes the audience hooked to the novel in a way that makes it difficult for them to disassociate with the characters. Hantzis theory could also explain this creativity because it states that second person narration often produces distinct effects that bring forth a unique textual world (Hawke 13).
Camus understood this fact and brilliantly used the second-person narrative to intensify the readers’ interest in the novel. If he used the first-person or second-person points of view to do the same, this effect would be elusive. The general feeling we get from the use of the second-person narration in The Fall is that the author deliberately creates intrigue in the novel by drawing the readers’ interest in the narrative by refraining from attributing the storyline to a specific persona. Indeed, using the first-person or third-person narratives would ordinarily make the reader a “bystander” in the entire story. However, in The Fall, the audience is an active participant, which makes them invested in the storylines.
Comprehensively, in this paper, the use of the second-person point of view in The Fall emerges as an ingenious way of connecting with the readers. More importantly, it provides us with a clear example, of how this point of view could be used to create considerable interest in a literary work. Concisely, Camus has shown that it could be applied creatively to build more suspense and readers’ interest in the story. However, it is important to point out that the novel is not the only attempt by an independent author to use the second-person point of view on a work of fiction. Other writers who have followed the same channel include Lorrie Moore, Jay McInerney, and Italo Calvino.
Although other authors have used this point of view to tell their stories, Camus’s use of the second-person point of view is aimed at increasing the interest of readers in his novel. This action had to happen using the second-person point of view because it draws the audience to the narrative. Indeed, the author’s ability to relate the characters’ stories to the readers is a clear demonstration of his artistic creativity that improves the level of interest in the novel.
Armstrong, Linda. Common Core: Complex Issues in Text. Mark Twain Media, 2014.
Camus, Albert. “The Fall.” Hudson Cress, Web.
Hawke, Anastasia. Understanding Second-Person Point of View in Fiction. Dissertation, Utah State University, 2015. USU, 2015.
Rosenfeld, Jordan. Writing the Intimate Character: Mastering Point of View and Characterization in Fiction. F+W Media, Inc., 2016.