"Life is more cruel than us": Psychoanalysis and French Existentialism in the play Le Malentendu

Document Type


Publication Date

Fall 2019



Faculty Mentor

Austin Riede


This paper will explore the play Le Malentendu by Albert Camus through existential and psychoanalytical lenses. It will explain what aspects of each theory will be most important for analyzing this play. More specifically it will pay close attention to two of the play’s main characters Martha and Jan. These two characters represent major themes within existentialism and psychoanalysis. Jan is representative of the archetypal anti-hero in an existential work because of his inability to overcome the absurdity of the natural world and is victim of his own pride. Martha represents a person with an overactive Id and a weak Ego. She has little to no moral compass and it is because of this lack of morality and guilt that she can commit the crimes in the play. Both of these characters in conjunction with one another create the perfect storm for the tragic ending of the play. I decided on psychoanalysis and existentialism because I felt that the two theories had similar foundational concepts. They both revolve around an individual and his or her experience in the world as an isolated event. By looking at both Jan and Martha as products of their environment we can better understand both the two theories at work and the play itself.

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