The CLR James Journal


published on January 15, 2022

Carol J. Gray

Decolonialism’s Reframing of French Existentialism in Fanon’s The Drowning Eye
A Study of Racial Binaries and National Consciousness

Frantz Fanon’s posthumously published one act play, The Drowning Eye (2018, 81–112), reframes French existentialism in a postcolonial context by examining both the absurd and racial identity. Divided into three parts, this article first discusses the many parallels between The Drowning Eye and Jean-Paul Sartre’s No Exit (1989), both one act plays set in one room with the entire action of the play consisting of a dialogue among three individuals in a love triangle. The second part explores the role of the absurd in existentialism by looking at character and thematic similarities between The Drowning Eye and Albert Camus’s The Stranger (1982), both of which reject religion as a source of meaning in life and embrace acceptance of the absurd as a liberating force. Fanon’s echoes of French existentialist themes situated in the context of decolonialism are explored in the third part. Fanon diverges from the apolitical alienation of The Stranger by instead interrogating racial binaries of former colonial subjects who either embrace or reject black consciousness. The Drowning Eye foreshadows Fanon’s later work, Black Skin, White Masks (Fanon 2008) and lays the foundation for the analysis of decolonialism and national consciousness in The Wretched of the Earth (Fanon 2004).