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Mr Alienated Existentialist might have been a more suitable name
on 1 December 2013
Perhaps the bleakest character in the Hargreaves ouevre Mr Tall suffers from a profound sense of alienation, with obvious echoes of Albert Camus' existentialist masterpiece, L'Etranger. As futile as he understands his venture is, our elongated anti-hero embarks on an odyssey to the seaside, recalling Francois Truffaut's seminal New Wave tour de force, Les Quatre Cents Coups. That Hargreaves had Truffaut in mind when penning Tall is made plain by his encountering Mr Small, a character who is clearly based on the Jean-Pierre Leaud, the doyen of the French Situationalist Left, who was cast by Truffaut as an amiable, hapless figure quite unable to hold down regular employment.
On reaching the sea Mr Tall refuses even to enter the water, and, as he sits morbidly contemplating the shore he resists the entreaties of Messrs Greedy, Nosey and Tickle, although he eventually succumbs to a moment of levity. But happiness is to prove but a fleeting illusion, as Mr Tall sets off for home, callously abandoning his friend, Mr Small, and though with typical deftness of touch it is left unsaid by Hargreaves there comes to mind Jean-Paul Sartre's notorious declaration:
'If God is dead, all things are permissible.'