Commentary of a Passage Taken from " the Comfort of the Strangers "
The passage taken from “The Comfort of Strangers “by Ian McEwan essentially describes the want of two sisters Eva and Maria to look beautiful and furthermore the denial of their parents towards the girls’ desires. It is written in the third person i.e. the omniscient. The passage conveys few symbols: Beauty through the want of the sisters to look gorgeous ie. lipsticks, mascaras make up etc. , The truth and honesty through the confession of the boy.
Owing to the fact that, when cosmetics are used they don’t illustrate the true face or beauty of the person they also symbolize the deceptiveness of appearances.
The main centralized theme in this passage is deception. The girls lay trust on their brother for not disclosing whatever they did in the absence of the elders. But, conversely, we see that the boy divulges every action of his sisters.
Furthermore, there are a couple of primary themes: childishness in the first paragraph and tension of the girls that their parents would return soon.
We see that passage gradually passes from the afternoon to later in the afternoon and then to the dinner. So, it is chronological. The passage, when observed started with an exclamation and a question as well. “So! Did my sisters hate me?” – This paints a picture of the dubiousness, the author is having about whether his sisters in the future will lay trust on him or not. The Speaker in the passage is Robert – the young brother of the teen girls. At first he seems to be tranquil characters – moving comfortably with his sisters. But in the last part we observe a friction developed between him and his sisters.
This passage can be humorous to the audience especially to kids who do not have any kind of desires as such of the sisters mentioned in the passage. The way the sisters have been cheated can be funny. In contrary to the humour, the passage can also generate a sense of discontent in the reader’s mind as the sisters had been cheated and their actions have been disclosed which they wish for. The passage is set in house. The situation in the first can be said to normal as elements of love and relationship can be observed. Ironically , as the day advances into the afternoon and into the evening a large variance is observed. The tension of the girls and the seriousness when they are blamed can be discerned.
Along with this sad atmosphere created when the girls are blamed , when the first part is carefully swot up it can be noticed that a pleasant mood is indicated. Initially, in the passage, we see that the author uses they, them and their frequently. Hence repetition is observed. In the later part the author addresses the sisters to look like American film stars, thus using metaphor. The whole passage can create empathy in the minds of the readers – especially in adult girls towards the two sisters. ¶As a consequence there are a lot of images produced in the reader’s mind.
The girls waving their arms in the air to dry their nails and the metaphorical image – Girls addressed as the American film stars. Imagery, especially in this passage explains the frame or the situation much more in detail. Every action returns to its source – it may take very short time or even aeons . The confession had alienated the author from his sisters. His actions left him pondering whether his sisters will again lay trust on him in the future.
Albert Camus: Written Assignment
During the interactive oral, we discussed the main theme of the meaninglessness of human life that is present in The Stranger by Albert Camus. We emphasized mainly on Meursault’s detached and unemotional characteristics, especially when the jury uses this against him at his trial: “He stated that I had no place in a society whose most fundamental rules I ignored” (102). Meursault is very isolated from his society, and during his trial all the odds are not in his favor because in this case Meursault is viewed as a minority when compared to the Arabs in Algeria.
Even the prosecutor claims that Meursault does not feel remorse about killing the Arab, and this connects to the theme of the meaninglessness of human life, where Meursault’s feelings towards this entire case is mutual and religion, life, and death does not matter to him. In reference to the title, we also pinpointed that Meursault acts as the stranger when placed in this society because he is disconnected and does not belong in this “normal” society, he is seen an outsider.
And, we concluded that the character conflicts are targeted towards man versus society and man versus self. Because it is clear that Meursault does what comforts him the most instead of pleasing others and bothering to care about what everyone thinks about him. A major cultural impact that is presented in this novel is the idea of religion and the role of the elderly. Based on the first chapter, we learn that Meursault puts his mother in an old people’s home, however, later we realize that the jury found this unacceptable. This gave Meursault a disadvantage against his murder case because in this society, it is morally wrong to put an elder relative in an elderly home.
Also during the seminar we mentioned how religion plays an important role in this society, especially when the lawyer, the judge, and the priest tries to persuade Meursault into turning to religion, however, he does not believe that God exists and the judge even calls him “Monsieur Antichrist” (71). When he refuses to believe in God, it connects to the idea that life is meaningless and God does not replace the absurd significance of human life. Overall I learned that there are many cultural obligations that Meursault conflicts with in The Stranger and with these pressures; he struggles to face his society.
An analysis of the symbolic significance of the motif of the sun in The Stranger
The powerful effect of light can cast a shadow and blind those who come across its path. Power, especially too much, can influence the behavior of others and it can deceive people especially those who are different and follow a strange path from everyone else. Meursault in The Stranger, for example, is known as an outcast due to his actions and beliefs of life. However, he is a victim of the overpowering impact of light, he loses his way and the shadow of light influences his actions. In his novel, The Stranger, Albert Camus creates an intense atmosphere through his use of the sun as a motif. He accomplishes this by using the sun as the personification of Meursault’s inner emotions, the powerful imagery of the murder scene, and Meursault’s internal conflict.
Throughout the novel, Camus uses the motif of the sun to construct the intensity of the atmosphere during part one of the novel. The sun plays a role in influencing Meursault’s feelings especially when the sun is described as unbearable on the day of Maman’s funeral: “But today, with the sun bearing down, making the whole landscape shimmer with heat, it was inhuman and oppressive” (15). Camus uses a pathetic fallacy in his description of the sun as “oppressive” and “inhuman.” This helps to illustrate the sun’s devilish characteristics as its powerful impact that allows Meursault to forget about Maman’s death. Also Meursault is known to be a very indifferent and unemotional character however, whenever the sun is opposing him, it affects his behavior and allows him to express his emotions about his surroundings; and this contributes to the intensity of atmosphere.
Another significant passage is when Meursault longs for shade and to be far away from the oppressive heat: “I was thinking of the cool spring behind the rock. I wanted to hear the murmur of its water again, to escape the sun and the strain…and to find shade at last” (57). This time the sun influences Meursault’s yearning desire to run away from the sun and this foreshadows Meursault’s desperate actions in killing the Arab. As the sun gets stronger, so does Meursault’s discomfort, and this reoccurring relationship symbolizes that the effect of the sun’s unbearable heat enhances Meursault’s desire to escape its penetrating control. In addition, the powerful strength of the sun returns and it contributes in building up to the climax of the novel: “It was this burning, which made me move forward” (59).
The effect of the sun compels Meursault in killing the Arab with no intentions or reasons influencing his sudden action when his anxiety is released as he pulls the trigger. Camus uses the heat and the glare of the sun as a tool to release Meursault’s repressed emotions. Despite Meursault’s indifference towards his wrong doings, his actions and emotions, which the sun has possessed over him, do not explain Meursault’s irrational intent to surprisingly shoot the Arab and this connects to a major theme of the irrationality of the universe, which deprives Meursault from acting reasonability. Furthermore, the author’s intentions in personifying the sun’s possessive effect over Meursault’s emotions and irrational motives are to convey an intense atmosphere and its power to influence Meursault actions.
Towards the end of part one of the novel, the author illustrates the build up to the murder scene through the use of vivid descriptions and kinesthetic and visual imagery of the blazing sun in order to portray an overall atmosphere of the intense portrayals of nature and weather. When Meursault prevents Raymond from starting a bloody war with the Arabs, Raymond gives him the gun and Meursault notices that “The sun glinted off Raymond’s gun as he handed it to me”(56). This excerpt foreshadows the significance of the sun and gun since both items are associated with murdering the Arab, and these two items initiate the murder. Camus briefly mentions the sun glinting off the gun as a way to illustrate their connection and importance in the death scene, also the author focuses on pinpointing details about the sun and its powerful effects in order to create an intense atmosphere by emphasizing the sun’s visual descriptions.
After the fight between Raymond and the Arab, Meursault takes a walk on the beach and he sees the Arab flashing his knife and this blinds Meursault as he illustrates that “The light shot off the steel and it was like a long flashing blade cutting at my forehead” (59). The author exemplifies the light intensity of the reflection of the blade to be blinding and painful through the use of both kinesthetic and visual imagery. This passage is significant in demonstrating the powerful effect of the sun and its strength in pushing Meursault to defy the limitations against nature. Even moments before Meursault pulls the trigger, tension begins to rise as if nature is pushing Meursault into killing the Arab: “The sea carried up a thick, fiery breath. It seemed to me as if the sky spilt open from one end to the other to rain down fire” (59). The use of diction such as “thick, fiery” evokes the intensity of visual imagery and the personification of the sun serves to enhance the sun’s powerful influence over Meursault’s mind and unconscious actions.
Perhaps nature is symbolically pressuring Meursault to murder the Arab and Camus surprisingly illustrates the time and setting of this scene in this way in order for it to come as a shock and therefore to support the concept of nature and its prevalent impact. Overall, the murder scene displays an intense illustration of Meursault’s surroundings through the use of kinesthetic and visual imagery of the sun’s power and control which helps develop a powerful environment. Particularly, the entire novel is based on the major conflict between Meursault and himself; this internal conflict portrays an intensive atmosphere that is represented through the influence of nature and weather, which is depicted throughout the novel. In the beginning of the novel, the nurse at Mamam’s funeral gives Meursault significant advice when she says, ““If you go slowly, you risk getting sunstroke. But if you go too fast, you work up a sweat and then catch a chill inside the church.” She was right. There was no way out” (17). The nurse’s advice symbolizes that Meursault’s self-conflict with the sun is unavoidable just as Meursault’s fate is inescapable; such as when he fails to find ways to escape from his death sentence.
The author decides to mention this passage to foreshadow Meursault’s unforeseen fate because Meursault’s murderous action is an unexpected plot twist, and this embodies nature’s powerful control over men, in which in this case it is between the sun and Meursault. Meursault’s battle with overcoming the heat of the sun is mainly demonstrated especially when tension is high such as when the group of Arabs is walking towards Meursault, Raymond, and Masson: “The sun was shining almost directly overhead onto the sand, and the glare on the water was unbearable” (52). As the scene begins to become more intense, the fight between Meursault and the weather becomes stronger as well, and this is demonstrated when Meursault describes his frustration from the sun’s intolerable heat. This excerpt clearly shows that Meursault’s constant war with his emotions and nature is powerful in connection with the intense atmosphere and since Meursault is unable to conquer the overpowering heat, it that causes him to kill the Arab and he gives in to the sun’s compelling control.
Also before Meursault’s trial, he even states that “I knew as soon as the weather turned hot that something new was in store for me” (82). Since Meursault did not know how much longer the judge would sentence him in prison, this passage did foreshadow that his trial would not turn out well. This again relates to the idea that when tension is high, the war between the sun’s heat and Meursault’s emotions is also intensified and Camus uses the motif of the sun to indicate that nature is against Meursault and to foreshadow Meursault’s fate. In conclusion, the influence of nature and weather as well as the motif of the sun and the role it plays to fight against Meursault’s internal emotions establishes an intensified setting.
Unfortunately, mankind is overpowered by nature and the force of the light pushes Meursault to his breaking point. Meursault is unaware of the sun’s
influential effect, however he is impacted by its controlling power. In the end, the sun’s strength forces Meursault to commit an immoral crime and even though his reasons are unintentional, he is rejected by society and is sentenced to a death penalty. The use of the motif of the sun in The Stranger by Albert Camus, develops a powerful atmosphere through the idea that the sun personifies Meursault by influencing his actions and feelings, the intense imagery of the murder scene, and Meursault’s inner conflict against the sun.
Camus, Albert, and Matthew Ward. The Stranger. New York: Vintage International, 1989. Print.
Mersault and His Trial in Albert Camus's "The Stranger"
Is there truly any justice in the novel The Stranger, written by Albert Camus? This is a question that naturally protrudes throughout the novel, as it is not abundantly clear what Meursault, the protagonist, was, in fact, put on trial for. At the beginning of the second part of the narrative, it is understood that he is put on trial for the murder of an Arab; however, it later comes to our attention that the murder was not the primary reason of his trial, and perhaps not even an essential one for that matter.
The fact remains that Meursault was undoubtedly put on trial, not for the murder committed, but for being the way he was: unemotional through the eyes of society, which was represented by the jury.
To the reader it seems only natural that one should be put on trial, not for their personality, but for the harmful acts that one may commit to another person. Therefore, the idea is strongly implanted in the novel, as well as the mind of the reader, that Meursault was put on trial for murder.
Nevertheless, throughout the course of the novel, it becomes apparent that he was, as a matter of fact, not put on trial for the murder of the Arab, but instead, for acting in such a stoic manner. Being the honest, straightforward man he was, he answered all questions in that same conduct. Once Meursault had been appointed a lawyer, his lawyer inquired over the events of Maman’s funeral. Meursault responded rather coldly when his lawyer had asked him if he had felt any sadness that day, saying that he “probably did love Maman, but that didn’t mean anything.
At one time or another all normal people have wished their loved ones dead.” (p. 65) This quotation only demonstrates that he was unemotional. Now, one must ask the following question: how does this relate to the murder of the Arab? The answer is simple: it does not relate to the murder of the Arab. Being the representative of society, the jury opposes Meursault and accuses him of not conforming to society’s natural ways, and being what we nowadays refer to as the “odd one out”. They exclude him from society for his odd clear-cut and sincere demeanor, and for his manifestation of an inexpressive character.
Another example is the moment in which the magistrate, a local member of the judiciary having limited jurisdiction, especially in criminal cases, questioned Meursault. In this particular scene, the magistrate changes the topic rather abruptly from his love for Maman, to which he responded he loved “the same as anyone”(p. 67), to the murder scene. What followed was a vast discussion on Meursault’s belief in God, which he felt rather apathetic about; however, the magistrate, waving a crucifix to his face refers to him as the “antichrist” (p. 71). And later, during the trial, the judge and the prosecuting attorney seem more intrigued by the fact that Meursault did not grieve at his mother’s funeral and got involved with Marie the day after it, than the actual act that had been committed: the assassination of a man. The majority of the witnesses that had been called only supported the argument of his callous nature, as they very well knew that Meursault was frighteningly candid, and could not, or would not, create a perversion of the truth to suite his trial, as well as his need for freedom.
Throughout the trial he is constantly asked about Maman, and whether she ever complained about him, or if she had “reproached him for having put her in the home” (p. 89), to which both, the answer was an affirmative. After a while, it becomes apparent that they are no longer inquiring over the murder, but instead, over his mother’s unfortunate death. It arrives at the point that the prosecutor declares “‘The same man who the day alter his mother died was indulging in the most shameful debauchery killed a man for the most trivial of reasons and did so in order to settle an affair of speakable vice.’” (p. 96)
To which Meursault lawyer replies, “‘Come now, is my client on trial for burying his mother or for killing a man?” (p.96) This is the crucial point of the novel, as it is here that it becomes evident the true reason for which he is put on trial. This is the key question throughout the entire trial, and the answer is obvious as the prosecutor firmly responds, “‘Indeed (…) I accuse this man of burying his mother with crime in his heart!”(p. 96) This is a rather profound statement that affects not only the characters in the novel, but the reader as well, rather intensely.
Thus, it becomes palpable that society, in other words, the jury attempted to fabricate and impose rational explanations for Meursault’s irrational actions. The fact that he was so straightforward and onest was disruptive and threatening to their society as they were not accustomed to it, and therefore, they saw no meaning, which would consequently create chaos in their orderly lives. Meursault appears to do as he pleases, when he pleases, and therefore, follows no pattern throughout his life, hence, society becomes threatened by him, which ultimately leads to his execution.
Albert Camus The Stranger: Existentialism and Absurdism
Existentialism is a philosophy that emphasizes the uniqueness and isolation of the individual experience in a hostile or indifferent universe, regards human existence as unexplainable, and stresses freedom of choice and responsibility for the consequences of one’s acts. This philosophy is essentially the crux of the novel The Stranger and not only serves as one of the themes but probably the main reason Albert Camus wrote the book altogether. Presented in first person narration through the eyes of Meursault, the indifferent and apathetic main character, the novel serves to evoke the creed of existentialism through the embodiment of the philosophy in a person.
Meursault’s speech, thought, and actions are what Camus believed a person who innately possessed the tenets of existentialism would have. Existentialism, what it represents, the results of its embodiment in a person, and the validity of the doctrine altogether are all important aspects explored in The Stranger by Albert Camus.
“Maman died today or yesterday maybe, I don’t know”.
These opening lines of the novel serve not only to introduce the novel but to summarize it as well. Rather than focusing on what is important-his mother’s death-Meursault is focused on when exactly she died; whether it was yesterday or today, since the telegraph only stated the funeral would be tomorrow. Right away, within the very first sentence, the reader is introduced to existentialism incarnate. Meursault exhibits a complete and utter indifference to life manifested by a profound lack of emotion. He doesn’t care when his mother died, in fact the fact that he has to attend the funeral altogether is the most troubling part of this whole ordeal to him. When he finally gets to the funeral, he couldn’t care less about his mother-as he rejects the offer to open the casket-but is utterly consumed by the days heat. Camus does a great job in the first part of the novel of demonstrating to the reader not only the philosophy of existentialism, but a corporal representation of it as well.
This corporal representation of existentialism is what makes The Stranger the unique book it is. As opposed to the multitude of books and manifestos approaching existentialism from an academic perspective, The Stranger approaches the philosophy by detailing a character with the belief innately in him and showing how someone like this might behave. Neither the external world in which Meursault lives nor the internal world of his thoughts and attitudes possesses any rational order.
Meursault has no discernable reason for his actions, such as his decision to marry Marie and his decision to kill the Arab. The book, narrated by Meursault, is basically life detailed superficially by him. He talks about the weather, the food he’s eating, about the things he did that day rather than how he feels or thinks of other people, places and things. This is how a person consumed with existentialism would behave and think-indifferently and apathetically. Meursault passes no judgment on people and is ultimate executed for killing an Arab for no apparent reason.
The philosophy or theory of Existentialism is somewhat controversial, but nonetheless in many respects it has some notable and legitimate points. If one were to truly take a look at the universe, it would seem purposeless. And humans do in fact possess the innate desire, or rather compulsion, to explain things and have things figured out-thus explaining their need to associate a purpose with the universe, even when it doesn’t necessarily exist. But what made this theory come about in the 19th century when it could have been realized centuries before? The reason is the tragedy and devastation the world saw at this time-several world wars in specific. If we take a look at the life of Albert Camus himself, it’s hard to deny the fact that there is a connection between the existentialism’s inception and personal tragedy.
In 1914, Camus’ Father was drafted into WWI and killed in France. In 1934 he Married Simone Hié, but divorced her two years later. In 1939 he volunteered for service in WWII, but was rejected due to illness. In 1940 he wrote an essay on the state of Muslims in Algeria causing him to lose his job and move to Paris. In 1941 he joined the French resistance against the Nazis and became an editor of Combat, an underground newspaper. These, as well as many other incidents and events in Camus’ life influenced him in the sense that they formed in him a bleak, pessimistic view of life. This perspective undoubtedly set the foundation for his adoption of the theory of existentialism.
“If there is a sin against life, it consists perhaps not so much in despairing of life as in hoping for another life and in eluding the implacable grandeur of this life.” The point illuminated in this quote by Camus is that although some consider viewing life with despair to be wrong, or sinful, in reality hoping for an after life, “another life”, or living a life of implacable grandeur is the real sin. Camus held strong to the belief of Absurdism, or the belief that humanity’s effort to find meaning in the universe will ultimately fail-thus it is absurd to try to find meaning or to live as though there is a meaning because no such meaning exists. While Absurdism might seem like a synonym for Existentialism, the two are slightly different. Existentialism makes the point that there is no purpose or meaning in the universe. Absurdism goes a step further to say that not only is life purposeless, but any attempt at finding meaning is utterly absurd. Albert Camus, being the polarized man that he was, held more firmly to the belief of Absurdism than existentialism.
In writing The Stranger, Albert Camus championed the idea of existentialism, a philosophy he truly believed in it. But the philosophy of existentialism is not free of criticism. Herbert Marcuse criticized existentialism, especially in Sartre’s Being and Nothingness, for projecting certain features of living in a modern, oppressive society, such as anxiety and meaninglessness, onto the nature of existence itself: “In so far as Existentialism is a philosophical doctrine, it remains an idealistic doctrine: it hypothesizes specific historical conditions of human existence into ontological and metaphysical characteristics. Existentialism thus becomes part of the very ideology which it attacks, and its radicalism is illusory” What Marcuse is saying here is that existentialism makes the mistake of thinking that just because human conditions are tragic and seem to lack a purpose, that they in fact do. Whether or not there is purpose to the universe is an ontological and metaphysical subject, not one that can be realized through historical events.
Existentialism and its brother philosophy Absurdism are philosophies that emphasize the uniqueness and isolation of the individual in a hostile and indifferent world, and stress the fact the universe has no discernable purpose. This philosophy is essentially the crux of the novel The Stranger as Meursault, the indifferent and apathetic main character, embodies the tenets of existentialism intrinsically. Existentialism, what it represents, the results of its embodiment in a person, and the validity of the doctrine altogether are all important aspects explored in The Stranger by Albert Camus.
1.”Existentialism.” The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004. Answers.com 28 Mar. 2007. http://www.answers.com/topic/existentialism2.Marcuse, Herbert. “Sartre’s Existentialism”. Printed in Studies in Critical Philosophy. Translated by Joris De Bres. London: NLB, 1972. p. 1613.Camus, Albert. The Stranger. Middlesex: UK Penguin Classics, 1943.
4.Sartre, Jean P. Existentialism is a Humanism. World Company, 1956.
5.”Albert Camus.” 28 Mar. 2007 .
6.White, Ray. “The Meaning of Life.” 2004. 29 Mar. 2007 .
Existentialism in Camus' "The Stranger"
Existentialism is often defined as a philosophical movement or tendency, emphasizing individual existence, freedom and choice. As a result of the diversity of positions associated with this term it is impossible to define precisely. There are, however, basic themes common in existentialist beliefs. As is evident through the root of the word, exist, there is a stress on definite individual existence and freedom of choice. Developed between the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, this ideology influenced literature greatly. A prime example of the incorporation of certain aspects of existentialism is witnessed in Albert Camus’s The Stranger.
The use of existentialism within his work assists in the development of his characters; it determines how they will act and respond to their surroundings. The aforementioned actions are often unique due to the influence of existentialism. Meursault is the major character in The Stranger. He is considered the personification of existentialism, the existential hero if you will. He is emotionally indifferent to others and, as the prosecutor of his case words it, “a coolly calculating monster.
” Meursault is alienated from society throughout the tale as he accepts individual responsibility for his unique progression.
Throughout Camus’s The Stranger there are references to an event that occurs at the outset of the novel and exhibits ideals inherent to existentialism: the death of Meursault’s mother. His insensitivity is introduced through the emotions, or lack thereof, that he displays upon news of the death of Maman. He seemingly cares not for his own mother as is shown in his opening statements: “Maman died today. Or yesterday maybe, I don’t know. I got a telegram from the home: ‘Mother deceased. Funeral tomorrow. Faithfully yours.’ That doesn’t mean anything. Maybe it was yesterday.” He is more concerned with the time of the death rather than the fact that he has just lost a loved one.
In addition, Meursault is more concerned about his surroundings at the home and in the mortuary, rather than the fact that his mother lies dead in a casket, several feet from him. As the caretaker proceeds to approach the casket so as to give Meursault a last look at his mother, Meursault himself stops him. As the caretaker asks just why he requests the casket left closed the only reason Meursault can give is, “I don’t know.” During the funeral procession he seems much more alert to the suns rays beating down on him, choosing to forget where he is and the task at hand. The lack of compassion and refusal to behave the way society expects him to act are what essentially make him an existentialist.
Several mundane yet life altering events are also taken into account by Meursault in an existential attitude. He meets a woman named Marie while swimming the day following Maman’s funeral. Despite the death that had just occurred, he finds joy in her company and does not let his loss bother him. Later on, Marie inquires as to whether Meursault would be interested in marrying her. In response he states, “I said it didn’t make any difference to me and that we could if she wanted to.” Such an insensitive response is intrinsic to the beliefs of an existential. This is only exemplified as he answers the same way when she queries him on his love for her. Marriage is considered by society to be an important event in life yet Meursault wanders from the beaten path, in an example of the theory of existence preceding essence or that one is in control of their own destiny.
He demonstrates this belief once again as his boss offers him a chance to move to Paris where he would attain a change in life. Meursault is indifferent on the subject as he does not desire more and was not dissatisfied by what he had now. The boss was upset at this turn of events and Meursault simply returned to work stating, “I would rather not have upset him, but I couldn’t see any reason to change my life.” He gives no rational explanation as to why he would want to change his life or not, only that it was not important and one life was just the same as another, showcasing another basic standard of existential belief.
The climax of the book comes during Meursault’s trial for the murder of the Arab and yet another rendition of existentialism is divulged. Camus begins to ridicule the legal system as his characters trial continues, making apparent the fact that Meursault is truly an outsider. Camus conveys this by making Meursault feel out of place at his own trail and rushing it along as if it is a minor insignificance. The prosecutor’s main base of offense is that Meursault did not exert emotions during his mother’s funeral, for he was guilty. The prosecutor alienates him because he had not followed society’s current misconceptions when confronted with a situation that one was supposed to grieve during.
In his closing arguments, the prosecutor says, “But here in the wholly negative virtue of tolerance must give way to the sterner but loftier virtue of justice. Especially when emptiness of a man’s heart becomes, as we find it has in this man, an abyss threatening to swallow up society;” as if to say that the murder of the Arab was a direct result of the stoic mindset Meursault held at Maman’s funeral. Once again society has rejected him by distorting the truths of the case and trying him for that single event rather than that which he was convicted for. In making Meursault a stranger from society and the legal system, Camus reveals his philosophy of existentialism.
The highly influential effect of the existentialist beliefs on the literature of the twentieth century is clearly revealed in the overall content and mood within Camus’s The Stranger. The character of Meursault exhibits a bold existentialist attitude throughout the story that, on several occasions, explodes forth in a sharp contrast to his normal submissive personality; a most noticeable occasion being his outburst during his episode with the chaplain when he snapped after having an epiphany. It did not matter that he was being killed and the chaplain living another day, for he had lived his life and taken hold of his fate; therefore was certain as to what would come. The chaplain had his empty prayers but Meursault was sure of himself; his life and his death. Another notable occasion in which he offers an outlook on existentialism is during his stay in prison. He no longer had anyone or thing to worry about but himself.
He is able to dissect himself and examine what his future will bring, and experiences several emotions often grouped with existentialism; the most outstanding being fear and anxiety. Society had declared Meursault absurd because of his unrelenting uniqueness and through this, the title of the book may be derived. Meursault has become a stranger in his own world, a social outcast punished for crimes which are both ridiculous and yet the norm. Camus, through his utilization of Meursault, has thoroughly explained the absurdities of life and how they, along with the actions of Meursault, thoroughly portray his existentialist beliefs as they were meant to be. By supplying Meursault with the nature to rebel against preconceived misconceptions, Camus has managed to provide the reader with the ability to easily decipher and gain insight to the ideals of an existentialist.
The role of the “strange little woman” in the novel The Stranger by Albert Camus plays relates to a larger theme at play in the text. This woman intrigues Meursault as he is having dinner at Celeste’s and she asks him if she can join him at his table. This little robot-like woman provides a bold contrast to Meursault’s own character, and it is very prevalent to the reader. “While she was waiting for her first course, she opened her bag, took out a slip of paper and a pencil, added up the bill in advance, then took the exact amount, plus tip, out of a vest pocket and set it down on the table in front of her”(43).
Every little moment of her life was carefully planned out, contrasting Meursault’s character as he spends his days smoking and looking out the window. This “strange little woman” helps the reader really see the contrasting characters to get to know Meursault a little better.
Meursault does not have every moment planned out like the robotic woman does, for he likes to let life just happen. In some ways, we can see that Meursault himself can be stigmatized as a robot.
He lives day-by-day going through the motions of life and daily routine. He asks little about anything and does not desire the reasoning behind many occurrences that happen in his life. “I didn’t have anything to do, so I left too and followed her for a while” (43). Meursault decides to follow the women because he is very curious of her actions and is intrigued by her robotic like movements. He does not seem to understand what propels her to move forward so fast-paced and live her life with such structure.
In one way, the woman can be seen as a robot following routine for an ultimate purpose, and on the other hand, Meursualt can be seen as a robot following routine just to pass the day by without an ultimate goal or purpose. Camus introduces this woman in the novel to show that not everyone is the same, but all come in different forms. Oftentimes individuals that are perceived the same have the same qualities but different characteristics. For example, the woman and Meursault can both by perceived as robots, living everyday in a routine fashion, however their robotic characteristic are contrasting.
After following the woman for a short period of time, Meursault looses interest and forgets about her. “I thought about how peculiar she was but forgot about her a few minutes later”(44). This is an example of how Meursault lives his life without a care and is detached from society and the world around him. The moment we see that he is finally fascinated with something, he quickly goes back to his old characteristics of not caring. This is how he is able to forget about the “strange little woman” so quickly and goes on with his day like nothing had happened.
Three Themes in the Stranger by Albert Camus
In the novel, The Stranger, author Albert Camus confronts some important issues of the time, and uses the singular viewpoint of the narrator Meursault to develop his philosophy and effectively weave together themes of absurdity, colonialism, and free will. Through the progressive disruption of Meursault’s life and his characterization, Camus presents the absurdity of the human condition along with the understanding that a person can actually be happy in the face of the absurd. Camus also intentionally sets the story in the colonized country of Algeria, and hints at the racial tensions that exist between French-Algerians and Arabs.
Indeed, these issues of race and colonialism pervade the events of Meursault’s life and help lead to its eventual downfall. Camus also plays with the idea of free will by contrasting Meursault’s apparent indifference to the world around him and the social morality to which that world is bound.
The notion of absurdity is an ongoing theme throughout the novel and is manifested in Meursault’s unusual psychology of emotional indifference and his condemnation for it later by the courts.
The reader is immediately stricken by Meursault’s flat and unemotional response to the death of his mother: “Aujourd’hui, maman est morte. Ou peut-etre hier, je ne sais pas. J’ai recu un telegramme de l’asile: ‘Mere decedee. Enterrement demain. Sentiments distingues.’ Cela ne veut rien dire. C’etait peut-etre hier.” (pg.1) Meursault’s characterization remains monotone throughout; his only pleasures are immediate, physical, and fleeting: the taste of a café au lait, the warmth of sun and water, or the touch of his fiancée Marie. In Meursault, Camus describes an absurd state of existence reduced to immediate sensations. One such sensation, consisting of exhaustion, a hot blast of wind from the sea, and temporary blinding by the sun, leads Meursault to fire a revolver at a man and “detruire l’equilibre du jour, le silence exceptionnel d’une plage”. (pg.30)
Later, he will tell the judge, without remorse, that he killed the Arab “because of the sun.” In truth, there are extenuating circumstances for his crime: the preceding scuffle with the man, the beginning of sunstroke, the lack of premeditation, the consumption of wine, the reflex action of pulling the trigger, and the defensive instinct taking over. But Meursault remains indifferent to murder, and fails to defend himself. Ironically, he is convicted as much for his psychological indifference, his selfish and anti-social behavior, and his lack of mourning for his mother, as for his actual crime. Somehow, when the prosecution was asked: “est-it accuse d’avoir enterre sa mere ou d’avoir tue un homme?” it was perfectly acceptable to assert: “j’accuse cet homme d’avoir enterre une mere avec un coeur de criminal.” (pg.47)
What is equally absurd is that Meursault remains passive and detached over the course of a year of interrogations, and despite the pessimistic nature of his situation, he is able to feel a sense of comfort and belonging within the system trying to condemn him. Ironically, those witness testimonies that sought to free him prove to be the most damaging, and the religious people who surround him and purport to love all men unconditionally persecute him for his lack of belief. Everyone is astonished that Meursault has no emotions about the murder –no sense of remorse or desire to repent. Most men in his position find God in a desperate attempt to cling to something, but Meursault flatly denies any belief in religion.
Indeed, he rejects all that the prison chaplain embodies: acceptance and submission to the injustices of the world, and blind faith in God and a better future. But Meursault is convinced that happiness comes not from searching for meaning in such an irrational world, but from living concretely in the here and now, without any false illusions. During his final day in court, he assesses his own happiness: “Pendant que mon avocet continuait a parler, la trompette d’un marchand de glace a resonne jusqu’a moi. J’ai ete assailli des souvenirs d’une vie qui ne m’appartenait plus, mais ou j’avais trouve les plus pauvres et les plus tenaces de mes joies: des odeurs d’ete, le quartier que j’aimais, un certain ciel du soir, le rire et les robes de Marie…” (pg. 51)
Camus intentionally sets the story around the city of Algiers, following France’s colonization of Algeria. While the theme of colonialism may appear to be a minor one, it is nevertheless significant in the events of Meursault’s life. This is clear in the novel’s predominance of French characters, despite their minority status there. Indeed, in his narrative Meursault only ever names and interacts with French-Algerians. Although Arabs are not depicted as socially inferior, Camus does not bestow names on them, nor does he grant them any appeal or dimension.
We are introduced only briefly to the deformed Arab nurse, and given too little insight into the nameless group of Arabs that follows Raymond and Meursault around. Even the abuse of Raymond’s Arab mistress is told with an air of indifference, and Meursault is quick to dismiss her with the observation that “quand il m’a dit le nom de la femme, j’ai vu que c’etait une Mauresque.” (pg. 16) However, the most significant evidence of Camus’ use of racial tension as a backdrop for the events of the novel, is in the senseless murder of an Arab man by a French-Algerian one, and not merely from a single gunshot, but four more besides.
Another theme that permeates the novel is that of free will. Meursault values his individuality and he rejects conformity because of his desire to be true to himself. It is evident that he will not compromise his beliefs or conform to the expected codes of conduct, even though some revision in his behavior could spare his life. Clearly, he is well aware of the social norms to which he is bound, as is evidenced by the expectation of condolences by his boss, the concession to wear the black tie and armband symbols of mourning, and his agreement to accept Marie’s marriage proposal, but he remains obstinate where it matters most. There are many wrong choices he freely makes that impact how he is viewed. Meursault shows no guilt or remorse for his crime, and this causes those who might have taken his side to resent him.
He also declines to view his mother’s body or mourn appropriately, and he turns down a promotion that would take him to Paris. He makes other damaging decisions, from catching a film the day after his mother’s funeral to agreeing with Raymond’s plan for revenge against his girlfriend. He also refuses to favourably misrepresent the details of his case as he is encouraged to. Most importantly, though, Meursault refuses to acknowledge the importance of religion and chooses not to seek salvation in the face of ruin. In essence, social morality is not tolerant of such open defiance. Camus also characterizes Meursault as a reasonably intelligent man, but he sets him up in a situation where he is dominated by the power of language rather than in control of it.
Lawyers play games with words, and Meursault’s rational thought process is no match for them as they independently decide his destiny. He can see the absurdity of the language, as when the prosecutor proclaims: “j’accuse cet homme d’avoir enterre une mere avec un coeur de criminal”, and he can see the futility of his own inadequate responses: “J’ai dit rapidement, en melant un peu les mots et en me rendant compte de mon ridicule, que c’etait a cause du soleil.” (pg. 50) Despite the corruption all around him, Meursault stands by his actions and accepts full responsibility in a society that cultivates deception and hypocrisy. Ironically, while he prides himself in these principles, he does not realize that everyone must depend on others to some degree and that the ideal of free will is actually a limited one.
Through the development of Meursault character and the series of events that impact his life, Albert Camus effectively examines the philosophy of the absurd with respect to the human condition and the limitations of free will under a backdrop of colonialism and racial tension. Using a simple plot and first-person narration by the most indifferent of men, Camus reveals Meursault’s unique perspective on the world he falls victim to and gives rise to an understanding of how forces beyond an individual’s control can severely impact a life no matter what a person’s core beliefs or true intentions may be.
Albert Camus, “L’Etranger”:
The Paper of the Absurd: a Literary Analysis of the Stranger
In Albert Camus’ existential novel The Stranger, the pointlessness of life and existence is exposed and expounded upon in such a manner that the entire foundation of spirituality is shaken. The concept that drives this novel is one coined by Albert Camus himself, the “absurd”. Under the absurd, life is pointless and holds no meaning. One lives merely to fulfill the obligation of living. Also, every possible action conceivable is governed by the static tools of chance and coincidence. The dynamic character, Meursault, is the primary outlet that Camus uses to apply this concept.
He, Meursault, lives out a relatively normal life of indifference until the pivotal climax of the novel changes him. It is at this point that he acknowledges the absurdity of his situation and begins the inevitable acceptance of his own futile existence. Throughout the beginning of the novel, one can’t help but to notice the indifference and “listless detachment” (Oxford Companion 101) of Meursault. From the very first page, we begin to realize the depth of his lack of feelings: “Maman died today.
Or Maybe yesterday. I don’t know” (Camus 3).
It is obvious that after his own mother dies, he shows no sentiment (Magill 346). Shortly after the funeral is complete, he grabs the hand of a woman he once knew and quickly forgets the incidents of his tragic loss. The depth of his indifference flows throughout the entire novel. “I said I didn’t think anything except that it was interesting” (Camus 32), “I told her [Marie] that it didn’t mean anything” (Camus 35), “For some reason, I thought of Maman. But I had to get up early the next morning…and I went to bed without any dinner” (Camus 39).
As one can tell, Meursault has an abundance of nothingness as it relates to feelings. He feels nothing for anyone including his loving girlfriend, his only mentioned friend, his own mother, or even himself (Schellinger 1289, Brombert 121). He attempts no thoughts at explaining the universe or anything of the nature. He simply plays the role of man as the personification of “cosmic indifference” (Books Abroad 234). He cares for nothing and expects nothing to care for him. He in his entirety is the perfect example of one in the early stages of the absurd.
He recognizes that life has no meaning but he hasn’t reached beyond that point. Thus far, the only true way to describe Meursault is a man of nihilistic beliefs (Girard 519). Behind the scenes of Meursault’s life, the tools of chance and coincidence are shaping his future, for the good or bad, one cannot be sure. One series of coincidental happenings proves themselves to be the most devastating of all. Meursault happens to hear the rumors of a man named Raymond. Later that day, he happens to bump into him in the hall. Raymond happens to have food in his apartment and Meursault was a little hungry.
They both went up and ate and Meursault happens to notice the bandage on Raymond’s hand. Raymond happens to ask Meursault to write a note that was designed to socially destroy Raymond’s cheating mistress. Meursault’s indifference prevails and he doesn’t mind writing it. The note was a success and these two people happens to become friends. Raymond’s friend happens to invite the two for a weekend on the beach and Meursault happened to be free. The three men happens to take a stroll down the beach together and bump into the Arabs that Raymond has a problem with.
Raymond happens to slip Meursault his gun so he can take the Arab on, man to man. Raymond wins and the Arabs flee, coincidently down the beach. The three men head home but Meursault happens to want to stay. He happens to forget the gun in his pocket and walks down the beach. He happens to bump into the Arab that Raymond hit. The two stare off, under the abnormally hot sun. The Arab pulls a knife and the sun happens to hit it at an angle that puts a glare into the eye of Meursault. As a result, Meursault mechanically reacts and squeezes the trigger of the gun, firing one shot into the head of the Arab, killing him instantly.
This is the point that chance loses it’s hold upon Meursault. He, in a sudden thought, realizes the absurdity of the world and that his entire life, as well as existence, is gratuitous and happens on chance (Books Abroad 234). Meursault then takes the first steps towards a self controlled existence and fires four more shots into the corpse of the Arab (Hunter 26). Now, he has fully acknowledged the presence of the absurd but has yet to accept it. He is still living in his shell of ignorance that can and will prevent him from any intellectual gain. His indifference has yet to lift.
He sits through trial, imprisonment, appeal, and re-imprisonment, all with the detached feeling of uncaring. It will not be until he accepts absurdity that he can force himself to feel anything. The hardest part for Meursault is actually accepting the absurd because of the implications behind it. For him to accept, he would have to fully recognize that life, in fact, has no meaning and never will have any meaning. Also, he’ll have to agree that he himself has no purpose other than to live out his life under the assumption that after death, he can live no more.
This mindset is hard for anyone to grasp, especially for those who spend the majority of their lives trying to rationalize their existence and answer the question, “Why are we here? ’. For Meursault to accept the absurd, he will have to experience a Cogito-Ergo-Sum-Renee Descartes moment and completely rethink everything he has ever thought before. For this to happen, he must first lift the oppressive curtain of indifference he has been punished to for so long. “It was at that exact moment that the chaplain came in” (Camus 115). Once again, chance has turned the tables.
Meursault, being an Atheist, refuses to see any chaplain but one randomly walks into the room and attempts to convert our dear Meursault. At first, he brushes off the attempts and sees it as a mere annoyance. Then, the priest gets entirely too persistent and Meursault snaps with the intensity of a nuclear missile. He shouts obscenities. “I was pouring out on him everything that was in my heart, cries of anger and cries of joy” (Camus 120). It is at this point the Meursault actually moves beyond his indifference and into a world of feelings.
After the priest left the cell, Meursault laid on his bed and just thought. It was at this moment that complete acceptance of the absurd set into his mind. At first he accepted the idea that the life of a dog was worth just as much as the life of a woman (Camus 121). And then, he came to the realization that he himself was worth as little as everything else. It was at this moment that he accepted the most controversial segment of the absurd: the notion that existence is futile (Brombert 121).
When one completely accepts the absurd, happiness is sure to follow. Happiness and the absurd are two sons of the same earth. They are inseparable” (Marino 491). At last, Meursault can rejoice in the freedom of the absurd. He suddenly comes to the realization of why his Maman attempted to live life again: she too accepted the absurd. Now, with happiness and acceptance of the absurd, Meursault is freed from all allusion and has the ability to live life again, committed to the absurdity of life and all it entails (Beacham 4060). For my final point, I would like to analyze the implications behind this novel as they relate to religion.
The fundamental beliefs behind all forms of religion a governing deity or deities, some sort of an afterlife, and a purposeful life. In this novel, the idea of a deity is indirectly and directly obliterated. The idea of the governing deity is replaced with that of chance and gratuity (Books Abroad 234). The belief of an afterlife, either good or bad, is again disowned by Camus in this novel. “There is no eternity; therefore, all must be done in this life…” (Beetz 4059). With no deity or afterlife, the object of religion is nullified.
The final and most renowned belief of most religions is the idea that life has intrinsic meaning, which usually involves a deity’s plan. This belief is the driving force behind a substantial amount of Christian actions. “…life has no meaning; there is no hope for it to ever have meaning…” (Beetz 4059). With this statement, yet another doctrine of faith is left as ruins to the novel of the absurd. The point I am trying to convey is one that the absurd cannot coexist with religion. It is for this reason that few people will ever actually reach the point of true happiness and acceptance that their life is worth the same as the family pet.
Sadly, this also means that few people will actually ever reach the point of enlightenment. If only everyone could see the points made in Albert Camus’ eye opening novel. To conclude this essay, I offer a recap of the intellectual evolution of man through the interactions of one man. Man first begins with the period of indifference, the point in life in which the well being of others and possibly even himself are unimportant and are thus ignored. Then, he progresses to the stage in which he forgets the cares of others but dwells on the newfound control over his own life as he acknowledges the absurd.
Finally, he reaches a state of bliss as he fully accepts the absurd and commits himself to it. Only when man reaches this final step, however, has he reached the point of enlightenment and pure happiness. Again, the only ideology blocking his path to perfection is religion. When man overcomes this barrier, the possibilities are endless. Meursault was merely a tool of application used by Camus to show the world a mirror image of itself. When the world overcomes its meaningless problems and its futile attempts of peace, it can truly reach the blissful state of serenity.
The Stranger Analysis Paper English Literature
In Albert Camus’s “The Stranger”, the absurdity of life from Camus’s eyes are put on display through the main character Meursault. The sense that the meaning of life is in the human experiences and that things shouldn’t be questioned is the basis of who Meursault truly is as a person. These personality traits reveal that Meursault is a perfect example of an existentialist. From Meursault’s strictly physical way of describing the events he comes into contact with, to his lack of feeling and overall withdrawal from everything in his life points towards the characteristics of a perfect existentialist.
Even his view on life and death, with the view being that life truly isn’t worth living, is a direct portrayal of existentialism. Throughout the novel Meursault is portrayed as the absurd hero; the character that not only doesn’t wish he had another fate, but accepts his sentence and does nothing about it. This seemingly illogical and at times frustrating way of thinking is what drives the entire novel.
Therefore, in “The Stranger”, Albert Camus portrays the main character Meursault as the perfect existentialist, demonstrating that life is not only absurd but meaningless as well.
In the novel, Meursault’s situations are described in a unique fashion in the sense that there is no emotional attachment to any of it; only the physical aspects of every situation are recorded or thought by Meursault, which shows the depth of his existentialistic personality. Throughout the novel Meursault’s physical description of things provide the reader with not only the plot of the story but a deeper look into the absurdness of life that Camus believes in. For instance, upon mourning the death of his mother, whom he refers to as Maman, Meursault takes in the sights of her funeral viewing, such as his the caretaker’s apparel being dressed in “black with pin-striped trousers”, rather that addressing the fact that his mother is indeed dead (Camus 13). He also describes the stand holding his mother’s casket up for the viewing as “walnut-stained planks”(6).The way Meursault seems to disregard his mother’s death and focus mainly upon the more trivial and unimportant aspects reveals a key point in the life of an existentialist; that human emotions can’t be explained and are therefore not expressed at all. Meursault took what seemed to be a traumatic event in his life, being the passing of a family member, and diminished it into an emotionless ordeal that caused him to miss valuable work days. He even goes as far as to describe the moments when his mother was being buried, by saying that “blood-red earth” spilled over her casket and the “white flesh of the roots” mixed in with the dirt (18). Another time, as Meursault is being questioned regarding the murder of the Arab man, he notes the examining magistrate’s “deep-set blue eyes”, even though the severity of the situation was much more than Meursault acknowledged, and also showing that Meursault truly didn’t care that he was being tried in court as a murderer (64). He also describes the tie his lawyer was wearing one day as “odd-looking” and “with broad black and white stripes” (64). This shows that he truly doesn’t care about his predicament at all and that it’s just another meaningless event in his life.
By only describing the physical aspects of life, Meursault reveals another trait of the existentialist; that he doesn’t care about anyone or anything, regardless of who or what it is. Meursault simply goes through his day doing whatever happens and doesn’t do anything about it to change what is happening in his life. This is the viewpoint that Meursault has throughout the novel; that things just happen the way they happen and they are uncontrollable by anyone, especially himself. This view on life is evident especially when he is dealing with the death of his mother. When his boss reveals a little annoyance towards Meursault that he is requesting days off for the funeral of his mother, Meursault replies “It’s not my fault” (1). This emotionless action and overall detachment from his mother’s death shows the reader that Meursault is a true existentialist; that his lack of emotions extents to even the most sensitive places for most, that being family. Also, when Meursault arrives back at his work from his short leave, his boss questions him about his mother Maman. When asked how old Maman was, Meursault replied “about sixty”, claiming he responded in the way he did as to assure that he wasn’t incorrect in saying her age (25). The fact that he doesn’t remember his own mother’s age is yet another example of how Meursault is an existentialist in the sense that he has no feelings towards anyone, even his family. The smallest amount of care or feeling toward a family member would simply be remembering a birthday or an age, which Meursault obviously doesn’t have, so therefore remembering how old his mother was wasn’t important to him at all. Even after his mother passes he never once wonders why his mother had to die at that time in his life, or even something as significant as why she died. He merely accepts the situation at hand and never questions it, which reveals his existentialism even more. His emotional detachment during the novel frustrates many characters that Meursault comes in contact with. They are unable to come to terms with Meursault’s existentialism as a whole, and therefore struggle with him about this throughout the novel. A main example of this is Marie, Meursault’s girlfriend or love interest throughout the novel. Marie falls deeply in love with Meursault after meeting him shortly after the death of Meursault’s mother. Because of this she proposes marriage to Meursault, to which he replies yes, but not for the reasons Marie was hoping for. Meursault agrees to marry Marie because it was what she wanted, and not because of a love or even a desire for her. This is evident when he says the love in question by Marie “didn’t mean anything”, and that he “probably didn’t love her” (41). This shows how little value Meursault truly holds on life; that even the smallest things such as love are not possible to him.
The true existentialist believes that life is worthless and essentially nothing in the overall scheme of things. This personality trait is also found in Meursault in the novel as he deals with many aspects of life and death. Towards the end of the novel, when Meursault is coming to terms that he will spend a great deal of his life in jail and eventually die, the radical and dramatic view of death that Meursault has is revealed to the reader. His view is that his fate doesn’t matter and that death is unavoidable and will happen sooner or later in his life. He comes to terms with the fact that he will indeed die and is comfortable knowing this, which is a rather unsettling thing for majority of people. Meursault is at ease and comfortable knowing that he will die sooner or later in life. This is evident with his numerous refusals to be visited by the chaplain of the jail. After his third refusal, his reasoning was he didn’t “have anything to say to him” (108). The refusal to see a chaplain not only reflects on Meursault’s religious views, but on his view on life itself and how he did not believe life was eternal. By him refusing to see the chaplain he was voicing the opinion that he didn’t believe in God, which stems back to the existentialistic view that the meaning of life is in the human experiences and not in gods or God. Meursault also had the existentialistic viewpoint of death, which was that it would come soon enough and that life really wasn’t worth much. This is evident when, upon thinking about his appeal, he says that “everybody knows life isn’t worth living” (114). This feeling of both worthlessness and nothingness stems directly back to the existential view on life; that there really was no point in it. Meursault came to the realization that whether a person died at a young age or an old age it didn’t matter; that life would still continue on and sooner or later that person would be completely forgotten by everyone, even the people they called close friends or family.
Throughout Albert Camus’s novel “The Stranger”, the idea of existentialism is portrayed through the main character Meursault. His inability to feel emotions and portray them to others is displayed as a major example through the novel.
James's Mind Book Analysis
James hazel eyes skimmed over the words for what he knew had to be the twentieth time. His pupils darted back and forth over the lines, dancing rhythmically as they flowed toward the bottom of the page yet again. James could feel his heartbeat quicken with each successive pass over the words. Small beads of perspiration began to form on his forehead, causing it to glisten under the soft, white light shining down from above his head. He felt a sudden pain in his jaw; he unclenched his teeth, which had tightened without his realizing it, relieving the growing pressure in his jaws.
He could feel a low tremble building within his muscles, a product of the fear that was beginning to course through his veins, turning his blood icy.
He inhaled deeply, holding it momentarily before releasing it in a powerful whoosh. He closed his eyes tightly. He stood like that, motionless, for almost a full minute, the only movement coming from his fingers, which ran lightly over the pale white sheet of paper with the typed message.
He listened to the low sshhh sound that wafted up to his ears from the paper. Before realizing that he was doing it, James tore the paper in half and crumpled the two pieces into a tiny ball and hurled it across his small living room, where it bounced lightly from the wall and fell behind the tattered couch.
James put his face in his hands, trying to regain his composure. Tears of fear and rage stung the corners of his eyes. He let out a scream, which was muffled by the palms of his hands. He raised his hands and ran his fingers roughly through his dark hair. His mind reeled at the implications contained within those now-crumpled words. Questions clouded his thoughts, prohibiting any course of action from being taken.
Where did this letter come from? Who brought it? How did this person get in and out of his house? And, most importantly, how did this person know the things that they did? Hadn’t he always been careful? He had always planned meticulously; hadn’t he?
James felt his knees tremble slightly as his legs tried to give out. The room tilted to the left as a wave of lightheadedness washed over him, almost sending him to the dirty, yellowed linoleum floor. He reached out blindly, grasping until his fingers found purchase, feeling the smooth, yet slightly bumpy, texture of duct tape. He slid the barstool, well past its best days, towards him, scraping his palm on a torn piece of the vinyl cushion as he did so, and dropped down onto it. Using the first two fingers on each hand, he rubbed his temples softly, trying to focus.
This person obviously knows me, he thought. Somehow they know things that they have no way of knowing. In all the time he had led his double life, carrying out his acts of mischief (to him it was merely mischief. To others it was far more serious), he had never slipped up. He never spoke of his deeds. Under no circumstances did he keep souvenirs or trophies. A single camera, Polaroid or otherwise, was never used. And every single field trip that he took was at least three hours away from his home. He always did the proper reconnaissance beforehand, checking the weather, traffic flow of the town, and the habits of the local civilians. So how could this person possibly know what they do?
James opened his eyes and sat upright as a sudden revelation, what he knew to be nothing but pure truth, dawned on him. The thought came with such ferocity that it almost bowled him over; literally almost knocking him to the floor as he sat up straight.
It’s a hoax, he thought. Someone broke in and left that note because they thought that it would be funny. It just struck a nerve because, by some stroke of luck, the house they chose happened to contain a resident with secrets.
James stood up and began pacing the length of his small house. He nodded thoughtfully as the idea worked itself out within his mind. He slowly convinced himself that this could be the only plausible explanation. The idea that someone might know who he actually was was inconceivable. It was downright ludicrous.
What did the note really say; anyway, his train of thought continued as he stepped out of the shower and began to towel himself off. I know exactly who you are and exactly what you’ve done? Well, that was just too vague for his taste. If anyone really knew anything, they’d say something to prove what they knew. Give an example to authenticate.
Despite his best attempts to reassure himself, James found himself obsessed with the locks, certain that he had forgotten to lock one, leaving him unable to go to bed. He walked through the small, two-bedroom house checking each lock, trying to raise the window afterwards. Once he had made his rounds, he began at the beginning once more, double- and triple-checking the locks.
Stop! He screamed to himself on his fourth pass through the house. This is insane. This type of scared, nervous behavior is the intended result. I won’t succumb to that. Now, it’s time to go to bed. Leave the locks alone.
And, surprisingly enough, he was able to do just that. He curled up in his bed, grasping his pillow in a tight embrace, and drifted almost immediately to sleep. He slept that way until he awoke the next morning, when he was greeted with absolute terror.
The thin band of yellow morning sunlight slowly stretched across the bed from the crack in the curtains as the sun rose. James rolled over, still clutching dearly at his pillow, shifting the light into his eyes. His eyelids fluttered lightly as he gingerly rose from his sleep. He yawned loudly and stretched, groaning as he did so. His back popped audibly, and he chuckled at the thought of his age finally beginning to catch up to him.
“Good morning, James,” a gruff male voice said from behind him.
James flipped over quickly and scrambled away from the intruder. Reaching the edge of his mattress, his hand slipped, sending him toppling backwards. His head made a hollow thonk! As it connected with the floor. A piercing pain tore through his mind, and he could feel a trickle of warmth that he assumed was blood begin to run down the back of his head and neck. He pushed the pain aside, focusing his attention on the sudden unwanted guest.
“Who the hell are you?” he wanted to scream. He wanted to shout at the intruder. To demand answers. He opened his mouth to do just that, but only a small squeak managed to escape his throat. Instead, James did the only thing that his body would allow; he continued backing away, relishing the illusion of safety that the distance managed to bring, until his back hit the wall just three feet away. He stared at the intruder, eyes wide. His breath was harsh and ragged. He inhaled deeply, unable to control himself. A wave of lightheadedness filled him, the quick, panicked breaths threatening to lose consciousness as he hyperventilated.
“Calm down,” the stranger instructed. “You shouldn’t lose consciousness right now. We have some things to discuss, you and I. I would think that it’s in your best interest to pay attention.”
The stranger sat in the old leather chair in the corner of James’s bedroom. He was lounged back comfortably; legs spread wide, elbows resting on the arms of the chair. A sense of utter calmness radiated from him, as though breaking and entering was the most natural act in the world. A pair of smoky grey eyes stared out from behind the black ski mask that he wore. Those eyes were cold, calculating, showing no remorse. Light glinted from the scalpel that he held in his hands as he twitched it absentmindedly.
“Wh· who are you?” James’s voice cracked and quavered, despite his best attempts to keep it level.”That isn’t important.” The stranger leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees. “You may call me Teacher, for I am here to educate you. James’s mind reeled. He fought desperately to understand the situation, but comprehension stayed just beyond his grasp. His face twisted into a look of confusion. You have led a horrible life,” the stranger continued, seeing the bewildered look that James wore. “Your education will be one to show you the consequences of such a life; that is why I am your teacher. It has fallen upon me to show you the error of your ways.”
James opened his mouth to protest, to deny the allegations that had been laid at his feet, but immediately closed it, a single sound unuttered, when the stranger raised his hand and shook his head. The gravity in the intruder’s movement said all that he needed to know: there was no bullshitting his way out of this. No quick thinking, followed up with expertly chosen words, would convince this threatening persona that he had broken into the wrong house, chosen the wrong pupil. Instead, James remained silent. What the stranger said next was enough to confirm both his conclusion and his worst fears.
“August 10, 1994,” he began. “You were ten years old. In those days you had an affinity for fire. That night you snuck out of your window, a box of matches that sat on the mantel in hand. You wandered the streets for over an hour before finding the right location. It was a small, wooden house a few blocks from your own. You struck the match, using it to light a pile of dried sticks and leaves that you had placed by the front door.”
James’s eyes continued to grow as he listened to the details of his life being recalled to him. The interloper spoke in a monotone voice, reciting the tale as if he were reading from cue cards.
“When the pile was lit, you rang the doorbell and ran. What you were unaware of was that an elderly woman lived there, all alone. She had taken out her hearing aid before bed, so she didn’t hear the doorbell. It didn’t take long for the old, dried wood to catch fire, quickly setting the house ablaze. The woman died in her bed. She never had a chance.”
The Teacher stood up, staring down at James with reproach. “That was the first person to die at your hands, but it wasn’t the last. Although it was an accident, you found that you had a taste for murder. You craved it. It became an addiction, your own private heroin.”