Albert camus and existentialism
Existentialism is the individual freedom of choice; in other words man is a conscious subject, rather than a thing. Of the many existentialistic themes, Camus strongly believed in absurdity.
Camus’ opinion is that absurdity lies in the basic discord in the relationship between the human being and the universe. Thus, the human being discovers the absurdity of existence when he correctly perceives the universe.
The absurdity of the human being is in its insecurity, rejections, agony, and also it’s disappointments. In most of Camus’ works the recognition of the absurdity of the human existence is a main theme. For Camus, the absurd is not a negative thing, but a real state of existence. Accepting the perspective that life is absurd is to embrace a true view of life.
The Stranger, is the first work of Camus’ dealing with absurdity. It portrays the main character as an honest, atheist, who lives life as best as he knows how. In the beginning of the novel, the main character Mersault’s mother dies. His mother’s death has no effect on him because he feels death is the end, there is no God in his mind, and because the two were not close.
At the funeral people view him as strange for not crying, not wishing to have an open casket, and sleeping. They believe he is void of any feelings for his own mother. While he really just wasn’t that close with her, the people later show up to testify against Mersault saying exactly what they saw at the funeral.
A day later Mersault runs into a woman he used to work with by the name of Marie. Marie and Mersault go on a date and spend the night together. They continue to do so throughout the novel.
When she asked him if he wishes to marry her he agrees, only because he sees no real reason to refuse. When she asks if another women were to ask him the same thing he replies " I would have no real reason not too". Confused by this Marie just accepts it.
Similar with his answer to Marie’s question, Mersault helps a neighbor Ray with a letter to trap Ray’s Arab girlfriend into going to Ray’s apartment. Ray goes to bed with her then proceeds to spit on her and beat her. The cops show up and Mersault defends Ray, again stating he had no real reason not to.
For fear of the girl’s brother, Ray asks Mersault if he would like to go to his friend’s house with Marie. At the house the brother shows up and Ray fights with him.
A while later, confused Mersault goes to the beach with Ray’s gun. Upon seeing the brother and his blade and the sun beating down on his head he shoots him four times.
Mersault murdering Ray’s girlfriend’s brother, with no real reason to murder him then changes the easy-going plot. He never shows the slightest bit of remorse for the Arab man during his trial.
During his trial the prosecutor uses the people from his mother’s old age home as his defense, explaining how Mersault did not cry or show sadness at his mother’s funeral.
The trial then proceeds to focus on the fact that Mersault did not properly mourn his mother, not the fact that he killed the Arab, which given the times is not very unlikely. "The Arabs were at war with the French over their independence", as stated in Algeria 1958.
Mersault begins to be viewed as an extremely emotionless person because he does not believe in God, which seems to be strange in their society. Clearly, Camus was reflecting a piece of himself in the novel because he also does not believe there is a god.
When Mersaults attorney asks him to embellish the truth, he cannot because he sees nothing wrong with blatant honesty. As expected he is condemned to death. Besides the murder, his other crime seemed to be his honesty.
Mersaults only real objective was not to escape the consequences of which he is, but to accept them with willingness. A priest confronts him 3 times and 3 times Mersault told him I don’t wish to be forgiven because I don’t believe in absolution or life after death. He faces reality for the first time; he is condemned for thinking life and death are meaningless.
Sitting in his cell Mersault comes to believe that life and death is just a human cycle and in the end he would wish to be greeted with cries of hatred.
When asked about The Stranger, Camus described it "as a novel about what happens to a man who refuses to play the game... refuses, that is, to pretend to be something he is not". However, in the end is Mersault's execution, his absurdity.