Title of the book: The Stranger
Author: Albert Camus
Publisher: Vintage International
Year of publication:1989
The Stranger written by Albert Camus revolves around a central character called Meursault living in Algiers who narrates the whole story. The whole intention of writing this novel, The Stranger is that Camus wanted to show that a man understands the meaning of life at the point of death. Meursault receives a telegram and he gets to know about the fact that his mother is no more. The telegram appears to lack information as he doesn’t get to know the date and time of her demise. But this particular fact doesn’t seem to bother him and he the death of his mother doesn’t seem to affect him.
He takes a bus to attend the funeral of her mother. When he reaches the place, he meets the caretaker where he instructs Meursault to wait for the director to meet him. He converses with the director and we get to know that her mother was more comfortable living in that old age home rather than living with her own son. The director says that she found people of her own age and found people with similar interests and she also got good medical care which Meursault couldn’t provide because he couldn’t afford.
Meursault is taken near the coffin by the caretaker and the caretaker asks if he wishes to see her mother. He refuses immediately which the caretaker finds a little odd and rushes into a conclusion that maybe he is too affected by his mother’s death. So, the caretaker offers Meursault coffee which he gladly accepts. Meursault shares a cigarette with the caretaker and asks the caretaker about his personal life. It seems he doesn’t seem to care at all about his mother’s death because smoking and sipping coffee in front of a body is something not appropriate.
In the morning, the procession is led outside near a church. So, the whole gathering walks towards the procession. The scorching heat of the sun seemed to trouble Meursault more than his mother’s death.
Her mother became close to a gentleman out there called Thomas Pérez who spent their evenings together by walking towards the countryside with a nurse. Thomas Pérez couldn’t digest the death of Mrs Meursault’s death and was in tears.
After the funeral gets over, he moves back to his own place and takes a good night’s sleep. He wakes up late and plans to go to the beach where he had the habit of swimming as he liked it there. While on the beach, he meets one of his co-workers, Marie Cardona, to whom he was attracted to. They spend their time together on the beach and later agrees to go on a movie date in the evening. She also gets to know the fact that Meursault’s mother died just yesterday and now he finds him on the beach enjoying his time which she finds a little odd. They go for the movies and spends the night together in Meursault’s apartment.
In the morning, when Meursault gets up, he doesn’t find her on the bed and assumes that she has left. It was a Sunday and he mentions the fact that he hated Sundays.
He settles himself near the balcony, puffs a cigarette and watches people go with their work and lives and spends the entire afternoon in the balcony.
He takes his lunch, dinner in the balcony itself, watches people with their enthusiasm and returns back to his room before it gets dark.
He goes to work the next day and his boss who did not wish to grant him leave for his mother’s funeral now saw Meursault with his pitiful eyes. His boss tries to strike up a conversation with him and asks the age of his mother. Meursault says that she was in her sixties to which his boss sighs a sense of relief.
Then we get introduced to a character called Emmanuel who was a friend of Meursault from his office. They leave together on the break and jumps on a fire truck to have lunch together at a distant place. After he is done with his job he returns back to his place and runs into Salamano and his dog, who used to live in the same building. He thought of the unusual routine Salamano and his dog followed. Next, he meets Raymond, and they have dinner together. While they eat dinner Raymond talks about his fight with an Arab and says how his fiancé cheated on him. Raymond requests Meursault to write a letter to his fiancé and make her feel bad about the decision that she took. So, naturally, she would come back to Raymond and then he would be able to punish her. Here, Meursault easily accepts the story narrated by Raymond just because they are pals. Meursault agrees to help Raymond and that is when he gets introduced to the Arab which he later kills.
Absurdism in Camus’ The Stranger
According to Merriam Webster’s dictionary, absurdism is “a philosophy based on the belief that the universe is irrational and meaningless and that the search for order brings the individual into conflict with the universe.”
Albert Camus explored the reason behind our existence and the true meaning of it. His answer was not positive and he further commented that life is meaningless. There is no source of true inspiration in our lives which would give us a sole reason to exist. So, Albert Camus finds it very absurd in nature for a human to search for a meaning in their lives.
He then starts questioning our existence by saying that if there is no point of living then we have no reason to exist. In The Myth of Sisyphus, he says that “There is only one really serious philosophical problem, and that is suicide.”
I also feel the same that Camus explains his philosophy of the absurd through the character Meursault. The Stranger begins by stating the fact that his mother died today and he is not very sure about it which seems very unusual and absurd for a person to not know the death of a family member. “Maman died today. Or yesterday maybe, I don’t know” (Camus 3).
It seems that Meursault only lives for the pleasure and wants to live his life the way he wants to no matter how absurd it may seem. Throughout The Stranger, he doesn’t reveal a single speck of emotional outburst. Even during his mothers’ funeral, he is found smoking a cigarette in front of the coffin and also enjoying a cup of coffee.
When Meursault shoots at the Arab it seems he does not regret at all murdering him on the beach. He does not repent his doing but instead is more concerned about the environment of the beach as it destroyed the serenity. Meursault also says that it wasn’t intentional. He says that the scorching heat of the seaside and sweat rolled into his eyes due to which the murder was caused but still Meursault doesn’t regret killing the Arab by “accident”. At the beginning of The Stranger, we notice that the death of his mother has no impact on him. Similarly, killing the Arab does not bring any change in the universe. For Meursault death has no significant importance. He feels that the loss of the Arab won’t bring any changes in the universe.
In the end, when he faces a death sentence, he does not react to it and accepts his death because he has already perceived life as “meaningless”.
Nihilism in Camus’ The Stranger
According to Merriam Webster’s dictionary, Nihilism is, “a viewpoint that traditional values and beliefs are unfounded.”
In the story, Meursault not caring for his family and friends shows his nihilistic view towards life. His relationship with Marie sets a prime example that he doesn’t care about anyone. At one point in The Stranger, Marie asks Meursault if he loves him to which he responds, “that sort of question has no meaning, really; but I suppose I didn’t” (Camus 38).
This obviously upsets Marie but Meursault doesn’t really care about her emotion. He spends his holidays sitting near the balcony and smoking. He also mentions the fact that he doesn’t like weekends or any holidays as he has nothing to do which shows that he lived a life being emotionally unavailable and detached from the real world.
What Meursault lacked in his character was morality. Later in The Stranger, Marie inquires as to whether Meursault would wed her, to which he reacts that does not mind whether he weds Marie or some other lady. Meursault’s unresponsiveness about marriage originates from his belief that there is no importance to life, and subsequently no reason to live for it. At the point when Marie claims that marriage is a genuine responsibility, Meursault sternly says “no”. Meursault’s association with Marie demonstrates that he is a nihilist, as he puts no incentive into his relationship and does not mind whether she is a major part of his life or not.
He is definitely not a decent individual, no doubt, yet – he’s not exactly the terrible individual the story denounces him for.
In other words – Meursault executed a man. Without cause or reason. That is in all ways improper. In any case, his casualty is never named, just referred to as “the Arab.” Throughout The Stranger the bigotry of French Algiers is clear – characters who are depicted as “Arab” or “Moorish” are disparaged by their privileged French people.
Nobody in, The Stranger appears to mind that much that a man has passed on. Rather than focusing on the crime of a life that was taken, Meursault’s trial focuses on the natural death of his mother. He is scorned as a beast not on account of the murder, but rather in light of the fact that he didn’t love his mom – or maybe, more doubtlessly, on the grounds that he didn’t show the normal love for his mom.
The greater part of the characters in The Stranger is bad individuals. In any case, not at all like Meursault, they know their place in society and knows how to act in it, unlike Meursault.
Eventually, The Stranger reflects the issue of absurdism: if nothing matters, if there is no God, and we are each free operators of our own will – what’s to prevent anybody from committing a crime? Can there be ethical quality under such an administration?
Nietzsche cites in On the Genealogy of Morals, “Nothing is valid. Everything is allowed.” In The Myth of Sisyphus, Camus rejects the basic translation of that announcement, saying: “Everything is allowed does not imply that nothing is forbidden.”
Relating Frustration-Aggression theory to Meursault’s Psychology
The theory explains to us that when individuals see that they are being kept from accomplishing an objective, their frustration may swing to aggression.
The closer we get to an objective, the more we get desperate for the joy and excitement. In this manner the closer we are, the more disappointed we get by being held back. An unforeseen event could cause dissatisfaction and increases the probability of being aggressive.
A few people are more inclined to hostility and think that it’s harder to contain it. For such individuals, dissatisfaction will probably lead straightforwardly to hostility than for other individuals a little less or no aggression who have a greater self-control.
Considering Meursault’s situation, it was an extremely hot day and Meursault felt “all the warmth pushing down on, making it difficult to go on”, it is evident that the climate was not great and Meursault wished to escape it. Be that as it may, as Meursault kept on strolling along the shoreline, the Arab had returned and turned into a hindrance in Meursault returning home and getting away from the warmth. Meursault at that point was completely exhausted and wanted to return back home and rest but the Arab was a hindrance. So Meursault’s disappointment transformed into hostility and he shot the man, not on the grounds that he had anything against the Arab, but rather in light of the fact that he needed to escape the warmth. This is only one explanation for Meursault’s activities.
We can also consider the fact that Meursault considered a good and a trustworthy friend so it seemed he would do anything for him. Maybe he did not have a good past due to which he was silent and withdrawn from society. We can also consider the fact that The Stranger was written during World War II. Camus wrote The Stranger in the 1940s. That was the period when Nazi Germany defeated the Allies and captured them. Since France was among the allies, the country was left into a complete havoc. There was a fear among the lives of the people. Maybe, this could also be a reason behind Meursault’s isolation and frustration which soon turned out to be aggressive in nature.
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