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Essay on Camus’ The Stranger (The Outsider): Parallels Within

Parallels Within The Stranger (The Outsider)

The Stranger by Albert Camus is a story of a sequence of events in one man’s life that cause him to question the nature of the universe and his position in it. The book is written in two parts and each part seems to reflect in large degree the actions occurring in the other. There are curious parallels throughout the two parts that seem to indicate the emotional state of Meursault, the protagonist, and his view of the world.

Meursault is a fairly average individual who is distinctive more in his apathy and passive pessimism than in anything else. He rarely talks because he generally has nothing to say, and he does what is requested of him because he feels that resisting commands is more of a bother than it is worth. Meursault never did anything notable or distinctive in his life: a fact which makes the events of the book all the more intriguing.

Part I of The Stranger begins with Meursault’s attendance at his mother’s funeral. It ends with Meursault on the beach at Algiers killing a man. Part II is concerned with Meursault’s trial for that same murder, his ultimate sentencing to death and the mental anguish that he experiences as a result of this sentence. Several curious parallels emerge here, especially with regard to Meursault’s perception of the world.

In Part I, Meursault is spending the night next to his mother’s coffin at a sort of pre-funeral vigil. With him are several old people who were friends of his mother at the home in which she had been living at the time of her death. Meursault has the strange feeling that he can see all of their faces really clearly, that he can observe every detail of their clothing and that they will be indelibly impr…

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…r has not done makes no essential difference at the end. The nurse at the funeral tells him, “if you walk too slowly, you’ll get heat exhaustion, but if you walk too fast, then the cool air in church will give you a chill.” As he kills the Arab, he thinks, “Whether I fire or don’t fire is irrelevant; the ending will be the same.” And at the trial, Meursault tells the prosecutor, “I have lived my life thus and did x, but if I had done y or z instead, it wouldn’t have mattered.” And, ultimately, Meursault turns out to be correct; he discovers that when death approaches, all men are equal, no matter what their ages or previous lives. Meursault views death as an escape: you can’t escape from it, but you can escape into it, and he prepares himself to do so, bit by bit. Each parellel incident is just one more winding round of the rope that will bind him completely.

Essay on Camus’ The Stranger (The Outsider): The Character of Meursault

The Character of Meursault in Camus’ The Stranger (The Outsider)

Raymond typifies the beast-character in Camus’ The Stranger (The Outsider). He is like Stanley from A Streetcar Named Desire (T. Williams), emotional and manly. Physical solutions come naturally to him, as we see when he mistreats his ex-girlfriend. Ideally, society is exactly the opposite; law and order attempt to solve things fairly and justly. I propose that Meursault is somewhere between these two extremes and that this is the reason why he is a societal outcast. This metaphor explains his major actions in the book: as he struggles to keep his identity, his personality comes in conflict with the norms of society and he is shut down.

Just as an animal sticks to instincts, Meursault has a hard time feeling emotions such as remorse or compassion. Even the first page shows us this. Just as an animal leaves its family when it is old enough, never to return, when Meursault hears of his mother’s death he is unattached, even uncaring. He had similar feelings when he sent her to live in the old people’s home. Meursault has quite a passion for women; he starts dating Marie the very day after he finds out of the death. But like most animals, marriage is basically nonexistent for him; though he acknowledges it, it holds little meaning. When he is isolated in jail, he dreams of women; not Marie, whom he has been seeing for some time, but women in general. Like an animal he feels the urge to mate without any desire for monogamy. An animal has to focus on the present in order to survive, and as far as we know doesn’t spend much time cogitating about its past. Meursault always lives in the present, hence his lack of remorse. This beast-like quality is one that get…

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…s Meursault is not able, because of his very nature, to believe in a hereafter. His human side gives in to his animal side at the end when the chaplain tries forcibly to make Meursault see the light. His animal feels the threat of being tamed, or converted to the ways of human society, and so he explodes to save himself.

Only twice in the novel does Meursault experience extreme pressure, once from nature and once from society, and at these points he gives himself over to his beast. This proves devastating from a certain point of view: the first time he compromises his chances of living, and the second time he compromises his chance of an afterlife. This self-preservation instinct is the only thing that keeps him in touch with his bestial side, and in spite of these consequences he triumphs over life in that he remains unique, he does not conform.

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