Monday, October 16, 2017

Failure to Conform

Throughout his trial, the judge and opposing council seem more disturbed by Meursault's indifference towards the situation than the fact that he murdered another human being. All parties involved in this case seem to be so desensitized to this blatant felony. On page 100, the prosecution states that Meursault's case is no "ordinary murder", which to me is an oxymoron. The lawyer's reasoning is that Meurault did not feel guilty about his actions, and therefore has an abnormal case. Both the Chaplain and Meursault's lawyer give him multiple opportunities for moral redemption, and they are offended when he does not take the bate.

Meursault does not lie to the jury to protect himself. In fact, he is brutally honest with them. As well as he is able to identify his motivations, he shares them (99). As any good lawyer would, the prosecutor takes this opportunity to paint Meurault as a sociopath guilty of deliberate murder. The prosecutor drives his argument home by reminding the jury that Meursault has not shown any remorse for his crime (100). I think that the jury was more appalled by Meursault's lack of emotional expression and refusal to conform to societal expectations than the crime itself.

To be honest, I am impressed by Meusault's dedication to the truth. He could have almost definitely avoided the death penalty by simply pretending that he regrets his actions. I cannot help but ask the question then, did Meursault have a death wish or did was he just truly indifferent? In the last few pages he tells himself that he would die anyway, so what's the difference between now or 20 years from now? Whether he really believed this initially, he did a good job of convincing himself because once he let himself be truly indifferent, Meursault was overwhelmed by happiness (123).

Shared Cigarette

In the second part of Camus' The Stranger, the subject of Maman's funeral plays a substantial role in determining the outcome of Mersault's trial. The prosecutor becomes emboldened with each testimony that Mersault did not cry, and the jury more convinced that Mersault is guilty of murder without remorse. One peculiar moment stands out among these testimonies; the caretaker's statement that he took a cigarette offered to him by Mersault. In the grand scheme of a murder trial, a single cigarette seems minute and unimportant. Yet, it takes up nearly a page's worth of discussion.

What then, is the significance of the cigarette? Perhaps the meaning lies not in the object itself, but in the fact that it was offered. If the prosecutor's point was that Mersault showed selfishness and a lack of compassion by refusing to cry, he was counteracted by Mersault's selfless act of sharing a cigarette. Mersault was not, could not be, as heartless as the prosecutor intended him to be if he was willing to share.

 Human emotion, after all, does not exist on an all or nothing spectrum. While certain painful emotions such as grief and remorse may be bottled up and suppressed, compassion easily works it way out into the world. It is extremely hard work to remain truly emotionless, which is good news for Mersault - as his guilt lay on the fact that he seemed detached from his emotions, reducing him to an almost sub-human killing machine.

Perhaps even more significant, however, is the fact that the caretaker smoked the cigarette. In the midst of a funeral for a woman he had cared for at the end of her life, he allowed himself the minimal pleasure of a smoke. The prosecutor had called for Mersaults guilt for such the same action, saying grief ought to have overridden any small desires (such as those for a smoke or a coffee) and the fact that they did not suggested that Mersault had no grief.

However, the caretaker is a far more sympathetic character. He was not assumed to be emotionless, yet he also found pleasure in the midst of a grievious moment. He used the smoke to find a moment of happiness, of normalcy, within a trying and sad affair. Emotions coexist, and he has proved it. One can be a little happy while very sad, or very happy yet slightly melancholy. Mersault, therefore, could just as well be the same. His engaging in routine pleasures during his mother's funeral do not exemplify him as inhuman, rather as the most normal human there is - one who can experience a wide range of emotions at once, attempting to counteract negative ones with positive ones, however small.

The anecdote of the cigarette at Mersault's trial was significant on many accounts. It proved that Mersault could experience emotion and more than that, could experience multiple emotions at once. It placed Mersault and the caretaker at the same level of emotional guilt - whether that be great or nonexistent is up to interpretation. It expressed the flexibility of the emotional spectrum and the grey area between grief and happiness.

Abuse Being Normalized

Throughout the first couple chapters in The Stranger, abuse is very prevalent. The reader sees it with Salamano and his dog whom he constantly beats for unapparent reasons. "Then he beats the dog and swears at it. The dog cowers and trails behind. Then it's the old man who pulls the dog. Once the dog has forgotten, it starts dragging its master along again, and again gets beaten and sworn at. (27)" Our narrator, Mersault, observes this as if it's completely normal.

This isn't the only instance of abuse as Raymond beats his girlfriend "'I'd smack her around a little, but nice-like, you might say. I'd close the shutters and it always ended the same way. But this time it's for real. (32)" He ends up beating her until she bleeds and I believe, had every intention to kill her.

I for one, cringed just reading about the dog getting beat so I can't imagine being there in person and not saying anything. The same goes for Mersault helping write the letter Salamano wants him to help write in hopes of making her, "Sorry for what she's done." His grand plan was to make her want to come "running back" and when she does, "he'd spit in her face and throw her out. (32)" Is this prevalence of abuse with bystanders not stepping in because our narrator is always the one viewing it and he doesn't care or is it because it's extremely normalized?

Meursault: Existentialist or Nihilist?

Existentialism and nihilism are both convoluted and have a tendency to overlap, but they can be loosely defined as such: existentialism is the belief that life is meaningless and therefore we should embrace it, and nihilism is the belief that life is meaningless and therefore pointless and miserable. Camus is often hailed as one of the great existentialist philosophers, but in his most famous book, is he really preaching the right philosophy?

In The Stranger, Meursault's actions make it clear that he is not a normal member of society. He rejects social norms and expectations and has out-of-place reactions to events such as being jailed for murder. His behavior is very much in line with the behavior of an existentialist, except for a few problems. Firstly, Meursault spends his time thinking only of himself. He feels next to nothing at his mother's death, makes friends with a man he is fully aware is an abuser, and kills a man because the sun was bothering him. Even Marie, his fiancee, is to him only something to be desired. Part of the existentialist philosophy is that each individual is important, not only the self. Because human existence as a general concept is absurd, individual people are the only thing that matters. How can Meursault follow this philosophy if he gives practically no thought to anyone but himself?

Secondly, Meursault does not seem to find any point in living, despite being at first enraged at the thought of his own death. Meursault does not seek out anything during The Stranger, but instead lives his life passively. He does not often appear sad or hopeless, but he also does not often appear to be truly happy. He does not view life as something to adapt and make his own, but as something that he should sit by and watch. This is not existentialism, which embraces life's absurdity, but nihilism, which rejects life as meaningless and entirely pointless.

Contradicting an Existentialist View: Is Love Really Real?

On the specific day where all hell broke loose in our class period, several aspects of the conversation did not sit well with me or my fellow classmates. Mr. Heidcamp was trying to get a rise out of us, make us feel uncomfortable in our seats. And for the most part, it worked extremely well. Classmates refuted Mr. Heidcamp's existential comments no matter how well he backed up his argument. Existentialism is a hard humanism to accept on several terms.

The hardest "cover up" to comprehend and understand is by far Mr. Heidcamp's argument about love. He stated that, "We get our meaning of love from TV shows and movies," and that it is just a cover for the pain, suffering, and death that is taking place in other parts of the world. This could be true on some levels, that we look to love for comfort and support in times of grief and agony. We establish loving relationships solely so we have someone's shoulder to cry on. As a people, we may be able to forget about the terrible event that took place faster if we just get through it together. To this argument, I slightly agree. Not wholeheartedly, but slightly. There is a slight point to this proclamation. In times of my life such as the massacre that just occurred in Las Vegas, I turn to close relationships which consists of family and friends that I love and have strong connections with.

Although Mr. Heidcamp has a valid point, I more strongly disagree with his statement. Where did we get the idea of love in the first place? Before the movies and the TV shows? Where did we get the idea to marry one another? I surely believe that it wasn't from a romantic TV series or movie. It was from our human emotions and feelings that love came out of, not a screen. Love is not learned, it is in your DNA from the day you are born. When you were in elementary school, did you ever have a crush on someone, and have a feeling of butterflies rush into stomach? If not, you are probably lying. We did not learn this information from watching Elmo and Thomas the Train Engine, so where else could we have gotten this information at such a young age? It is predetermine in our genes, not learned an accepted.

Those are just my thoughts on this rather complicated topic. Do you guys agree or disagree with me or Mr. Heidcamp? Or, do you fall somewhere in between?

Sunday, October 15, 2017

The stranger was a fascinating book. From the beginning, I could tell it would be an interesting read because Meursault starts out nonchalantly saying his mother died. Now, no one can casually say their mother has died. Just thinking that evokes a little emotion from me, but for him, it was easy to say. When most people die, their relatives will cry and remember the good stuff about when they were alive. For example, when I was 9 my grandmother died. At the time I didn't really understand the fact that she was dying. It never really effected me the way it effected my grandpa or my dad. I remember when they told me she passed. I was eating pancakes at a diner with my mom across the street from the hospital. I guess they didn't want me in the room when it happened, but my dad and grandfather came into the diner and sat with me and my mom and they told me what happened. The odd thing was, I wasn't really fazed. Maybe the fact that I knew it was coming mixed with me being so young. When I went home about a couple months later, it finally hit me. When Meursault went insane onto the priest and let out all of his anger at the world in between gasps of air, It reminded me of when I was 9, and I finally realized my grandmother was gone. I had all these emotions running through me, but I forced them down, only to have them be released later in life.

The Myth of Sisyphys

The Myth of Sisyphus is a story about the legend of Sisyphus who defied the gods and exposed them. He also put Death itself in chains so that no human would have to die. Sisyphus was sent to the underworld once but was allowed to return to Earth. However, he was sent back down into the underworld again. The gods decided to punish him forcing him to push a rock up a mountain. Upon reaching the top the rock would roll back down the mountain and Sisyphus would have to start all over again.

Sisyphus was described as "an absurd hero" by Camus. Sisyphus is different because he is self conscious and aware of his daily suffering and agony. He understands that his actions, good or bad, will have consequences so he embraces them. He chooses to be happy and focus on the good side of things instead of constantly living in unhappiness despite the fact that he is being punished for eternity. This makes Sisyphus different from a lot of us because most of us focus on the bad side of life or try to figure out how unfair life is. If we pay less attention to the negative side of life things won't seem as bad in our heads and we will be happier.

The Sun's Role in The Stranger

I think we've all heard Meursault say it over and over again, "the sun made me do it!" Unless I read the wrong book, I'm pretty sure that the sun didn't physically force Meursault to kill an Arab, so what is the point of the sun anyways? After a close encounter with the Arabs the first time around, Meursault walked along the beach by himself, when a black dot caught the corner of his eye: "I hadn't stopped watching the Arab"..."all I had to do was turn around and that would be the end of it. But the whole beach, throbbing in the sun, was pressing on my back" (Camus 58).
It was as simple as walking away, and yet Meursault chose to stay at the beach.

The pressing on Meursault's back was almost like his conscious is saying he had left something behind. After Meursault stayed he said that it looked as if the Arab was laughing. "The sun was starting to burn my cheeks, and I could feel drops of sweat gathering in my eyebrows" (99).Through Camus' diction, we can see that Meursault is getting aggravated with the Arab. Meursault felt a rush of humiliation rush over his body, and his cheeks began to blush, a common human emotion. Although we all know Meursault denies to feel human emotion, Meursault's human tendencies are parallel to Camus' description of the sun.

At the end of the Novel, prior to Meursault's death, Meursault says, "I opened myself to the gentle indifference of the world. Finding it so much like myself --so like a brother, really --." Meursault's reference to his close relationship to the earth almost makes me think of the solar system, comparing Meursault's role (the sun) to his surroundings (the earth). Although Meursault feels different from the earth for nearly the whole book, it isn't until moments before his death that he is not a living being of society, but a part of nature, and simply subject to his surroundings, and should be treated as such.

Quit Playing Games

Albert Camus perceives Meursault as a hero in our society because he doesn't let social norms influence his life. Mourning over a loved one, he doesn't do. Loving his fiance, nope. Regretting murdering a stranger, nah.

He behaves how he wants without taking into consideration the impact it will have on others. I don't see him as a hero but an asshole. But, I get what Camus is getting at. He doesn't indulge in the toxic situations society burdens upon oneself. Why would you waste so much of your life trying to tend to an issue or person when you can do what you genuinely want to do. Because you have freedom and have the capability of making any choice, so why choose something you should do or feel inclined to doing because its expected from you by society.

However, that still isn't going to make me screw over all my relationships to make myself happy. If I had the choice to hang out with someone I don't like knowing it would help out their situation or go do my own thing I would help out that person. But, if I had the choice to go take before homecoming pictures (not dragging anyone) because its expected over what I want to do I'm going to do me! If I had the choice to pick up my dog's deuces or just leave it on the ground because it would inconvenience me and it smells I would pick up the poop even though it's a societal expectation.

Conforming isn't always bad. It's all dependent and relative.

And Now, the End Is Near

Existentialism is an incredible idea that, if broken down, shows us that we must be true to ourselves and do what we believe in rather than listen to what society has to say about it. Being a high school student now, I have been told many times that I shouldn't pay attention to the social pressures and expectations exist today. Although difficult at times, I think that people are happier if they listen to this advice, even if at first it seems like a daunting task. From shoes to phones, society has constructed an idea that many people feel like they need to abide by. 

Yet the song "My Way" by Frank Sinatra, and The Stranger by Albert Camus, both challenge society's constraints, and glorify the existential idea. I do believe that the two classics approach the same idea but with different ways. In my opinion, Sinatra's song views existentialism from a positive light, referring to doing things "my way" and having no regrets in doing so. To me, the song means to live life to the fullest because in the end we all die, and that is why we must take advantage of every second we have. Camus, on the other hand, ends his book with a negative light with the death of Meursault. His philosophical analysis of life at the end of the book during Meursault's outrage with the priest undoubtedly relayed the existential idea to the reader, yet for me personally, ending with the death was a little dark. None the less, I think both works of art express the importance of being true to oneself and not conforming to society's ways.

It's a Man's Man's Man's World (But it Wouldn't be Nothing, Nothing Without a Woman or a Girl)

Throughout The Stranger, the audience is plagued by Meursault's lack of action and passivity. Though he does not act in most situations in his life, it is extremely apparent when the topic is women. In part one, Raymond calls Meursault over to have him write a letter since he is illiterate. When Raymond tells Meursault all about his mistress and the 'problems' that she has caused him. Raymond says that he would "'smack her around a little'" and still believed that she hadn't "'gotten what she has coming'" (31). Raymond even explicitly states that he wants to know Meursault's advice, but he stays silent and continues to smoke his cigarette. His refusal to speak up makes the statement that he either supports Raymond or he just doesn't seem to care.

In regard to Meursault and his relationship with Marie, his dismissive nature towards women becomes extremely apparent. Meursault harbors no feelings of love for Marie. Countless times, Marie shows her love for Meursault, physically, verbally, and more. The only reason that Meursault maintains his relationship is for sex. He has no emotional motives or goals in his relationship with Marie. In chapter two when they meet each other while swimming, Meursault repeatedly refers to her physical attributes instead of talking about any of his feelings or their conversations. Meursault says that he has "no ambition" and when Marie later visits him asking for his hand in marriage, he says that is makes "no difference" (41). He clearly does not intend to do anything except have sex with her. The only feelings that he feels towards Marie is physical attraction. Though it could argued that those feelings could develop into something more, when analyzing Meursault's character, it is obvious that it would not. Additionally, that would not mean that his overall feelings towards women as sexual objects would change.

While Meursault is in prison, he talks about Marie and women in general multiple times. He says that he used to wait until the days when he could "hold Marie's body in [his] arms" (77). In the context of another story, this statement may seem romantic, but in that passage, Meursault doesn't say anything else about her. He simply wishes to hold her for his own comfort. He still does not wish to marry her and says nothing about having any other interactions with her; his cell becomes filled with his "desires" (77). When Meursault continues to talk about his solution to his addiction to smoking, I thought about his desire for women. I connected him sucking on chips of wood to curb his need for cigarettes with his thoughts of Marie and her body to curb his want/need for a physical relationship. Since the entire novel is told from Meursault's perspective, we see his physical attraction to women and can judge his outlook on women and their role in society in his eyes. Meursault clearly establishes males as the dominant sex and goes to prove it countless times throughout the book. Do you think that Meursault is playing into the dominant male mold or is it just a combination of his character and his voice?

The Reporter

Throughout The Stranger, minute characters are sprinkled throughout the story to reveal prodigious themes. Of these minute characters is the reporter. With his scene condensed into one page, his role seems small. When talking to Meursault the reporter reveals that he, "bl[ew] [Meursault's] case up a little" (84). Today, the media always inflates stories. Most people, however, fail to see the effect of this. Although this book was written during a time when the media was less prevalent, the media nonetheless still swayed the public.
By exaggerating Meursault's case, I believe that the reporter left Meursault open to more public scrutiny, which helped convict him. If Meursault's case was not exaggerated, then I think that his punishment not have surmounted to death. But because his case got so much attention from the public the stakes were higher.
In class, there was a discussion about how the heat could have represented society's expectations and this would reinforce the claim that Meursault's punishment was inflated because his case was. Throughout the court case, Meursault boils in the heat. In comparison, everyone else is provided a fan. Therefore, Meursault faces more of society's expectations which is why he believes that he was convicted because he didn't cry at his mother's funeral.
Raymond beats his girlfriend and Salamano tortures his dog, yet both of them never get punished. I think that this is because their wrongdoings were not published in the media. If they were, however, then they like Meursualt could have been sentenced harshly. However, because the media did not represent Raymond's or Salamano's wrongdoings but they do not get punished. Ultimately, I think that the media functions as an evil because their choice to exaggerate Meursault's case led to his death.

Meursault, Marie, and Existentialism

Upon completion of The Stranger,  I immediately began associating Meursault with existentialism and Marie the opposite. Reflecting on the novel as a whole, we begin seeing Meursault's existential motivations while Marie counters these desires and thoughts.

Jumping back to the first chapter when Meursault is notified of his mother's death and eventually visits the place of her funeral, we see one aspect of existentialism, "Then she finally shut up. I didn't feel drowsy anymore, but I was tired and my back was hurting me" (11). In this moment, Meursault chooses to focus on his physical fatigue and frustrations rather than grieving or acknowledging feelings associated with his mother's death. This was just a preview into Meursault's character.

Furthermore, as Meursault continues to live his life under existential ideals, he meets Marie. As the two spend time with each other, Marie begins asking questions of commitment and marriage. Marie's desire for commitment is acknowledged by Meursault, "Then she pointed out that marriage was a serious thing" (42). Immediately after, Meursault denies her argument for mutual devotion. As an individual of existentialism, Meursault is unable to commit or engage in marriage. We see the differences concerning a loyal relationship, where Marie and Meursault are complete opposites.

In addition, there is evidence confirming the differences between Meursault and Marie concerning death. At this point, Meursault has acted in many ways leading readers to believe he is an existentialist. At the same time, we see Marie countering his actions and desires. After being arrested and charged Meursault is aware of his impending death. Marie comes to visit Meursault as she is also aware of his punishment "But I didn't have time to watch them any longer, because Marie shouted to me that I had to have hope" (75). Marie tries to instill ambition into Meursault to try and fight his death penalty. But, Meursault, alongside other existentialists, believes death is not necessarily negative and it is something to acknowledge.

Therefore, the differences among Meursault and Marie on the surface may seem arbitrary or by chance. After finishing The Stranger and being able to analyze the text, I see Meursault acts on existential ideals and Marie challenges these.

Meursault = Threat?

I think it's safe to say that whether we want to or not: we all secretly are frustrated at Meursault. I personally was frustrated at his lack of emotions. I always thought that in order to be considered "human", we all had to embrace our emotions. Even through the end of the novel I couldn't help thinking why Meurault, even after spending time in a cold and isolated jail cell, did not become more in tune with his emotions.

That being said, after having a few days to chew on the ideas presented in the book, I was able to draw to a conculsion that while some of us may see Meursault as an emotionless, aloof, and indifferent character, he actually never poses as a threat to society because of these very characteristics.

Most of the headlines that make big news channels such as CNN, FOX, and MSNBC, all relate to violence that was derived from a deep seated emotion. For example, there seems to be endless violence because of frustration towards certain political parties. However, while most of us did feel confusion and frustration with political events currently circling around us, we do not commit such horrid acts. Yet while we do not commit these same atrocious acts, we cannot help but let these emotions cloud our deception of the world and what we can do to change the world into a better place.

This is precisely why I believe that Meursault can not, could not, and does not pose as a threat to society. His inability to let emotions get ahold of him is what allows him to move through life passively. Because he is so aloof and indifferent, he does not let certain things (while he may disagree or agree with them) get the best of him. With this in his mind, he is able to steer clear of emotions that could potentially cause him from doing catastrophic things.

Many of you may be asking why then he decided to shoot the Arab? In the specific scene when Meursault approaches the Arab, he explains that the sun "was the same as it had been the day I'd buried Maman, and like then, my forehead especially was hurting me, all the veins in it throbbing under the skin. It was this burning, which I couldn't stand anymore, that made me move forward" (59). After moving forwards, Meursault explains how stupid that action was. He also explains that as the Arab drew out his knife, Meursault's eyes were "blinded behind the curtain of tears and salt" (59). This brief mention of tears in his eyes is a part of Meursault that we have never seen before. Throughout the entire story, he has never cried, and yet suddenly, we see him break down in this scene. Even before he pulls the trigger, Meursault claims that his "whole being tensed" and that "the sky split open from one end to the other" (59). At first glance, the diction that Camus  uses to explain what Meursault was going through could merely seem like literary devices used to enrich the text. At a closer examination, however, it is easy to parallel these things that Meursault is describing to how we feel when powerful emotions overtake us. I think that the only reason Meursault killed the Arab was because he finally became face to face with his emotions; they hit him suddenly and powerfully, and because he let these emotions take a hold of him, he pulled the trigger. It seems that controlling our emotions can potentially be more beneficial than letting our emotions pose as a threat to us.

Throughout the beginning of "The Stranger", we see Meursault as a passive and phlegmatic man. During this part, he does not seem to partake in any violent acts. However, before shooting the Arab, he seems to be overwhelmed and enveloped in his emotions. Personally, I do not see Meursault as a threat to society, merely because his is able to control his emotions enough to enable him to perceive the world in a more clear way than most of the people who let emotions control them.
Meursault has to be the most annoying and frustrating character I ever had to read about. He never know what he wants. "A minute later she asked me if I loved her. I told her it didn't mean anything but I didn't think so." WHO SAYS THIS?! He barely shows affection to Marie when clearly she is really interesting in him. It's sad she really tries to put the time and effort to entertain him and understand him. He's always blunt when it comes to things he never altar what he has to say. However, it does his honesty reflects his ignorance, suggesting that he does not fully understand fully the emotional stakes in Marie's question.

It’s a Man’s World, and Women Are All Just Living In It

The Stranger is narrated by Meursault: a stereotypical masculine character with little interest anything concrete or meaningful, let alone a woman’s point of view, her value, or equality between the sexes. Everything the reader gleans about a woman’s feelings is through that male lens. Women are depicted as an accessory, to be abused or had in bed. In the portrayal of Raymond’s relation to the woman he abuses and Meursault’s relationship to Marie, women are shown as objects, always less than then men. In terms of Benjamin’s theory of mutual recognition, the binary is undoubtedly set at MAN:woman.

Meursault’s thoughts on how Raymond abuses the woman are slim to none. He is completely unphased. When Marie and Meursault witness the abuse, he notes, “The woman was still shrieking and Raymond was still hitting her. Marie said it was terrible and I didn’t say anything. She asked me to go find a policeman, but I told her I didn’t like cops” (36). After this episode when Raymond comes into Meursault’s room and they discuss it, Meursault goes onto say, “I told him it seemed to me that she’d gotten her punishment now, and he ought to be happy” (37). Meursault completely normalizes the victim blaming that seems to be so pervasive in the book. Not only does Meursault condone the abuse he witnesses, he supports it by agreeing to lie for Raymond and testify that the woman cheated on him. There is no legitimate reason to ever abuse another human being, but throughout The Stranger, the unequal power dynamic between the sexes perpetuates the binary and supports the abuse.

Furthermore, in terms of love, it’s only thing that truly matters to Meursault is sex. He is indifferent about companionship and marriage with Marie -  the physical elements of the relationship that yield immediate pleasure is all Meursault cares about (41-42). When he is in prison, he doesn’t even think personally about Marie, just about women in general.  Even if he does loves her, he loves her body more. Meursault comments, “I never thought specifically of Marie. But I thought so much about a woman, about women, about all the circumstances in which I had enjoyed them, that my cell would be filled with their faces and crowded with my desires” (77). This representation of women barely surprised me as a reader though, because women are so much on the sidelines of this novel, that in this masculine oriented world I could see how women would only be seen as necessary for only what they can give men. Abuse and objectification of women are prevalent throughout The Stranger, and through Meursault’s very masculine narration the reader gets a first hand account of how not caring at all could make a man happy, but it does no good for his female counterpart.

The Last Few Moments

I LOVED the end of the novel, The Stranger. I was waiting for Camus to get to the philosophical entailment for the 100 something pages since he said "Maman died today." The cliche yet reasonably overdone idea that one doesn't know what they have till it's gone is something I felt was very evident in the last few pages. One realizing they had made filling use of their time on Earth made the pessimistic ideology behind the story that much more beautiful. Being able to find a happy medium between seemingly negative existentialism and contentment with ones time on Earth appeals to a larger group of readers than Shakespeare's overbearing and overreaching existentialism (I'm sure time period has as play in it, as in Shakespeares time period it was also taken with a larger grain of salt). I'm in love with the reflective and yet oddly optimistic voice Meursault had towards the end of his life. I often think about how lucky I am, that under these circumstances, I was granted a life given to me by chance and random collisions of branching acts far outside of my direct lifestyle, yet play a vital role in my existence. I align myself with existentialism because of this thought process. The series of occurances that allowed me to be here today were anything but on purpose. For this, I loved the sequence of emotions Meursault was going through the last night or so of his time on Earth. Moreover, the emotions he felt made the novel more realistic as he often went back on the philosophies behind his typical existentialism; "But naturally, you can't always be reasonable" (reasonable implying existential). At times Meursault would wish he had more time, or could go back in time, although evidently he realizes this is absolutely no use and must accept his fate. The rules of the law were an external force, choosing his destiny for him. He was to die, at the hand of his own impulsive decisions, because the majority of the people in the courtroom saw no use in keeping him alive. This disillusion is where I sometimes get tripped up; I often go back and forth on if we are living in a libertarian-esque series of events or if our lives are strictly dependent on external forces, this being determinism. To a point, Meursault didn't have to shoot that man on the beach. Yet, he was born with the certain emotional triggers he was created with due to a chemical DNA structure in his brain, etc, etc, etc, etc. To this end, philosophy is a very difficult can of worms to uncover and constantly argue about, yet I loved the way Meursault was able to use his existentialism to find contentment, rather than demotivation in life itself.

Pray for Meursault

Through the entirety of The Stranger, Meursault does everything he can to avoid confrontation. He gives simple answers and never explains himself to others. However, toward the end of the novel while he is in jail, Meursault explodes in his response to the chaplain. The event that finally evokes an extreme emotional response from Meursault is when the chaplain says, "I shall pray for you"(120).

He is so deeply disturbed by these five words that they cause him to break down and to finally try to explain his thought process to someone. He feels violated by these words, because they imply a slight lack of control over his own life and actions. The single factor that causes him to make all of the decisions that he does is his need for absolute control over himself, which is threatened when someone else says he will pray for him. Even the slight idea of a higher power or another man having influence over him is too much for Meursault to handle.

During his meltdown, he says that he is sure about himself, and that he had"lived his life one way" and could "just as well have lived another"(121). Facing death, he feels the slightest bit of closure knowing that he lived his life exactly how he wanted to. He knows that he did not let society influence his actions, and he is frustrated because he is being punished for not letting societally constructed systems, like family and religion, control him. The chaplain's assertions that he will pray for Meursault threatens the one small comfort he has while on the path to his execution-- his complete power over his own self.

Meursault's Father

Life is as simple as cause and effect. Even regarding existentialism one normally is pushed down this path by a traumatic event. The event reveals to one that life is truly only suffering, pain, and death and then one embraces the ideas of existentialism. Thus, whether the reader believes that Meursault is just apathetic by nature or embraces the ideals of existentialism an event must have sent him down this path.

I think this event was the abandonment of his father. It is by far a devastating enough event to send someone tumbling into the whirlpool of despair that is existentialism. Camus first mentions it when the prospect of Meursault's execution comes up. Camus writes, "I remembered a story Maman used to tell me about my father. I never knew him. Maybe the only thing I did know about the man was the story Maman would tell me" (110). Obviously this states that he was abandoned by his father, but it doesn't explicitly describe his traumatization from the event.

Camus sprinkles this throughout the book in such a way that the reader needs to be looking for it or it slides right out the cranium. Throughout the prosecutors speech Meursault says, "Only bits and pieces... caught my attention" (99). Then immediately following Meursault describes in unusually descriptive language a speech by the prosecutor, "The prosecutor stopped and after a short silence continued in a very low voice filled with conviction: Tomorrow, gentleman, this same court is to sit in judgement of the most monstrous of crimes: the murder of a father"(101). This speech seems like typical lawyer speech, but Meursault is fascinated by it. By his standards this is the equivalent of paying rapt attention. One wonders why some obscure mention of the death of a father would carry such weight if he hadn't already been sensitized to it.

Camus drops another subtle mention when Meursault goes into a fit of rage when the Pastor asks why he is calling him monsieur instead of father. Meursault shouts that he isn't his father. The pastor then attempts to comfort and incidentally calls Meursault son. Meursault then snaps (120). It's the first time in the entire book when we see Meursault without control and displaying passion, and it's telling that it occurs immediately following someone implying a paternal relationship.

Finally, at the very end of the book Camus implies it one last time. He writes, "why she had taken a "fiance" why she has played at beginning again"(122). This to me explains the conundrum of part one. Meursault's apathy toward his mother's death and the way she was almost already dead to him. It seems like he was never able to get over the abandonment of his father and the fact that his mother could broke him. He cut her off as soon as she took a fiance and from that point she was dead to him. It also explains the ending of the book. Meursault finally comes to term with the event that broke him and it is only at that point that he truly is able to find calm.

The End to The Stranger

     After Meursault's meeting with the chaplain, who insists that Meursault turn to god in the wake of his death sentence, he goes into a blind rage. Meursault describes, "As if that blind rage had washed me clean, rid me of hope; for the first time, in that night alive with signs and stars, I opened myself to the gentle indifference of the world. Finding it so much like myself—so like a brother, really—I felt that I had been happy and that I was happy again. For everything to be consummated, for me to feel less alone, I had only to wish that there be a large crowd of spectators the day of my execution and that they greet me with cries of hate" (122). In this moment Merusault realizes just as he has indifference to the world so does the world have indifference to him. He moves through this indifference throughout the novel but he doesn't fully accept and acknowledge it until he realizes the impossibility of avoiding his death. The personal indifference to human affairs is the same for both the universe and Meursault which evokes him to label the world as a "brother". At this point in the end of the novel Meursault also finds true happiness. He is happy with his position in society and doesn't wish to change it. The only thing he wishes for is to "feel less alone". 
     I'm not sure I liked the ending of the book. Why did they have to give Meursault the death penalty? It was only his first offense and it wasn't like he was some mass murderer. They could have gave him life in prison instead of the death penalty. Yes, he had no remorse over killing the man and yes he didn't cry at his mothers funeral but that's just Meursault. I think it would have been a little interesting if Meursault could have spent a little more time in prison with his thoughts. It also could have developed his character possibly a little more. The and only thing that I can say I did like about the end of the book was when Meursault had his realization. In my opinion the author developed it wisely in a way that it wasn't to confusing to understand. Overall, I give the ending 3 out of 5 stars.