Friday, October 19, 2018

Am I a Stranger?

In the novel, The Stranger the antagonist, Meursault, is referred to as “the” stranger. Meursault is considered a stranger to society. The author, Albert Camus, does not give Meursault the persona of regular and reasonable man. Meursault is a emotionless, nonchalant, and insensitive being who does not have any goals are ambition. Are these characteristics what make Meursault a stranger?

Even though I do not possess the same characteristics as Meursault, I sometimes feel that I am a stranger to society. I sometimes feel left out and  ignorant about subjects that most people understand. I have been an introvert most of life and I have come to accept that. Most of friends know I am an introvert and they accepted it as well. Being to yourself does not make you a stranger.

Is Change Good or Bad

“People never change their lives, that in any case one life was as good as another and that I wasn’t I wasn’t dissatisfied with mine here at all.”

This was Meursault’s response when his boss offered him a change life.

I do agree with this statement made by Meursault. I believe that people would like a change in life, if their current life does not meet their satisfaction. But, some people would are comfortable with their current and they are not looking for a change.

Some people are afraid of change and like to stay comfortable where they are currently at. That is normal in people, but if one always fears change they won’t see the benefits of change.

My mother always tells me, “You have to be comfortable with being uncomfortable.” She is always trying to get me to step out my comfort zone and try new things. Personally, I do not have big comfort zone and I often question trying something I’m not accustomed to doing. However, when I do step out my comfort zone, I come across things that I end up liking and that interest me, that before I thought I would never end up doing.

A change of life is not bad, if it is a change for the better.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Existentialism- Meaning of Life

The argument of existentialism that we have talked about in class and that Camus touches on in the myth he tells is very complex. The argument of love, justice, e.t.c being social structures that have just been around since the beginning of human life is very intriguing.

At first, it seemed very odd because all of these things are what we live our lives by. I do agree with the argument that they are just social structures because it is a fact that we are not born with any of those things, we are trained by society that that is what is important. Furthermore, I would not say that I agree completely with the existentialism beliefs because for me, the meaning of life is about feelings good and enjoying life anyway you want too. If you really wanna find love, if you wanna cure diseases, or make a ton of money, whatever makes you feel happy and good inside is what one should do. That is what the meaning of life is for me and that is the flaw in existentialism that I cannot agree with.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Justice for Meursault

If you're in the same boat as me you probably thought that meursault getting the death penalty was a bit extreme. Surely there was some other form of punishment to fit his crime? Initially that is what I thought, but after further thought I have realized that nothing but the death penalty, or life in prison, could suit meursault's crime. It is not because it he killed a man. Plenty of the people do that. It is that there is no possible way he could be reconditioned or reformed to go back into society and not be a hazard to people around him.

If the purpose of prison is to punish and reform then only half of that could apply to meursault. It is easy to punish someone for a crime. Once you figure out the correct course of action a fitting punishment can be applied. However, if your intention is to reform the criminal and return him to society a changed man then the punishment may change. There's the possibility of parole or reduced sentencing.

This would not work for meursault because he exists outside of the expectations of society. He could be punished and returned to society only to then be set back to square one. There would be no reforming him because his crime wasn't caused by something that can be reformed. To the court in Algiers he is so disconnected from "normal" living that the best course of action is to remove him from society. In this case they do so by executing him. For them it might have been a tough decision. To meursault it didn't matter, so why return him to society?

Is existentialism for anyone?

After reading the stranger and discussions in class I have a better understanding of existentialism. My question is who would ever want to live such a life. I pity the fool who believes that everything that we were lead to believe is important isn't. What is the problem with living in a bunch of lies anyway? If marriage, money, etc is just a social construct then so be it. I am completely alright with living that life and I am confident that I will live a more fulfilling life than the existentialist who does not care for these "lies".  What is there to live for with this mindset? Life would be bland. 

Monday, October 15, 2018

Is Mersault Misunderstood? Or Is He Just.... a Jerk?

In reading The Stranger through a feminist lens, it becomes extremely apparent that the man who Camus is attempting to establish as the "protagonist" of his story is well, kind of a jerk. Mersault proves time and time again his lack of respect for not only the women in his life, like Marie or Maman, but women as a whole. Mersault views himself as both the hero and the victim, and has somewhat of a "crybaby" attitude. While in prison, he places himself on a higher pedestal, not understanding immediately why he should not be allowed all of the privileges he once had as a free man. He also immediately puts himself at the level of the guards, rather than his fellow prisoners.

Additionally while in prison, Mersault  showcases a lack of respect for women, especially Marie. He is so self absorbed and misogynistic, he does not care what woman he is with, as long as she is pleasuring HIM- serving HIM. He says that "[he] thought so much about women, about all the ones I had known, about all the circumstances i which I had enjoyed them...". Mersault obviously only views women as something to gain pleasure from, rather than individual people with emotions and opinions. 
I don't know what Camus' goal was, but if it was for Mersault to be a character to be sympathetic to, he's failed in my book. 

The Treatment of Mental Illness by the Justice System

In The Stranger, it is almost impossible not to jump to the conclusion that Meursault has some type and degree of a mental illness. He struggles to voice his emotions, even internally. He appears to be indifferent to all aspects of his life and has a difficult time making decisions. He never demonstrates even a glimpse of love or affection for his friends, girlfriend, or even mother. Around the midway point of the novel, Meursault's mental illness resulted in him shooting and killing a man very rashly.

His trial was long and excruciating. Interestingly, the trial had little to do with his killing of the Arab man, but instead with the death and treatment of his mother. His lack of sadness at her funeral was seen as a sign that Meursault was evil. It was decided by the jury that his soul was so sinful that he must be put to death for the good of humanity. They came to this decision without any consideration for his mental instability. His inability to grieve the proper way at his mother's funeral resulted in his death. His awkwardness and indifference in relationships, both romantic and simple friendships, led the judge to send Meursault to the guillotine.

This treatment of mental illness by the justice system extends far beyond The Stranger. Pleading insanity has become a common occurance to lessen the punishment after committing heinous acts. However, none of the punishments contain any kind of aid to the mentally ill. Is it not ironic that only some people convicted of murder are considered 'insane'? Do you not have to be insane to pull the trigger to take a life? Mental illness has become a kind of hidden scapegoat within the courts. It is the first thing to be blamed, but the last thing to be treated.

Rick Sanchez: God of His Own Universe

Throughout class time reading The Stranger, we have discussed the many tendencies of an existentialist, and how they seem to learn that nothing matters, but once they do, their world becomes their own, for better or worse. I have seen many existentialist tendencies in comparison to our favorite TV genius, Rick Sanchez, the all-doing all-knowing scientist from the popular "Adult Swim" sci-fi cartoon, Rick and Morty. Rick and Morty is a show about a genius scientist named Rick, and his adventures throughout the universe with his family. However, the most intriguing characteristic I have seen from Rick in this show, is the fact that he refers to himself as "God" in many instances. It took me a while to sit with this statement, wondering how a scientist from Earth can own his own universe. While he can simply create whatever he wants and go wherever he wants, through all of his inventions, I still couldn't figure it out. But then it hit me. In an episode from the third season, Rick's daughter, Beth, killed her old friend in another dimension and asked Rick if she could make a clone of him, and Rick agreed (I believe because he just wanted something to do, as Beth did walk in while he looked bored playing a guitar). Later though, Beth asked Rick if she was evil, and Rick's response was, "Worse, you're smart. When you know nothing matters, the universe is yours". This sticks with me because it is exactly what we have been talking about in class. Rick knows that he is a genius and can do as he pleases, and he knows that nothing matters where he is, because he can just go to another universe and start over, without any problems, it seems that Rick runs his own course rather than letting someone, or a higher power run his course for him. I also think this is why Rick is a raging alcoholic, and seemed to show no empathy toward his family in the slightest. He truly lives in his own world, everyone and everything else is just a side piece to it. This proves Rick's existentialist thought process, he knows nothing matters, just like Meursault. Meursault doesn't care who he hurts or what he does, he knows that it won't matter in the long run, as does Rick. They both see the world as a pointless journey that leads to the same destination for everyone, which is why they do as the please, they are truly the owners of their own universe.

Religion and The Stanger

Religion is used as a guide for many people. It often is their code of ethics. It can bring out extreme positive and negative. Even though Mersualt does not believe in God religion still brings out strong emotions in him. When the pope tries to discuss religion with him, Mersualt becomes combative.

Religion is a touchy subject for many people. Mersualt is not different. Religion goes against his life philosophy.  In most religions, the point of life is to get to a certain place in the afterlife.  Mersualt does not believe life has meaning. 

Religion being shown in the book is not necessarily to discredit religion but it is to show how many people try to force what they believe on others.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

The Creation of Adam

Overall, I really appreciated the ending of how Meursault finally kind of "broke character" due to his hysterical reaction when the bishop talked to him about making amends with God. In the end, we finally saw some type of humanity in Meursault, which he lacked towards any other human figure, or animal in the book especially Marie- poor girl.

I think Meursault was very complacent with his situation: incarceration. Similar to Sisyphus in Greek mythology, he was eternally punished due to his hubris similar to Meursault, he own ego set him up to stuck in a very simple-minded situation that they can not escape.

I feel the idea God is really influential  to this because, for most people God is a "distraction" from everyday trials and tribulations, and if Meursault would have given up his own pride he would have fell into that belief system which in return would somewhat "cripple" him into being a "normal" person. I think he fears the most is fall into a societal construction. Meursault's lack of emotion towards anything is what gives him power over Marie and the other prisoners, because they only strive for freedom that they can indulge themselves in, they are forever trapped in a humanistic approach to life, " the pursuit of happiness", but Meursault kinda works on animal instinct, he is very complex but simply: a paradoxical character. He works strictly on passions and short infatuation which while he denies these as human traits when in actuality, these are our own primeval cravings that we deny because in today's society they viewed to be disturbing, unnatural, and forbidden.

Image result for the creation of adam

The Lack of Relationships in The Stranger

After reading The Stranger, I initially found the task difficult of identifying important themes throughout the book. One of the most obvious, however, is the theme of Meaninglessness and "The Absurd," a term coined by Albert Camus himself. One theme that did cross my mind though, was the theme of Relationships, and explicitly, how Meursault is unable to form them in his daily life.

Of course, readers are initially exposed to his lack of care and empathy when he hears about his mother's death and is rather annoyed by the time he must take out his day to visit her. In fact, all of the people he keeps in touch with are passionless from his mother to his friend Raymond, even his "romantic" relationship with Marie. Meursault is more focused, rather, on the physical experiences of his relationships. For example, this quote from Meursault is primarily based on the physical details of his "friends" rather than caring about what they have to say:

"That's when Maman's friends came in. There were about ten in all, and they floated into the blinding light without a sound. They sat down without a single chair creaking. I saw them more clearly than I had ever seen anyone, and not one detail of their faces or their clothes escaped me. But I couldn't hear them, and it was hard for me to believe they really existed"

Readers additionally begin to feel Meursault lack of conscience when he begins talking about his life with Marie. Marie is romantically involved with Meursault, and unlike Meursault, she focuses more on the emotional aspects of the daily events that occur in her life. For example, Marie is genuinely sad and discouraged when Mersault states that his life wouldn't matter one way or another if he married her. He states:

 "That evening, Marie came by to see me and asked me if I wanted to marry her. I said it didn't make any difference to me and that we could if she wanted to. Then she wanted to know if I loved her. I answered the same way I had the last time, that it didn't mean anything but that I probably didn't love her. "So why marry me, then?" she said. I explained to her that it didn't really matter and that if she wanted to, we could get married. Besides, she was the one who was doing the asking and all I was saying was yes. Then she pointed out that marriage was a serious thing. I said, "No"...She just wanted to know if I would have accepted the same proposal from another woman, with whom I was involved in the same way. I said, "Sure."

His inappropriate answers prove that he simply doesn't feel that she is different or unique compared to other people he is in contact with and therefore is freely able to admit to her that he does not love her.

At the final end of the book, readers get a slight glimpse that Meursault has finally realized what it is like to have an emotional connection with someone else. He states "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".

Comedians are the Ultimate Existentialists

Existentialism is at the core of all the comedy I watch: stand-up routines, movies, improv sketches. Perhaps unknowingly, comedians are the ultimate existentialists. They point out the absurdity of life and meaningless of all occurrences.

Jerry Seinfeld, Louis C.K., and Joan Rivers are a few of the stand-up comedians that come to mind. Woody Allen's movies and Donald Glover's TV show also contain elements of this so-called existentialism. So why do so many comedians channel this philosophy of thinking? 

Comedy is a coping mechanism. Humor comes from tragedy. People use comedy as a tool for coming to terms with the disorder of life. The same can be said of existentialism. 

The Holes in Existentialism

The philosophy of existentialism is going to take a lot of hits from the average person because it pretty much says all that they submit to is not real. The happiness they feel is not the golden happiness it could be if they found their own way. The god they praise is a construct. They passion they have is not true. The love they feel is a construct. All of the things around them have been made and that their happiness should not depend on anything but their acts and their will.

This frankly does not sit well with me.

To start, the society we live in is the society we live in. It has been in creation for thousands of years and is the product of all of the history our ancestors have written. They left us with things to strive for, wealth, family, happiness and love among other things. An existentialist would claim that these things don't mean anything because they were not created through our own will. But what I would say to that is so what.

All of the things that people strive for in this day and age give them happiness and life. They work to make money to buy necessities and what they want. They work to provide for their family. They work to give themselves a life they like to live. Who is to say that this is fake. That this is not the real way to live life. This society gives people to find things that they love and strive for them, giving people a purpose. Purpose is what it is all about. Without this you will be lost and not know where to go. Without purpose people loose sight of what is good for them and what they want to peruse.

Why would someone take this purpose away for someone and replace it with "you must find what you want by yourself without any influence." This leaves the average person without guidance on a road that is supposed to lead to happiness. However we live in a society that is able to and has given purpose to the lives of millions and millions of people without leaving them alone to find their own way of life. I would rather design my own goals with the guidance of society than to be placed in a dark room searching for an undefined purpose set by myself.

Is Meursault's Atheism Existentialist?

In Albert Camus' The Stranger, in the fifth and final chapter, Meursault encounters a chaplain before he lives out his death sentence. The chaplain expresses confusion at Meursault's seeming lack of care for his own situation, but Meursault is steadfast in his beliefs. He does not attempt to explain his position to the chaplain to the fullest extent possible, merely answering the questions that are asked of him, and later getting annoyed at the amount of questions being asked. He believes that there is no life after death, and the fact that there is no life after death does not concern him.

For its time, Meursault's atheism was likely perceived as existentialist. as his lack of belief in God indicates a belief in himself as a free agent (as well does the rest of the book). If there was no God, then what else could determine humanity's actions but individual humans?

When looked at through a modern lens, atheism is not necessarily indicative of an existentialist viewpoint. Atheism is defined as the lack of belief in a religion. That does not imply the existence of believe in oneself. Due to the increasing cultural prevalence of atheism in society, we are not necessarily inclined to believe that if one does not believe in God, one must believe in individuality.

On the contrary, non existentialist atheists might believe that humanity as a whole (large scale peer pressures) or the as-yet-to-be-defined set of laws that govern the universe as a whole yet don't subscribe to a deity. Or perhaps they believe that humans had free will at one point, but the advent of societal constructs such as justice, love, and friendship became so ingrained in the human psyche that we no longer have the freedom to think outside of them.

Regardless, when analyzing from a modern perspective, the fact of Meursault's atheism cannot be used as proof of his existentialism. It's up to the rest of the book to do that.

Just Meursault

Throughout, The Stranger By Camus, Very little happened that showed much emotion in regards to Meursault.  He had a trial where it was just bleh.  I could compound a much better world then bleh but it was.  Books and movies usually like to make the audience engaged with the seen and what's happening.  But I feel like Camus is trying to tell us something through nothing.  So what does all this tell us?  Why does Camus present us a story about someone with no emotion and with little introspective in his life?

Is God Absurd?

In philosophy, "The Absurd" refers to the conflict between the human tendency to seek inherent value in the meaning of life and the human inability to find any. Camus employs this theory in his analysis of The Myth of Sisyphus.

Sisyphus, according to Greek legend, was condemned to forever repeat the same meaningless task of pushing a boulder up a mountain, only to see it roll down again. Camus believes that as long as Sisyphus accepts that there is nothing more to life than this absurd struggle, then he can find happiness in it. This notion of an absurd struggle is also expanded upon in Camus' writing of The Stranger.

In the The Stranger, on page 69 Camus writes, "He asked me if I believed in God. I said no. He sat down indignantly. He said that it was impossible; all men believed in God, even those who turn their backs on him. That was his belief, and if he was ever to doubt it, his life would become meaningless. 'Do you want my life to be meaningless?' he shouted." Camus emphasizes that without the presence of God this man's life would be meaningless. Dissimilar to the boulder that Sisyphus pushes, the presence of God in this man's life enables the man to live a life that is not absurd. Thus, the belief in God as a higher power enables individuals to live a life that is not absurd; God is not absurd.

Forgetting Our Greatest Desires

I somewhat agree with Camus’ argument that simple pleasures have room to emerge once people stop longing for things they can not have. I was not persuaded until I saw the parallels between his essay and Meursault's actual life. In Cumus’ essay, he argues that Sisyphus’ punishment is not the most grueling in the world because Sisyphus can be happy if he loses his desire to have things on Earth. Once he becomes content with his position in life, he will be joyful because he won’t be preoccupied with striving for anything more than what’s in front of him.

Meursault faces this reality while in prison. When he first arrived, he had the mindset of a free man. Once he lost his desire to have and do things from the free world like smoking cigarettes and going to the beach he was content with his life in prison and understood his punishment.

I do find there to be a fault in Camus’ argument. There are people who are not okay with giving up on their lives when something is not available to them. For some people, trying to get what they don’t already have is the driving factor in their lives. People who grew up without the same luxuries as others use that experience to drive them to earn what they never had. They would go to school, work, and do all what they needed so that they could live a life where they would be able to have all that they desired.

I suppose happiness is relative. Some people will be able to find happiness by being complacent while others will find happiness through hard work.

A Hesitant Defense of Meursault

In Albert Camus's The Stranger, Meursault is sentenced to death for not conforming with the jury's view on humanity. The thing that condemns Meursault the most in his trial is his lack of visible grief for his mother's death. It is this lack of grief that causes the jury to believe he is inhuman. The jury and Meursault have differing views on what makes one human. The jury believes that a base of humanity is that one will feel love and grief for a parent who passes, and will mourn in a unspecified way that they deem appropriate, but one which Meursault clearly violates. As such, the jury is convinced by the prosecution that Meursault is a "monster", as they continuously paint him throughout the trial.

But we the audience, with full insight to Meursault's thoughts, can see him as a person, and know they are misinterpreting the events as well as failing to understand Meursault as a person. Meursault takes enjoyment of from the physical things in life, the murder was not premeditated, and his mother's advice is mentioned throughout the novel, suggesting Meursault did care for his mother, even if it was not as shown or typical of what society would expect.

In light of this, we must ask ourselves: Did Meursault deserve the death sentence? And can anyone really make judgments about what makes one human?

Meursault was a person, and felt emotions, even if they were not the ones deemed appropriate by society. Does this make him human? Or does his general indifference to emotions truly make him an inhuman monster? And most importantly, why? Who has the right to decide what one must feel to be a human?

At the end of the day, Meursault undeniably was a murderer, as so legally did deserve some sort of punishment. However, in addition to being punished for murder, he is also being punished for failing some abstract notion of humanity pushed by society, leading me to conclude that the death sentence was an unnecessary extremity.

Why You Should Have No Hope

In the Myth of Sisyphus, Camus essentially argues that Sisyphus is happiest when he gives up hope that he will succeed in getting the rock to the top of the mountain without it falling. While the idea that there should be no hope may seem very pessimistic at first, it has a good amount of truth to it. If you hope for things and hope that you don’t experience pain then you will only be sad and disappointed when your hopes aren’t fulfilled. As sad as it is, pain and suffering are inescapable in life. Without it there would be very few of the social constructs like justice systems that have been created in the hopes of minimizing pain and suffering.

If one comes to accept pain and doesn’t hope for a perfect life or doesn't hope to have a big house or a lot of money, then they won’t be upset when things don’t necessarily go their way because they were ready for it. This allow people to appreciate the smaller things because they aren’t expecting more. It also makes it so that pain isn’t as negative of an experience because they expect it which makes those people happier overall.

Does the judicial system fail Meursault?

Society has a judicial system in place to find justice in the misdoings of others. In The Stranger, Meursault finds himself subject to societies expectations of being a moral person.

During the process of Meursault's trial, the question of right versus wrong is used to base the judgement against him. He is asked more thoroughly on his actions at his mother's funeral, rather than the events that took place at the beach. Meursault is very confused as to why they are not questioning him on the actions that he took, but on the morals behind his actions.

The prosecutor attempts to demonstrate to the jury that Meursault had no emotion at his mother's funeral, so that means that he could not possibly care about murdering the Arab. In society, there is a notion that everyone should act with the same morals, and that anyone outside of these parameters is to be considered the worst of a criminal.

Meursault has a different perspective in life compared to the rest of society. He does not view his actions as right or wrong, but rather as did I do them or not. He bases his actions on nothing. When he feels as though something needs to be done, he does it without mention of the backlash that could occur. While on trial for killing the Arab, he wonders why the case is not straight forward, as he admits to killing him, but does not understand why the court mentions his actions during and after the funeral of his mother.

The court system is looking for Meursault to get the death sentence. During the entire trial, Meursault realizes that he is not able to have a voice for himself, as it is seen that it will only prove to be detrimental to his case.

The prosecutor brings up his date with Marie after the funeral to try and prove that Meursault showed a lack of care towards his mother, and that will translate to every one of his actions yet to take place. The courts derive their verdict from the mere fact that Meursault has a different perspective on life. Because his realization of right versus wrong is different than society, he is sentenced to be put to death. The entire trial mentions nothing of Meursault's stance on what happened, as the judicial system already had the outcome waiting for him, which was to sentence him to death, so that there will no longer be any indifference to societies expectations of a person.