The Stranger by Albert Camus
A Nobel Prize laureate Albert Camus was a prominent French writer famous for the philosophy of the absurd. The Stranger is one of the slimmest, densest, and widely read novels of the 20th century. Meursault is a detached and queer protagonist, who shoots a man without any reason, just because of hot weather. Everything that leads to the killing, Meursault’s trial, and capital punishment contribute to the understanding of the meaning and meaninglessness of life. In other words, the story presents the philosophy that claims the world is devoid of any rational meaning.
Brief Summary of Reading
The novel begins with the telegram informing about the death of Meursault’s mother. During the vigil and the funeral, he shows no regret, sadness or grief. Over the next weeks, Meursault lives as if nothing tragic happened. He even goes on vacation with his friends where they had a conflict with two Arabs one of which Meursault eventually killed. The second part of the book is about Meursault’s trial and incarceration. Until the day before the execution, he maintained the same callous indifference as in the first half of the novel. The jury finds Meursault a non-conforming and detached misanthrope; therefore, he, but not his crime, should be punished by death (Camus 4-76).
Brief Outline of Main Argument
The Stranger features a strong philosophical notion of absurdity. Camus explores if there is a logical meaning in life and a higher order governing it. The novel answers these questions with a categorical “no”. The author proclaims that human existence as a whole has no rational order or sense. Nevertheless, people cannot accept this; they persistently endeavor to create or determine the meaning and structure in their lives. The absurdity defines human’s vain effort to find rationalism where there is none. Meursault views the murder as something irrational and impulsive. If to consider the concept of responsibility, such act is unjustifiable; however, from the point of absurdism, Meursault’s reason is possible.
Critical Evaluation of Main Argument
The Stranger is full of principles of absurdity. Neither internal realm of Meursault’s thoughts nor an external world in which he lives maintain any rational order. He suggests no particular reason for his deeds such as decisions to marry or kill. Nonetheless, the society endeavors to invent some justification for Meursault’s irrational actions. The assumption that sometimes things happen for no reason and have no sense is destructive and intimidating. The trial embodies the society’s struggle to fabricate logical order and provide explanations for the crime that are based on reason, logic, and the concept of cause and effect. However, such clarifications are only an effort to eliminate the terrifying thoughts that life is irrational. Therefore, the entire trial is an instance of absurdity and human’s unsuccessful endeavor to establish rationality in the irrational world.
Every person including myself have felt strange moments of detachment asking the question “Does it all mean something?” Such periods are abnormal, and a man feels odd. In other words, life seems quite strange, and you often think of yourself as a stranger in it; besides, nothing seems to have a real meaning. Camus and his protagonist promote the philosophy of absurdism affirming that the world and life itself are absurd and non-sensical; no one can assume to find its meaning somewhere. However, when facing some challenging and strange stuff in life, it can be useful to consider that if something makes no sense, one should just to leave it out.
In conclusion, The Stranger is one of the most significant and seminal texts of the 20th century. Camus’ absurdist philosophy implies that events, actions, and moral orders have no rational or solid basis. There is no sense or rational explanation in the world. Meursault joins the absurdist side the day before the execution when he announces that the life is meaningless and without logical order. Accepting the indifference of the world, he seeks harmony with himself and humanity.
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