The Stranger And Absurdness Essay, Research Paper
The Stranger is an exploration of Camus’s philosophy of the absurd, not a morality tale containing a “lesson” for the reader’s moral well-being. Camus’s philosophy of the absurd characterizes the world and human existence as having no rational purpose or meaning. Despite the absence of a rational purpose or meaning, human beings demand that there be one. He suggests that human beings are thrust into life that can only end in death. Meursault’s personality embodies this philosophy. In keeping with this philosophy, Meursault’s simple, direct reporting of his mother’s death and her funeral offers no coherent interpretation that ties his life together in any meaningful way. He enters the story without a past, and Camus does not use the technique of foreshadowing to hint at the future events of the novel. Meursault’s dialogue places him firmly in the present. He reports his impressions as they happen, marveling at the beauty of the day on the morning of his mother’s funeral.
The essential temptation for the reader in The Stranger is to assign cause and effect explanations that mitigate or condemn the overwhelming evidence of Meursault’s indifference. He expresses no grief in response to his mother’s death. Rather, he attends a comedy and sleeps with a new girlfriend the day after her funeral. He expresses no condemnation of Raymond’s physical abuse of his mistress and even agrees to participate in Raymond’s cruel scheme to punish her for the infidelity of which he suspects her. Meursault writes the letter for Raymond not because he is mean, but because it makes no difference to him one way or another. He experiences neither revulsion nor pleasure. Neither does Meursault express any condemnation of Salamano’s mistreatment of his dog.
When Meursault is arrested for murdering the brother of Raymond’s mistress in the second half of the novel, the court imposes a rational order on the events Meursault reports objectively in the first half. Meursault reports that he drinks coffee and smokes a cigarette next to his mother’s coffin, but he assigns no meaning, moral or otherwise, to his actions. It is the same with the timing of his relationship with Marie. However, during his trial, the court reads his actions as supporting evidence that Meursault is an insensitive monster.
Meursault does not delve into psychological self-analysis, and he likewise does not judge or interpret the actions of others. Therefore, it is possible to assert that Meursault has not yet developed a full consciousness. He is not very self-aware, and he is not very aware of the workings that take place in the minds of others. He functions mostly as an observer of the world around him even as he participates in it. After his mother’s death, he perceives no great change in life and thus assigns no meaning to her loss. Meursault would have to take interpretive control over his life to assign meaning to her death. Many people may take just such control over interpreting meaning in their own lives, but Camus suggests that this is caused by a need for rational structure. Meursault is Camus’s example of someone who doesn’t need this rational world view.