Meursault By Albert Camus Essay Research Paper

Meursault By Albert Camus Essay, Research Paper

Testing the Boundaries of Algerian Conventional Society In this essay, I am

going to explore Albert Camus? use of Meursault?s murder trial in The

Stranger to note the absurdity of the defined social behavior in Algeria while

forcing the reader to evaluate his or her own morality. Camus asks the reader to

form a mental and emotional relationship with Meursault through the descriptive

and, in the end, destructively honest narrative. He then asks the reader to

depend not on the law, which in this novel represents conventional social

behavior, but on this newfound relationship to decide Meursault fate. Camus?

introduction of Meursault uses straightforward and very honest language. While

the reader is aware from the beginning that Meursault deviates from the norm,

through factual, and almost play-by-play details, Meursault dares the reader to

judge him, and we do. We criticize him for not showing more emotion towards his

mother?s death. We expect him to show more affection towards Marie, whom he

claims to love and we want him to exert a more forceful voice in the situation

between Raymond and his girlfriend. However, we respect his honesty and

appreciate his need to almost separate himself from the emotions that seem to

drive us all a little crazy. Camus then challenges this respect and appreciation

with a violent act. As the story reaches the climax with the murder, our

opinions of Meursault change because, as Camus makes us aware, society has

condemned him not for murder but for being different. Indeed, the gentlemen of

the jury will take note of the fact. And they will conclude that a stranger may

offer a cup of coffee, but that beside the body of the one who brought him into

the world, a son should have refused it. (91) Meursault?s guilt, as the

prosecutor points out, stems from his odd behavior over the loss of his mother.

Unlike American society, although not by much, the Algerian social standards

call for Meursault to weep in sorrow and be distraught during the funeral

despite his relationship with his mother. As part of American society, we

attempt to create our own meaning for Meursault?s actions. We want his

relationship with his mother to explain these actions. On the other hand,

perhaps, we want to say that he was ?taught not to show is emotions.?

American society searches for the psychological reasons for Meursault?s

actions. Our focus is not on the murder per say. It is on the reasons behind the

murder. What made him snap? However, we must separate ourselves from what

American society has taught us and focus only on what Camus tries to teach us

about Algerian society. Algerian society is about getting to the core of

Meursault?s defiance not because it will help to better explain his actions,

but because when one defies the rules of society he, or she, must pay. The trial

is not a murder trial. It is a trial of morals and emotion. Why else would the

prosecutor focus so much on the death of Meursault?s mother? Why else would

the later part of the book turn into a self-evaluation of Meursault and of

ourselves? During the preparation for the trial, the reader becomes increasingly

aware of Meursault?s sensitivity. Meursault has to explain his feelings and

not his actions to the court, something that seems impossible for even the most

socially acceptable. We feel pity for him because his past torments him. Camus

uses this pity for Meursault. He wants the reader to identify with Meursault and

sympathize with his situation. Once Camus sets up the link between the reader

and Meursault, he makes the reader resent the judges. Camus provokes the reader

to resent the judges of Meursault by having us feel that the judges are

questioning our behavior as well. This resentment towards the judges, and

ultimately towards society, becomes the basis for our decision to either support

or condemn Meursault. Camus forces the reader to revaluate his or her morals in

order to avoid condemnation by society. We envy Meursault because he is able to

be honest and true to himself, and although Meursault could have saved himself

had he repented or showed remorse, he saves himself by not doing that, and this

is what we respect because Meursault has done what we are afraid of doing: he

questions society. Let us look at the actual murder. Meursault, in what seems to

be an act of pure evil, fires an involuntary shot followed by four voluntary

ones. The four voluntary and unnecessary shots start Meursault?s process of

questioning society, and the reader?s process of questioning him or her self.

As the judges connect Meursault?s emotionless past to his crime, the reader

explores exactly how they are like Meursault. Camus wants the reader to feel

that at any moment society can condemn him or her in the same way that Meursault

is condemned. This is not to say, however, that Camus want us to forget about

the violent murder. Rather, Camus intentionally disassociates the act of the

murder from the actual sentence. This separation reveals the absurdity of

Algerian, and in many ways American society. Camus needs the reader to believe

that the court kills Meursault for his indifference, in order for the reader to

feel unsatisfied with the verdict. Because we see Meursault as an innocent

force, almost child like, we begin to question our own innocence. And yet, we

are, because of society?s conditioning, unable to separate the murder from the

verdict. The reader, like the judges, begins to prosecute Meursault for opposing

society, and uses the murder to justify this prosecution. Camus then, after the

reader feels satisfied with not having defied society, uses Meursault?s moment

of self-evaluation to make the reader self-evaluate himself. On page 121,

Meursault asks, What did other people?s deaths or a mother?s love matter to

me; what did his God of the lives people choose of the fate they think they

elect matter to me when we?re all elected the same fate, me and billions of

privileged people like him who also called themselves my brothers? ?What would

it matter if he were accused of murder and then executed because he did not cry

at his mother?s funeral? Meursault?s newfound awareness compels the reader

to ask: ?in what way am I Meursault?? ?Am I guilty of being different??

?How will I act when a parent passes away?? ?In prosecuting Meursault, the

readers prosecute themselves.? Camus forces us to make a connection that is

entirely different, better yet, independent of society?s connection to murder

and guilt. Camus has the reader put Meursault on trial to determine his own

innocence. The Stranger, and ultimately the murder trial, is a process of

self-awareness based not on what society has taught us, but on what Camus

teaches us through Meursault?s situation. Through this self-awareness, Camus

is able to provide a valid argument against the absurdity of what society calls

?appropriate behavior?. We see that there is no such thing as appropriate

behavior because in the end, society condemns us all. The reader becomes

Meursault?s source of strength, Camus source of truth, and society?s judges.


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