The Outsider Essay, Research Paper
"Meursault is punished, not for his crime of killing another human being but for refusing to play the game." This statement is of great relevance to the novel The Outsider, by Albert Camus. Society as a whole enforces its ideas and values, upon all individuals, but particularly on those who differ from the "norm". Through Meursault?s view of the world, contrasted with that of both the religious and judicial system this notion is foregrounded.
Meursault?s outlook on death and dying is very different to that of the majority of people at the time. He was unemotional and indifferent to the death of his mother, something that was unfathomable and by no means acceptable. "?I didn?t know if I could smoke in front of mother. I thought it over and decided it didn?t really matter." This is a classic train of thought for Meursault, he believes that when you are dead, then you really are dead, so smoking or not smoking will make no difference to the deceased. "I probably loved my mother my mother quite a lot, but that didn?t mean anything." He accepts his mother is dead, and that his love means nothing to her, in fact, nothing means anything to her. These ideas were deplorable according to his societies standards and Euro-centric value system. "He said that I hadn?t wanted to see mother; that I?d smoked, I?d slept and I?d had some white coffee. And I felt something stirring up the whole room; for the first time I realised I was guilty." This quote is a key aspect of the foundation philosophy in the novel. Meursault realises, at that moment, that he is on trial for killing a man, but he will be found culpable of the charge not for killing a human being but for the simple reason that he did not play societies "game" at his mother?s funeral, thus he is guilty.
The concept of love helps foreground Meursault?s differences to the social "norm" and builds the base for the guilty verdict and ensuing punishment. "She then wanted to know if I loved her. I replied as I had done once already, that it didn?t mean anything but that I probably didn?t." Meursault does not take either love, or marriage seriously, because he believes that they do not really matter. Marie?s view, however, is diametrically opposed to that of Meursault, as she, like most of society, believed in the religious and judicial systems. She has faith in love and in all probability some form of God. Basically she conforms to society, she obeys it and "fits in". While Meursault is by no means an anarchist, he does what he wants, and feels and expresses these feelings as he wishes. Meursault is not punished for failing to love Marie, but through the issue and discussion of love, the audience is able to grasp how vastly he differs from society, and that is what Meursault is essentially punished for.
Meursault?s honesty is another aspect that sets him apart from the rest of society. He is honest about every part of his life. While society does not endorse lying, people instinctively do to avoid being noticed as unusual. Meursault however does not care for societies values and does not adhere to them, for this reason he is honest about everything. "Then he asked me if he could say the I?d controlled my natural feelings that day. I said, "No, because it?s not true.? He looked at me in a peculiar way, as if he found me slightly disgusting." In this quote Meursault answers with completely honesty, yet because his answer is unacceptable by societies standards the lawyer is appalled. Meursault does not "play the game" even when faced with a possible death sentence, he is a martyr to the truth. For his complete candor, he is separated from the society in which he lives and consequently punished for it.
Ambition plays a major role in many societies and this quality is considered admirable for a person to have. Meursault lacks this quality for two reasons, he lives purely through his senses, if he is happy in a certain place then there is no reason to change and he believes that nothing matters, whether he does or doesn?t move up the Socio-economic ladder is of no importance to him. "?and that I wasn?t at all dissatisfied with mine here. He looked upset and said that I always evaded the question and that I had no ambition." Society construes this as laziness, but Meursault is simply saying what he feels and the fact that he has no ambition doesn?t really mean anything. However, his idea differs from that of his society and thus he is punished for other peoples? lack of understanding.
The main sources of all the ideologies existing in Meursault?s society are the church and religious institutions. The ideas and values are formulated by the church and enforced by the judicial system. It is expected that a man cry at his mother?s funeral and that he should feel remorse for killing another human being, people who do not adhere to these expectations are deemed not to have a soul. "He announced that I had no place in society whose most fundamental rules I ignored, nor could I make an appeal to the hearts when I knew nothing of the most basic human reactions." This is a quote by the Public Prosecutor, both a religious and lawful man. Through Meursault?s expression of ideas and feelings, he is clearly capable of emotion and human instinct, yet because he does not abide by the rules he is condemned by a society, which fears him, for his difference. Meursault refuses to believe in God, he refuses to succumb to the dominant ideology of his time, he refuses to play the game and for this he is punished.
Meursault was brought to trial for killing another human being, yet he was convicted and punished for refusing to "play the game." He did not adhere to the rules nor did he try to change himself to better fit the world in which he lived. As the magistrate said, and essentially, in societies eyes he was "Mr. Antichrist" and for this he was condemned to death.