Absurdity And The Stranger Essay, Research Paper
Absurdity is defined as that which is contrary to reason; clearly untrue, unreasonable or ridiculous. It is often a topic in existentialist writings relating to life. This subject is prevalent in Camus? The Stranger and ?The Myth of Sisyphus.? Camus depicts absurdity bringing about happiness or indifference in each of these literary works.
In ?The Myth of Sisyphus,? it is made clear that Sisyphus is aware that his existence is absurd. He is sentenced to an eternity of rolling a boulder up a steep mountain only to let it roll back down when it reaches its peak. His tragedy lies in the fact that he is conscious of the extent of his own misery. He is the ultimate absurd; there is no death at the end of his struggle and he knows this.
The last sentence in this essay is in itself absurd, after describing the dilemma that Sisyphus eternally faces, Camus exclaims, ?One must imagine Sisyphus happy.? This paradoxical statement is upheld because he does recognize the absurdity of the situation. He is left refusing to hope knowing that there is nothing to hope for, and to live solely with what is known. Sisyphus? redemption is seen in his ongoing struggle against the absurd.
In The Stranger, Mersault does not realize his absurd situation until the end of the novel. It is illustrated however in his indifference toward life and lack of emotion throughout. In the beginning of the novel, Mersault is seen as a detached observer of life who is devoted to appreciating sensation. His physical wants and needs such as smoking, sleep and sex overpower his reason and feeling. He has neither a past nor a future; he lives eternally in the present.
His indifference is realized almost immediately, after his mother?s funeral he exclaims, ?It occurred to me? that Maman was buried now, that I was going back to work, and that, really nothing had changed.? The only guilt he felt was that he didn?t feel anything when his mother died.
The fact that Mersault?s indifference led him outside the ?conventional? moral code, was what brought about his death sentence. He was convicted because he admitted that he felt no sadness over his mother dying, not because he killed a man. The only thing that concerned him was his upcoming execution, he had been apathetic about his stay in prison, it was the same as living in his apartment to him.
The few hours before his death is when Mersault begins to ?live.? He realizes the change that is going to take place is permanent and final. There is no room for apathy or indifference. This is when he awakens to absurdity, death is just as meaningless as life. His lack of understanding of change was what had caused his indifference. He realized that everyone is ?privileged? with one unavoidable change in life, death. He never actually ?lives? until change in his life is imminent.
Mersault?s absurdity achieves happiness as well. He realizes that before he was imprisoned he was happy, he had a good job and a girlfriend and nothing really to complain about. Since he also realizes his absurdity and has a reason for his indifference, he is happy. Once he realizes that life or death will achieve the same thing in his situation, he?s not concerned with whether he lives or dies.
The idea of life being absurd thoroughly manipulates these works. Camus did not intend to say that those indifferent toward life or those destined to a living hell should be happy, but that everyone should be aware that life is absurd and their struggle against the absurdity brings about atonement.