According to Camus, when an individual is on the journey to find the truth, search for clarity in the meaning of existence, he generally reduces the understanding of the universe within the limits of his thoughts, which he can assimilate. The thoughts like,. In The Stranger, the basic theme is the existential philosophy- which according to Camus has the assumption that God is absent and therefore there is no divine purpose behind the human life or afterlife. Humans think that they share the existence with the lower creatures and his ability to think and reason makes them apart from that of other lower creatures because of their consciousness. According to Camus, many human beings automatically work, being blind to the absurdity of their lives or meaningless existence but there are others who understand and experience the awakening to absurdity and realises the meaninglessness of life. Camus believes that the awakening of human to the absurdity of life can lead him in two directions. Either the human leads to suicide or to recovery. But both the actions need or involve decision-making. One who is lead towards the direction of suicide, according to Camus, is because he feels that, and also recognises that,, whereas, the one who realises the absurdity of life and accepts the life in that situation, leads to recovery, where he looks at death from near and understands that death is an inevitable thing and an inseparable truth of human existence and it is to be shared by all at some point of the life. This aspect ironically gives the individual a purpose to live life with love and compassion.
During this journey, Camus states that the individual has to face a lot of contradictions because of which he gets demotivated and realises that he is certain and aware of nothing and in the midst of it, he finds no truth. This is where, the man becomes strange to himself and to the familiar things around him, he gets crushed in the feeling of being sure of nothing and unable to logically give assurance for his feeling. Therefore, he recognises life as a futile cycle of knowing nothing and being strange to everything. Roquentin (Nausea) feels the same, alienated from the society and people and this alienation arises when the things and objects around him become strange and he cannot relate to them, which gives rise to the condition of ‘nausea’. Roquentin states, Generally this happens when the third mode of being comes in existence, i.e., being-for-others. This stance is seen in Roquentin’s words to Adolphe, where he states,
The ‘look’ of others objectify the subjectivity of the person and in order to hide from the suffering of that condition, the individual falls in bad faith. Sartre explains the development of the concept of ‘bad faith’ in Being and Nothingness. According to Sartre, ‘bad faith’ is where an individual lies to himself. He explains that the people who fall in ‘bad faith’, know that they are lying to hide their reality to temporarily avoid the sufferings because they actually fail to accept the reality, and do not have the capability to separate themselves from the problem or to accept a change. They lack the ability to negate, or to re-interpret their situation; they lack their freedom and transcendence.
Whereas, Meursault (The Stranger), does not fall in ‘bad faith’, when he met the girl Marie immediately after his mother’s funeral and spends some time with her, because he does not wish to act according to the society or to think what is ‘appropriate’ to do according to the society. There are many instances where feels embarrassed but they do not change his perspective. He tackles tough situations in the most existential attitude, like swimming the following day of his mother’s funeral with a girl he just met, or replying reluctantly to the marriage proposal from a girl, who states, This shows his lack of compassion because being insensitive in such a situation is embedded in the ideas of an existentialist. He agrees to marry her, not because he wants to but because she wants and it won’t make any difference to him. He does not wish to change his life without any reason because he does not feel that he needs to have something more than what he already has. Therefore, he also refuses the offer from his boss to go to Paris and later regrets because he has upset him. He does not give any rational explanation for refusing the offer except that he already has everything he needs to live the basic standard life.
Sartre explains that in ‘bad faith’, an individual may reject the ambiguous existence of an individual who realise that they are both, ‘being-in–themselves’ and ‘being-for-others’, which will be discussed later in the chapter.. The ‘being-for itself’, i.e., consciousness negates in-itself and rejects the ‘being-for-others’. Sartre believes that because of the ‘look’ of the other, an individual feels that he has lost his subjectivity because the individual starts perceiving himself from the perspective of the other and also over thinks how the other person will perceive his image. As an individual will become an object and will be observed from the point of view of the other and will lose his subjectivity and freedom, then he will have to live according to the set rules, but according to Sartre, a ‘being-for-itself’ has the capability to live a life in isolation, it does not need ‘being-for-others’ and can exist alone.
The question of the ‘other’ is majorly discussed in Heidegger and Sartre’s Being and Time and Being and Nothingness. On the other hand, Camus believes that an individual is in the midst of the world, i.e., the ‘being-in-the-world’. Like Sartre, Camus also believes that the ‘other’, is considered as both a necessity as well as the threat for the being. Clamence (The Fall) also falls in the trap of the other, where he lives in the shadow of the others as a hypocrite, what the society accepts as good. Clamence (The Fall), was a criminal lawyer in the beginning of the novel, where he use to take up the case of the criminals and try to free them of their charges. This made him obsessed with his self, which is not considered as his own self, created by him, through his own decisions, actions and choices, instead it is given by people, as a generous man, lady’s man, noble man, etc. Like Camus’ character, Sartre’s protagonist and other minor characters fall in the shadow of the others. Roquentin, in the beginning, is dependent upon the historical figure, Rollebon, and his ex-girlfriend, Anny, without whom he felt he couldn’t find meaning in his life. Rollebon is the figure over whom he was writing a thesis and wanted at some point to be like him. Anny was also living in ‘bad faith’, which she termed as the perfect moment. The moment she kept on urging till the end of the novel.
Meursault(The Stranger), on the other hand totally ignores the look of the others and thus becomes a stranger or an outsider for the society. Reaching towards the ending, even Meursault for a short while but first time in the novel gets affected by the other during the trial, where he states, and
Sartre in Nausea also gives an example of Lucie, a charwoman, who symbolises ‘being-in-itself’ and portrays the sufferings of individuals, who attempts to find meaning and purpose in life by merging with others in the crowd. Her husband has become the major reason for her suffering and because of him she stays in an anguish state. In an encounter, with Lucie, where she was pleading to a man not to leave her in such a state but he walks away, Roquentin recognises her but, he says, The protagonist Roquentin shows the ‘being-for-itself’, which represents the nothingness of the pure consciousness, other people in café represents ‘being-for-others’, whereas, Lucie represents the inauthentic struggle of being in the middle of both the realities. Though the common grounds of suffering remain the same, but the nothingness of Roquentin goes in negative direction whereas, the sufferings of Lucie take her in the positive direction. Roquentin represents Sartre’s concept of ‘look’, whereas, Lucie and Charles represent Sartre’s ‘sadism-masochism opposition’. Lucie is largely represented as a masochistic and Charles as sadistic. Roquentin through his look, objectifies Lucie, turning her into an object, she stares at him back, but her look is not able to counter Roquentin’s look by her own ‘look’, which makes her a mere object. On the other hand, she becomes largely masochistic, when she calls after Charles, as, and Charles becomes largely sadistic. Here Lucie is represented as the fusion of ‘being-in-itself’, by being objectified by the look of Roquentin and a sadism-masochism relation with Charles and thus doubly entrapped in the sufferings and despair. On the other hand, Roquentin who was trying to understand and accept the reality of his life does not help Lucie, when he could because he wanted to give Lucie the freedom to make a choice by herself, whether she wants to get the help or wants to bear the suffering so that she does not completely become the object.
Through the above discussion it is clear that it is not an individual’s condition that makes him realise the hell, but the look of the ‘others’. The ideas of Sartre and Camus can be related to each other to some extent, but Camus refuses it by saying that all that links him to the Sartrean group is just a mere coincidence and the result of being in same country at same time in same condition and nothing more. He claims it in an interview in local newspaper, named Diario. Camus in his irritation states that,
Despite of Camus’ rejection of existentialism he is seen as an existentialist and also deals with the same problems as Sartre does in a little different way through his philosophy of the Absurd. In this connection, Germaine Bee comments,
According to the existential philosophy of Sartre, the possibility to find meaning and purpose in an individual’s life is closely linked and connected with the capacity of an individual’s stand for his freedom of choice. Jean-Paul Sartre’s famous phrase, ‘existence precedes essence’ also explains that existence is prior to essence and essence is the meaning or the purpose of an individual’s life, which he makes himself. The true meaning can be found in the actions done by an individual for himself and not by being influenced by the others or by the society, or restricting your actions according to the set rules of the society. A person should be free enough to be able to take a decision and later take the responsibility of that action.
‘Humans are free’, is one of Jean-Paul Sartre’s most radical beliefs. He believes that with the freedom of being, the conscious being, comes the responsibility of the individual’s actions. But with the responsibility of taking few choices, also comes the weight of multiple possibilities that an individual gives up while making a choice or a decision, which leaves the individual in the state of anguish.
Heidegger’s philosophy helps to further the discussion, as he believes, that moods play an important part in the life of an individual, which helps him understand and find the meaning and purpose of life. While anguish occurs in the initial part of this process, Heideggar explains that there are two directions. The first one is where anguish gives rise to angst and the other direction is to fall in Bad Faith. The first direction – angst – is a bit similar to fear but is yet different. In this situation, the individual feels as if things are becoming strange, as in Sartre’s Nausea also, the protagonist feels this strangeness when he says, Heidegger divides existence into three levels, first being the man, second, the world and the third, the things of use. When an individual tries to alienate himself from the society and the world he feels anxiety, which is a form of mood, which according to Heidegger plays an important part. As anxiety is the fear of losing something, the fear of nothingness, i.e., when the things look strange and a sense of slipping away of thing is felt. It is the situation where an individual feels that the whole world has become strange. During this time the individual questions himself, why does anything exist at all?, at this moment the individual becomes an undefined being and this undefined being is what Heidegger calls the ‘Pure Being’. ‘Pure Being’ is not defined and therefore, the being takes the responsibility to define himself in his own way by taking few decisions and making the choices which he is responsible for. This makes the life of an individual an authentic one.
Individual’s choice and freedom is the integral part of Camus’ novels. Camus set freedom over tyranny, oppression and suppression prevailing in the society by removing nihilism. Camus through his work portrays the central theme of the philosophical issue of defining the good or positive and humane substance of resistance by revolting against the maltreatment or wrong doings without delving into the nihilistic approach. Terry Hoy in Albert Camus: the Nature of Political Rebellion, draw three phases of Camus’ idea of treatment of the humane substance in order to give meaning, purpose and value to an individual’s existence in the age of revolutionary terrorism and violence. The first phase is, an individuals encounter with the absurdity of human existence. Second phase is where he reduces the political nihilism to false idea from the understanding of the absurd. Thirdly, he tries to combine the absurdist reasoning to an individual’s limited freedom and human dignity.
Camus believes that freedom serves as the major components of the human nature and also the commitment and responsibility that goes hand in hand becomes the deciding element of morality for an individual’s authentic existence. Like Meursault (The Stranger), is put in a different world, where it embraces the absurdities of life and oppresses the truth. Such could be seen as the nature of the existentialist belief, where logic, reason and rationalisation serves as the essence of the individual and the status quo and premonitions of society only manipulates the false sense of truth.
Therefore, the protagonist of The Stranger also takes up the burden to define himself in a different light, by not abiding to the set rules of society, but as what he is. However, during this period, he feels embarrassed at many occasions where, people symbolising the society misinterprets his actions. Throughout the novel Meursault’s unemotional self makes him embarrass at different times. He feels embarrassed for the first time in the novel when he meets the warden of the house where his mother stayed during her last three years. He says, . He acts very indifferent to his mother’s death and does not even remember when his mother died, as in the opening lines he reports the death of his mother in the most straightforward and plain manner, he states that,. This statement shows that he is more interested in the time or day of his mother’s death rather to the pain and remorse of the loss. This characteristic emerges out to portray the character in a new way, which the society could not accept.
Meursault’s situation made him embarrassed again when he refused to see his mother’s body. He says, “No” and, said, , and the only answer he could give was, ‘I don’t know’. The things he thought during that time were very different from that of any normal human being to have felt, as instead of crying or feeling the loss of his mother, he was enjoying the cup of coffee and also at other moment he expressed the want for Cigarette in mortuary, where he states, Characters like Meursault develop the characteristic of a free man, who do not care what society will think of him for the choices and decisions he makes at the moment. The lack of compassion and his refusal to behave in a particular way the society wants him or any individual to act is what makes him apart from others and an outsider. The decision could be wrong according to the mass or misinterpreted but he takes the responsibility of his actions. There are times when Meursault is found being more alert about the unnecessary things, like during the procession of his mother’s funeral, he seems to be caring much about the heat of the sun rays than the task at hand and the situation he is in. The unnatural behaviour and acting against the expectations of the society in particular situation makes him an outsider, or stranger.
The undoing and virtue of Meursault lies in his unique way to choose and exist indeed without accepting the societal pressure or emotions or any of their standard set of rules. His stoic character, in impulse will always be in the conflict between his logic and rationalised existence and that of others, which could be seen in the heated argument with the magistrate and the chaplain, who emerged out as illogical and living in the bubble of the set rules of society in conformity.
The other way to deal with anguish is to fall in Bad Faith. Sartre explains the concept of Bad Faith in his philosophy. According to Sartre’s philosophy, Bad Faith is where an individual lies to himself in order to come out of his sufferings, even if it is temporary. It is self-deceptive. It is exactly what an individual should totally avoid, because then the individual is denying his individuality, his uniqueness, for his freedom. Sartre gives the example of an individual falling in Bad Faith through Roquentin, the protagonist of his novel Nausea. Roquentin takes the support of his beloved Anny and the historical figure, Rollebon to come out of his suffering by falling in Bad Faith. He always wanted to go around the world to have adventure but because he could not do so, therefore, he takes the support of the thesis on Rollebon, an adventurer and starts living the life of a historical figure, Rollebon. This helps him to temporarily come out of his sufferings or unachievable desires. Whereas, on the other hand, his beloved Anny, also fell in Bad Faith, as she took the help of the ‘Perfect Moments’, to come out of her sufferings.
Sartre’s concept of freedom is very essential to the concept of Bad Faith, as it is inevitably tied or connected to consciousness. According to Sartre, human beings are the only beings who have the capability to divorce themselves from the chains of the events of the Universe and stay in isolation, alone. Sartre believes that an individual does this by bringing nothingness to the casual series of events, then divorce himself from the events and make his own decisions.
Sartre believes that the individual should divorce or separate himself from the past in order to recreate his future as an individual will never be able to reach towards the meaning of his life. Sartre writes,. The unfolding of the chained up events which lead an individual to this stage is past, and the present will be otherwise determined as past, if the individual does not have the ability to create nothingness. One should not let himself be a part of history, rather he should be a part and contribute to make his own history. The individual should be able to make past but not become a part of past.
In Nausea, the theme of meaninglessness and inauthenticity begins with the undated sheets. While Roquentin was working on the thesis on Rollebon, he doubted whether his research project on Rollebon will also become meaningless at the end in the same manner his life became meaningless and strange. He wonders if it will leave him in the condition,
With the idea that the individuals are free to make their own choices and take their own decisions, and are not predetermined to be anything, their decisions and choices will determine what they are in present and what they will be in future as life has no a- priori meaning. Sartre writes,. The meaning needs to be developed by an individual as no individual takes birth in this world with a meaning already set for his life and purpose too, rather the moment an individual gains his consciousness, or becomes conscious, he begins to shape his own world of meaning through his choices and decisions made in his life. Taking decisions and making choices does not only helps an individual to shape his world of meaning but it is the only thing that guides an individual, gives him value and direction in life, and this knowledge is burdened over the mind of an individual.On the other hand, Camus believes that in an individual’s journey to find the truth and meaning of his existence and to revolt against the strange or the absurd, he learns a lot about the human condition. The major role of Absurd in the lives of individual is to teach them that every experience is important in an individual’s life and huge amount of experiences will help him attain wisdom. It also teaches an individual to be indifferent to the future, i.e., death. Camus states that beyond the boundaries of the existence, lies. For a man to live a life as absurd is like to live a life in harmony in a world without a God, without concerning about the future and weakness.
In Nausea, the theme of bad faith is portrayed by showing the inauthenticity of men. It is described through the people in the Cafe Mably, where people join others in a group, “and there are people who find it important in order to be a part of the society and does not feel alone and get isolated from the rest. People in order to exist in the society use the herd instinct. In contrast to such people, the protagonist find himself as the person who lives alone, although at times he is tempted to take refuge in others. He is being divorced and detached from the society brings him increasingly close of experiencing the reality. In The Stranger, Camus gives the references of the events that occurs at the outset of the novel and have great importance inherent to existentialism. One such example is the death of Meursault’s mother. It is observed that he does not act emotionally at his mother’s death, what the rest of the society believes him to do. Most of the times he is sleepy and at other times he is busy smoking. Meursault is seen as an unconventional protagonist, who does what he believes is good not what society and people think is appropriate.
Camus’ objective of Meursault’s characterization (The Stranger) within existential concepts is to show the cold nature and true self of the human beings. ‘Freedom of choice’ is one of the most important aspects of existential philosophy. An individual makes choices without taking the consent of others or standards of society and later takes responsibility and keeps committed to the choices taken and decisions made keeping aside where it leads them. Another common aspect of existentialism is death, but not everyone has an answer to how individuals accept and understand this universal reality.
The absurdities of life, according to Camus, at different situations manipulate the mind and mentality of the people, which makes an individual to alienate from the rest of the world and society also try to execute an individual based on his emotional reactions and his indifferent view of the irrelevant things. During the execution of Meursault for committing a crime of killing an Arab was indeed became the execution of Meursault for committing the atrocities by smoking, sleeping and not acting emotionally during his mother’s funeral. The jury tries to execute him on the moral truth based on deformed misconceptions, which seeks to try him on the basis of right and wrong by misinterpreting the principles of justice. Here Jury symbolises the people in the society who fail to recognise that an individual’s choice and freedom is,
According to Sartre’s concept, bad faith is where an individual is not true to itself and to others, when the individual is not what he actually is, it could be seen as the false identity an individual puts on consciously. Whereas, existentialists do not put a veil of false identity but exercise the freedom and their free will to make their own choices, take decisions and understand to take the responsibility of their actions and overcome the sufferings. Existential individual appears to be absurd to others because others willingly accepts the anguish within themselves, bows down to it and lead towards the direction of a systematic life which for him is hollow. On the other hand, according to Camus, an existential individual is absurd and the moment he understands the absurdity of life, world and universe and he quits to question the absurdity and accepts the existential freedom.
Sartre majorly talks about the concept of freedom in his works and states, This inner indifference or distance forms the freedom- the definition of an individual and Sartre believes that along with this freedom, comes the responsibility over an individual of his actions and decisions but the ignorance of that responsibility results in alienation. He states, Sartre believes that when an individual becomes ignorant of his responsibilities being a free man of free will, then alienation occurs. Sartre in Notebooks for an Ethics mentions that, Robert Tally, also explains the condition of alienation in an individual through his article, where he states that alienation is,. He further explains the theme of alienation in the sense that,
Sartre believes that alienation is not the oppression, rather it is the dominance of the other on an individual, which dominates the inner self of an individual and forces the individual to see its reflection in the other, which makes an individual objectified and he returns to the society in a state of alienation and stay in isolation. Sartre states
Camus, on the other hand, gives the concept of absurd. His most philosophical essay, Myth of Sisyphus, majorly explains his philosophy of absurd in detail but this essay was published much later than his novel The Stranger, where he depicts the state of absurd in an individual’s life, or the absurd existence of an individual. The reason of publishing the novel first could be in order to make public understand the feeling of absurdity, before the prior understanding, facts and explanation and of the philosophy of ‘absurd’. He desired that man should become disoriented or divorced from the reality they know and must understand and recognise that the reality means that you as living being exist and the death is approaching, which is inevitable. According to Camus, these are the only abstractions and truths, which do not exist now. A man should extinguish all his goals, hopes and longings. In the feeling of absurd, the meaning of the life of an individual becomes opaque and the significance of his life vanishes. Man is only left with his life, universe and death.
Camus in order to explain the absurdity of life, first raises the question in Myth of Sisyphus, whether life if worth living or not, as all other questions are secondary about life in front of this fundamental question. So in order to understand, he tries to explore, But before he answers his own question, he assumes a situation, that a man does not have any meaning in his life, therefore he consider suicide because he states,
Camus introduces the concept of Absurd as a person who suddenly feels lack of illusion and light in his life and becomes alien or strange to himself and the things around him. When he becomes strange or alien to his daily routine surroundings, like Roquentin (Nausea). As Jean-Paul Sartre’s concept of ‘nausea’ in Nausea is also seen as Camus’ concept of absurd. Camus believes that a man only becomes conscious of his meaningless existence when he recognizes the absurd, the strangeness, the feeling of being alien in familiar surroundings or to familiar things. This strangeness generally occurs when man becomes tired, mentally and physically, and starts to recognise the absurd nature of his existence, at odd times and in odd places, when he is not able to find the beauty of nature and the world becomes incoherent and strange.
Camus believes that when man face the absurdities of life, or recognises the absurd, he gets on to the journey of searching the truth. In that journey, he re-evaluates all he know, along with his morals, beliefs and his existence. All these aspects become questionable to him. During his journey of searching the truth, he finds the world full of paradoxes and contradictions, but he continues his journey to find truth because according to Camus, Man in the most confused and unconscious situation desires to find meaning in his life and in the world.
Camus perfected his philosophy of the absurd during his lifetime and also incorporates the major aspects of existentialism in his works, which present the idea of the Absurd. According to Adele King, the novels are not the medium to preach, but is a medium or a platform, where the grave matters can be handled ‘comically’ and ‘lightly’, so as to be felt distant. Camus’ and Sartre’s works emphasise man’s freedom and freedom where no bad or good choices are made. Adele King states, and Sartre states that, the absurdity When discussing about the Absurd, it deals with the truth, chance, death, beauty of nature, unintelligibility of reality and revolt, all of which characteristics are precisely apparent in Nausea, The Stranger and The Fall.
The protagonists of the selected novels, use simple dialogue in the beginning and does not jump on to the idea to find meaning and purpose in their life. Both the writers present the protagonist in the light of a very simple day to day life or situation, which can easily be understood by people and can relate to it, as no such transcendence happens neither were readers confused by the emotions, sentiments or reflections of the protagonist, nor the objectives were set or the intentions discussed. Suddenly the abrupt change or realisation of the protagonist projects the concept of absurd of Camus as in The Stranger, Camus wanted the readers to come to the conclusion about the absurd existence of man in the novel. Sartre states beautify about Camus’ world of Absurd in The Stranger as,
Camus’ style in his novels represents the idea of glass wall, which helps to separate the character and the reader. Though the wall is transparent and the characteristics of the characters are projected clearly, but it does not reach to the meaning of the actions. In other words, glass wall is considered to be the mind of the protagonist, which is clear to its thoughts but not to the meaning, therefore the novels are just the chronological order of events which does not entail any significance or meaning to the actions or the events. Sartre states that, as the events given by the protagonist in the novel, be it Nausea, where protagonist keeps a diary, or The Stranger, where protagonist is recalling the events from the cell or the prison have no meaning but the events are chronologically set. Even Camus tries to project the reality of absurd in an individual’s life and in the universe through the idea of glass wall.
In The Stranger, the protagonist represents how the individual deals with the absurd life in daily routine. Meursault stops hoping and accepts the life with honesty at the end of the novel, where he desires to live He accepts the reality of the absurd world and the inevitability of death, he hopes for no different outcome from his life. He tries to be happy and content to his life because at the end he realizes that there can be no change in the inevitable truth, i.e., death. He states in the novel that, therefore, he remains at distance with people and also indifferent towards the emotions and sentiments, which the society fails to understand and trials him on that basis. He throughout the novel just narrates his life events without any emotions or sentiments and Adele King states that MeursaultHe at last accepts all the absurdities of life and the inevitable truth of living and therefore he finds peace in what all will come in future.
Meursault’s way of living a life is rare and a bit different from many because like many other people he does not strive for the economic or social ambitions which makes a man assume to better himself and signify a meaningful existence. In the end, when he reconciles with himself, his moral and beliefs comes in light that the life for him is not worth living and the dying is inevitable, therefore he claims that, Sartre rightly claims for Meursault that
The Stranger contains a lot of symbolism from Camus’ Myth of Sisyphus. The mythical character, Sisyphus’ punishment of endless futile work of rolling up the rock to the mountain and its tossing back to the ground is compared with the days of Meursault in prison. He confesses that all his days in prison are same since day one. Sisyphus’ punishment and his futile work is Meursault’s life in general. The low life of an individual and his existence in world is followed with the unsympathetic universe. With the help of Meursault, Camus tries to project that an individual in this universe tries to find and search for purpose and meaning, to find truth, peace and happiness in his life. Meursault is seen as an enemy to the society because of his rebellion attitude and the universe is also seem to be against him but still he tries to attain the harmony between him and the universe, as he accepts his daily routine, values the things he lost in prison and accepted death as well. He found his happiness by accepting the absurdities of life and found a new meaning and purpose to live his life all over again.
The novel has two major parts, first part is the beginning of the novel till the murder of the Arab and the second part of the novel consists of Meursault’s trial and his imprisonment. The views of Meursault in first part of the novel are seen differently in the second part of the novel. These views are generally based on the time and the world outside. At first when he was free, he experienced everything, went for swimming, movies, work in office, go out with Raymond, but he could not find satisfaction and was not able to appreciate the beauty of nature. He remained emotionally indifferent towards people and his mother. Whereas, during his imprisonment, at first he was unsatisfied and the visits of Marie were sterile for him and the days spent in cell seems to be totally same for him, but slowly he tried to understand the absurdities of life and started accepting the things. The search for truth came to some meaning when he understood that death is inevitable and has to be faced by everyone living in this world. Then he understood the value of all what he has lived throughout his life and the importance of the things he miss now in prison. With the acceptance of the reality, he also found a sense of happiness and peace at his heart.
In The Stranger, the occurrences of heat and light images are seen throughout the novel, which could signify the theme of death and conclusion or judgement. The occurrences of the image of heat and light also signify the cross-examination and introspection. All the instances related to heat and light like, scorching sunlight during his mother’s funeral, the sun light which bothers him when he shot the Arab’, the light reflected on the gun that Raymond hands over to Meursault, his anger in Magistrate’s chamber, the guilt of Meursault proved by the are all seen in the face of the absurd. Even the theme of death go hand in hand with the image of heat and light image, for example, the death of the Arab because of the light, the bothering heat and sunlight during the procession of his mother’s funeral.
The existentialist instinct could be seen in the second beach fight, where the protagonist Meursault shoots the Arab with Raymond’s gun, when the Arab threatens him with a knife, holding it up to Meursault. The Stranger, is seen as a struggle between an individual and the universe, as in Camus’ famous philosophical essay, Myth of Sisyphus, he gives some fundamental traits of an individual to desire for a life and to find the truth, which are restricted by the universe from the individual, which makes or force him to get in conflict or revolt against the nature. In the case of Meursault, the image of sun irritates and annoys Meursault. The scorching heat and unbearable blinding presence of sun confuses Meursault which results in murdering the Arab, which could be seen as the revolt of Meursault against the nature. Meursault was not bothered about the threatening of the Arab, rather with the heat of the sun, as he states, It was sun, which was bothering Meursault, like during the funeral of his mother. He didn’t shot the Arab in his defense but because of the light of the scorching sun. After the incident, he was sent to the prison, where he admitted his crime of killing an Arab, but he was shocked, when he was asked if he has hired any attorney, he replied, because according to him the case was simple. He already admitted his crime, so why would he need an attorney, but according to the standards of the society, he might need one. No matter, if he committed a crime, an action, accepted the decision he made and is ready to pay for his action, even if he had to go to the prison. The imprisonment of Meursault could be seen as the symbol of an individual caught in the hostile universe. This imprisonment strips off his confidence and makes him stranger to himself.
Throughout the novel, The Stranger, there are immense instances of ironical situations and phrases, which convey the Absurd behaviour and ideas. The most evident ironical situation is the trial of Meursault, where Camus also tries to project the parody of society and a satire on the society. However, in The Fall, the notion of protest and guilt is satirised as being used as a weapon to enslave people. During Meursault’s trial, he was never accused for his crime of murdering the Arab. The magistrate, prosecutor, society and jury were more concerned about his indifferent emotional approach and lack of sentiments over his mother’s death and her funeral. During the trial, the Magistrate explains that,. Though the trial was neither impartial nor was in the interest of justice. During the trial even the attorney of Meursault realised the absurd nature in the courtroom, which made him ask the question, The major reason of Camus behind satirising the society is that the society kills the creative power of an individual for self-transcendence.
The most important part of the novel The Stranger would perhaps be the point, where the protagonist Meursault faces death. It is the time when he also realises, what his mother would have felt, when she was near death because he faces the same situation as that of his mother. He states,. He accepts his death and he felt as if there was no major difference between life and death,. Throughout the novel, the death of his mother had no meaning at all in his life but only at the end of the novel, he realises and understands what it would have been for her at the end of her life.
Sartre states in context of Camus’ work, The Stranger, which the adventures of Meursault are chiefly intended to emphasise on the absurd nature of the universe, world and existence. Camus’ writing techniques like, use of irony, symbolism and foreshadowing is a way to enhance the absurdity of life and existence, absurd nature of world and universe and absurd situations, behaviours and ideas, to help an individual to have an image of absurd, to establish the link between an individual’s struggle to search for meaning and purpose in life and also to reveal an individuals motivation to live his life in the face of the absurd. Meursault, the protagonist also realises during the course of events that,. He affirms that he was happy with what he have in his life by stating that,
The Stranger demonstrates the theme of existentialism, but as Albert Camus is an absurdist writer, the intended theme of the novel is the philosophy of absurd. Camus also reach to the theme of absurdity at the end of the novel where, Meursault realises and accepts his death, considering death is inevitable and is the eternal truth of any individual, if not today, tomorrow the individual has to face it. Absurd is referred to the conflict between human seeking meaning and purpose in life and the inability of him to find any, but as Kierkegaard states, it does not mean The theme of absurd comes at the end of the novel, where Meursault is in the prison, waiting for his execution for the crime he has committed and gets into a heated argument with the chaplain, who tries to make him believe in God and also tries to convert him to Christianity, where Meursault explains, He rejects his offer saying, that he has accepted the certainties and uncertainties of life and has accepted the eternal truth of life, i.e., death. He explains that, He by this time understood that an individual has to die if took birth in this world, if not today then tomorrow, but death will come is very certain.
The protagonist of Albert Camus’ novel The Stranger, at many occasions show his existential beliefs and ideas which were seen strongly as the sharp contrast to his otherwise submissive nature and laid back attitude. Meursault’s absurd worldview is expressed in his argument with the prison chaplain when he offers to convert him to Christianity. Meursault demonstrates that nothing really matters, as we all live a life, we all will die one day and what all one does in between the span of life and death is not important. After his discussion with chaplain, Meursault uncovers about himself and also a moment of realisation comes to him, He didn’t care much that he was going to be killed and chaplain will live another day, because he realised his awakening to life and recovered from the absurdity of his life and understood the fate of every human being, be it today or tomorrow the end result remains the same, as it is inevitable. However, the chaplain will remain there with his empty prayers, the living the life of someone else, depending upon others and acting according to others. This realisation makes him rediscover himself in a new light with motivation and zest to live again but this time with purpose and meaning in life. He became sure about himself, his life and also his death. He then worried about nothing, except himself.
According to Camus, in the quest to find meaning or purpose in the life of an individual, the further step in progression could be the acceptance of Absurd. Camus states, Therefore, Meursault realises and understands the absurdity of life and his existence and accepts his fate.
The main motive of the writers while writing the novels like this is to motivate an individual to evaluate his life and understand the significance of his life. The readers might struggle with the characters of Camus and Sartre, specifically with the protagonists but not sympathise with them. The lack of emotions and sentiments in the characters of Sartre and Camus helps the readers to maintain a certain distance with them, but at the end of the novel, when the real side or the real emotions and sentiments emerge, readers are able to relate themselves with the protagonists of the novels. Throughout the novel, the struggle to find meaning and purpose in life makes the individual isolated from the society or the nature of the being makes them isolated in the society. During this isolation, the individual start feeling alienated from the familiar things. The things used in day-to-day life becomes strange him, which helps him to reach to the truth, i.e., death. The ultimate truth of any individual living in the universe is death, which is inevitable. Therefore an individual should be able to accept it gracefully. Generally, man feels confused regarding their career, work, relationships, etc. and tries to find significance in his life or in the work he does. These protagonists and the characters of the novel are presented as a lesson to teach them how to face the absurdity of life or the absurd situations, that every man face now and then in their life, with the dedication to live life without hope, dedication to continue to search for meaning and purpose in life and beauty of nature. As each sentence starts independently and ends the same without the transition to the other, just like that an individual should live his life by carrying his worth in himself. Man should not fear death, rather accept it and deal with it in the most mature way, so that the daily routine and even the thought of upcoming death bring peace to an individual’s mind.
Camus in his essay Myth of Sisyphus explains and emphasis that Camus tries to give an outlook to what an individual should have and should not have in the face of the absurd, because according to Camus a man cannot escape the absurd, therefore, He outlines that in the face of absurd, a man should possess intelligence, freedom, desire to revolt, accept his death, etc., and a man should not rely on hope, future, hope, transcendence, etc. He believes that the absurd is essential and it’s the truth.
According to Sartre, to whom the term absurd is associated very usually, believes that the absurd denotes the casual nature of human existence. The realisation of the absurd arises the feeling of strangeness, which Sartre terms as ‘nausea’. He states in Being and Nothingness that an individual’s existence is absurd and defines absurd as, According to Sartre, absurd is related to the feeling or presence of meaninglessness in an individual’s life and for Camus, absurd is nothing as such, but the sudden awakening and realisation of the individuals mind towards the reason through his own experiences and the chaos he goes through. Absurd could be seen as gap which can’t be bridged between the questions the individual’s mind ask and the world or nature that keeps silent on that matter. Svenjna Schrahe comments on the same difference among both the writers as, Sartre also comments on the different explanation of the absurd of Camus and his as,
According to Sartre, the feeling of the absurd is the last stage for an individual, whereas for Camus, absurd is not the end, instead is the starting point or beginning of an individual’s journey, as the review on Nausea in 1938 states,. On the other hand in Camus’ Myth of Sisyphus, the same idea is presented as, So no matter who deals with absurd and how, but whoever tries to find the meaning in existence will face the absurd.
Through the cross examination in the previous chapters, we reach to the converging point of the selected writers and their works, where the indictment of bad faith is implicit at various instances and the protagonists try to avoid the acknowledgement. The characters try to explain that there is no other choice rather than to rely on bad faith, but both the writers lay the example that there is always a choice, it might be difficult and inconvenient at times, but the choice is always there. According to Sartre, an individual should avoid being in bad faith and instead acknowledge the action or decision made rather than being tempted towards the easy way out from the situation. This concept is understood as taking the responsibility of the actions and decisions made. Though all the three protagonists of the selected novels have fallen in bad faith at different times but gathered up themselves popped the bubble of imagination and faced the reality with confidence. Even F. A. Olafson in Freedom and Responsibility states that the freedom and responsibility is,
According to Sartre, along with freedom comes responsibility, but when an individual ignores the responsibility of his actions and decisions, he has to face alienation. During the state of alienation, the individual tends to set a goal for his life when he does not have any. There is a certain way the individual treats people around him, when the individual does not share any kind of relationship with them but have an ontological relation. Sartre believes that, even if an individual does not share any particular relationship with others still, Sartre in Being and Time, raises three major issues. First, indicates that freedom is the primary characteristic of an individual’s existence and essence, second, if there is no God, then there is no a priori value and third, the freedom of an individual is necessarily linked with the freedom of others. These are the issue, which Sartre deals with in his works, as understanding the need of freedom and taking the responsibility of his actions can lead an individual to make better and ethical decisions with his own values. The same issues could also be seen in Camus’ work, projected in a little different light, as Camus, also like Sartre and Nietzsche wants an individual to make his own values.
The freedom of an individual is impossible to distinguish from the individual’s reality. Sartre does not believe that an individual exist in order to gain freedom subsequently. Indeed he believes that the humans are free and According to Sartre and Camus, the freedom of an individual and his responsibility towards his actions and decisions constitute the essence of the individual. Olafson puts it as humans are they always tend to face the situations with alternatives and the choices will always be there, but the essence depends upon the choices an individual makes, even if it is the choice of doing nothing. The zest of Sartre theory of freedom is that an individual is always unwilling to accept and acknowledge him being free. Whereas, Camus’ view is also similar, as he believes that the universe does not provide any salvation and therefore the path towards freedom can only give the sense of authentic life to an individual. Freedom is one of the most important and essential components of an individual’s existence, to make decisions and commitments, along with responsibility that comes hand in hand. This becomes the integrity and ethicality of an individual’s existence.
Detailed discussion in the previous chapters makes it evident that Camus’ social and moral outlook went through major changes between the time period of The Stranger and The Fall. Camus’s major concern, like Kierkegaard, his is the existence of an individual. Second influence is Nietzsche, like whom he also believes in the lack of the objective of good and evil and believes that an individual should make his own values. Third influence over Camus is Heidegger’s centrality of death of an individual’s experiences. The last but not the least is Sartre’s influence over Camus regarding the existence of an individual, which is absurd, meaningless, purposeless and void. These influences over Camus are the most evident at the end of the novel (The Stranger), where Meursault in the most poetic passage, yells his heart out at the chaplain of the prison, and states, This poetic passage gives an undeniable insight into the existential outlook of Meursault over life. Camus’ ideas on existentialism is clearly seen in The Stranger and Richard Kamber states in On Camus, to understand Meursault’s views as, Camus believes that people does not regard their moral beliefs as justified or acceptable by the divine reason. Therefore to support this he states in The Myth of Sisyphus that,
Meursault’s anger in the above passage portrays the heart of Camus’ central perspective throughout his absurdist phase. This central perspective could also be read as the moral of The Stranger but the moral of The Fall is a bit different, because The Fall gives the imprint of the last period and the most pessimistic period of Camus and man’s complete exile or detachment from the nature. In The Stranger, there are no guilty people, whereas in The Fall, there are only guilty people. Camus in The Fall, condemns the whole clan of humanity as guilty. He believes that the whole humanity is in need of judgment but the primary objective or concern of humanity is to avoid it, but he claims that the only way to avoid judgment is to judge your own self. Clamence (The Fall) states, Camus believes that he carry the same guilt as the others but the only way to dilute it a little and lose some burden is by confessing the guilt to others and extending or approaching the judgement over others, as Clamence in The Fall exclaims that,
The purpose of Camus’ The Fall could be clearly expressed by Clamence. Clamence’s self-condemnation could be seen as Camus’ idea to force people to condemn themselves in order to enable themselves live a more light-hearted, without much burden on their shoulders of the ‘guilt’ they committed. The hypocrisy of Clamence in the novel could be seen as his attack on his fellow intellectuals by his parodying of their hypocrisies. Clamence is connectable to all the allegations that Sartre has put on Camus, but Clamence instead of denying them, accepts them all and paints a gloomy picture of grim humanity. Camus does not paint the humanity as the most horrible of all but his central moral is to first, condemn selfishness, specially of Clamence, where he neglects the drowning woman. Secondly he recognises and examines our own selfish side through Clamence’s extreme selfishness. Thirdly, he accepts and learns to deal with the guilt. To accept a guilt an individual has committed is the most difficult aspect but if one does so, he can live an even better and relaxing life. As Camus in The Fall tries to explain it through Clamence that
Camus through The Fall, wish people to be open about their flaws, as recognising our own flaws will help individuals recognise the flaws and guilt of the others too. Camus believes that the individual should confess their guilt to others and others in return should confess their guilt to them rather than to God, who might not exist. Therefore, the drastic change in Camus’ writing could be seen through Meursault (The Stranger), who is seen as a character, completely empty of any values, which could be the basis of his innocence, and on the other hand, Clamence (The Fall), who is full of guilt and repentance. Both the characters through their ups and downs come at the end to accept the absurd nature of existence and find solace thereafter without confining to the standards of the society and accepting the absurdities of life.
Camus believes that life is absurd and the more we put resources to find order in the universe the more we push the rock up the hill, but all the efforts remain futile at the end of it, and an individual is left with nothing. Richard Kamber in On Camus states in this context that, All his efforts and steps towards the understanding of meaning and purpose of existence become futile, when the rock rolls back to the bottom. Even Sartre, after the death of Camus, praises his works by keeping aside his grudges against him. Germaine Bree in Camus: A Collection of Critical Essays-Jean Paul Sartre quotes the praise of Camus by Sartre as,
To conclude the above discussion, Camus can be read as an idea, who cannot restrict his ideas or confine his ideology within one aspect or one ‘ism’, be it existentialism, marxism, communism, socialism or any other philosophy as such. His ideas and works show his interest in the existential study of an individual existence and an individual’s condition, therefore he appears as an existentialist, like Sartre. Their philosophies and concepts give a direction to an individual to live a meaningful and purposeful life based on their own choices, decisions and values by accepting all absurdities and taking the responsibility of their actions.
What we notice is that the ideas of Sartre and Camus converge and diverge. Camus, as discussed in the previous chapters, does not spare a single occasion to deny himself, being tagged as an existentialist. The major reason behind his denial of the tag as an existentialist could be Sartre, as the fact remains that Sartre is the famous known face of the existential philosophy and Camus does not wish to be linked with the Sartrean ideologies because Sartre is more focused towards the philosophy whereas, Camus is more focused on the practice of the ideas.
According to Sartre, absurd is the permanent and consistent nature of the world, unchangeable, and it closes the doors of hope and expectation for an individual. Whereas, on the other hand, for Camus, absurd is the initial stage of paradox, where the mind only hopes and the nature only gives. For Camus, the state of absurd is not the blocking point or the last stage in an individual’s existence; instead it is the starting point in an individual’s life and his ideology. Camus’ idea of absurdity has a very positive approach towards the ethics of human revolt and harmony. Camus has not been seen opposing the ethics of existentialism. In fact he has put the idea of existentialism in practical situations. Sartre is seen as a ‘black and white’ existentialist, who throughout his life talked about the condition of an individual in an absurd world, in the face of fixed pattern of life, values and morals, then the freedom to make choices by an individual and later take the responsibility of his actions. Whereas, on the other hand, Camus denies being an existentialist and is not recognised as an existentialist straight away but does have the similarities with the ideas of the existentialists.