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The novel L’étranger, which translates as ‘The Stranger’ or ‘The Outsider,’ bears a striking resemblance to Camus’ philosophical concept of absurdity. The book L’étranger translated as The Stranger or The Outsider strongly resembles Camus’ philosophical idea of absurdity. Camus claims in his writings that individual lives and human existence lack rational meaning and order. However, because individuals struggle to embrace this concept, they are always attempting to find or construct rational order and meaning in their lives. The term ‘absurdity’ refers to the futile attempt to create rational order where none exists. Camus, via Meursault, discusses how being an existentialist is a means to live with life in the novel The Stanger. His concept of ‘you are alive’ and his view that existence has no purpose guide their actions throughout the narrative. The narrative delves deeply into the world of the absurd, confronting us with a world of indifference and alienation as Meursault is destined to a tragic fate. Meursault’s ideas and conduct are proven to be absurd, yet society chooses to interpret them in its way. The character of Meursault, and how this identity seals his fate, are two of the many aspects that I’ve referred to in the narrative. (Patel 21)

Albert Camus brilliantly introduces the indifference of the world towards its inhabitants through the title character, Meursault’s withdrawal from his surrounding society. Meursault is emotionally and mentally isolated from the external world, incapable of forming sentiments or emotions. These inadequacies are manifested for the first time at his mother’s funeral, yet he is not moved to tears or grief. The events in the book are sardonic because of Meursault’s attitude towards established societal ideologies and expectations that society considers absurd. Meursault’s apathy indirectly undermines society’s established moral norms, making him an outcast and perceived as a threat. Meursault lacks both moral and immoral characteristics. He is, rather, amoral. In his mind, he just does not distinguish between good and evil.

“Mother died today. Or, maybe, yesterday; I can’t be sure” (Camus 1). The opening lines of the novel indicate that the protagonist, Monsieur Meursault, has no feelings. He is oblivious and emotionally alienated. He doesn’t mourn at his mother’s funeral. His behavior implies that he is nonchalant about his mother’s death and displays no remorse. “The sun was getting low and the whole room was flooded with a pleasant, mellow light. Two hornets were buzzing overhead, against the skylight. I was so sleepy I could hardly keep my eyes open. Never in my life had I seen anyone so clearly as I saw these people; not a detail of their clothes or features escaped me.” (Camus 7, 10). Meursault is preoccupied with several other trivial details at the funeral rather than his mother’s death. Life has no purpose for him, and he is indifferent to what is good or wrong, moral or immoral. “That was so. When we lived together, mother was always watching me, but we hardly ever talked. Also, it would have meant losing my Sunday-not to mention the trouble of going to the bus, getting my ticket, and spending two hours on the journey each way” (3,4). Meursault’s relationship with his mother was not particularly the same as a mother and son, but rather that of two people who barely spoke and had little in common. He had no idea when his mother died, or how old she was when she died, and did not react as others expected: he did not cry at his mother’s burial or wish to see her body.

Meursault’s dispassionate response reveals his absurd outlook on life. For him, nothing matters as all the ways of life are the same or meaningless. This attitude of indifference is again reflected when Marie asks him if he loves her or not. He replies, ‘I said that sort of question had no meaning, really; but I supposed I didn’t’ (45). Meursault always seems to be focused on the physical, but Marie is seeking an emotional relationship. This suggests that he is incapable of having emotional feelings for her. Meursault’s lack of emotional sensitivity demonstrates that he is solely interested in a physical relationship. Furthermore, when she approaches him about marriage, he responds, ”I said it didn’t make any difference to me and that we could if she wanted to’ (41). Camus’ philosophy of absurdity is represented through Meursault’s apathetic responses. His attitude shows that there is no purpose in Meursault’s life since he can only perceive it as a series of occurrences. Meursault doesn’t think about the future; he lives in the present.

Halfway through the book, Meursault murders an Arab for no explicable reason. ‘The heat was beginning to scorch my cheeks; beads of sweat were gathering in my eyebrows….all the veins seemed to be bursting through the skin. I couldn’t stand it any longer and took another step forward. I knew it was a fool thing to do; I wouldn’t get out of the sun by moving in a yard or so. But I took that step, just one step, forward’ (75). This was the sole reason he committed the murder. The stifling heat and the setting spurred him to shoot the Arab. The reflection of the sun in his eyes causes him to shoot the man. Meursault is questioned if he believes in God, but his lack of faith has marked him as Monsieur Antichrist. Meursault was prosecuted more for his unconventional attitude to life than for the murder when he was brought to trial. His apathy is used against him in court as evidence of his inability to express remorse. ‘In our society, any man who does not weep at his mother’s funeral runs the risk of being sentenced to death,’ Albert Camus on The Stranger. Society in itself is absurd. It condemns Meursault not because he murdered the Arab, but because he violated social conventions by failing to express sadness and regret at his mother’s burial. Meursault’s trial and conviction represent the absurdity of society. Camus highlights irrationality and prejudice in society by not always relying on crucial facts. Both the prosecution and Meursault’s lawyer give logical, rational, and cause-and-effect reasons for Meursault’s crime. However, these explanations, have no basis in truth and serve solely to dispel the terrifying notion that the universe is illogical. Even though Meursault had no discernible motive for killing the man, society attempts to construct or impose reasonable reasons for his irrational acts. The notion that sometimes things happen without purpose or higher significance is unsettling and frightening to them. As a reason, the entire trial is an example of absurdity. Even if his culpability is dubious, he does not attempt to defend himself. When he is sentenced to death, he acts as though the decision does not affect him. He just does not care and does not feign tears or smiles, but instead openly shows his indifference. Anyway, it hardly mattered; I already felt worlds away from this courtroom and its tedious ‘proceedings.’

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His callous and unemotional reaction to his mother’s death fades at the end of the book and he describes her death as:

I felt as if I understood why at the end of her life she had taken a “fiancé,” why she had played at the beginning again. Even there, in that home where lives were fading out, the evening was a kind of wistful respite. So close to death, Maman must have felt free then and ready to live it all again. Nobody, nobody had the right to cry over her. No one, no one in the world had any right to weep for her. And I, too, felt ready to start life all over again. It was as if that great rush of anger had washed me clean, emptied me of hope, and, gazing up at the dark sky spangled with its signs and stars, for the first time, the first, I laid my heart open to the benign indifference of the universe. To feel it so like myself, indeed, so brotherly, made me realize that I’d been happy and that I was happy still. For all to be accomplished, for me to feel less lonely, all that remained to hope was that on the day of my execution, there should be a huge crowd of spectators and that they should greet me with howls of execration. (154)

His initial attitude to his death too is indifferent. “I was to die. Sooner than others, obviously. “But,’ I reminded myself, ‘it’s common knowledge that life isn’t worth living, anyhow.” (143). He is, nevertheless, able to accept his death and the hopelessness of preventing it. It doesn’t matter whether he dies today, tomorrow, or whenever, because the universe is indifferent to him. He realizes that,

Nothing, nothing had the least importance, and I knew quite well why. He, too, knew why. From the dark horizon of my future a sort of slow, persistent breeze had been blowing toward me, all my life long, from the years that were to come. And on its way that breeze had leveled out all the ideas that people tried to foist on me in the equally unreal years I then was living through. What difference could they make to me, the deaths of others, or a mother’s love, or his God; or the way a man decides to live, the fate he thinks he chooses, since the same fate was bound to ‘choose’ not only me but thousands of millions of privileged people who, like him, called themselves my brothers. Surely, he must see that? Every man alive was privileged; there was only one class of men, the privileged class. All alike would be condemned to die one day; his turn, too, would come like the others. (152)

Meursault is the epitome of Albert Camus’s philosophies of existentialism, of absurdism, incapable of reacting emotionally to his environment, disbelief in God, and meaninglessness in life. As a result, he is perceived as a threat to our society, requiring people to respond in line with societal standards. He is eventually sentenced to death, not for the crime, but for his indifference. Our culture, with its rational worldview, is afraid of futility and irrationality. Society represses and discards anything that does not conform to our norms. Meursault took full responsibility for his life and decisions rather than avoiding death. Meursault is satisfied and contented in his life. He lived his life with complete transparency, never compromising his moral conscience. Even when he is getting closer to his death, he does not deviate from his path and embraces death without a single thought of escaping in hope ‘Whether I died now or forty years hence, this business of dying had to be got through, inevitably ‘. He lives the absurd and vows to die with it, completely honest.

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