Sunday, April 26, 2009

CHARACTER STUDY: MEURSAULT

In ‘The Outsider’, Meursault’s character is understood through events and relationships with the people around him. The protagonist of this story, Meursault, is the outsider, because his behavior is abnormal or different from the rest of the society.

We split these aspects of his life into parts to understand Meursault’s character better:

 

MEURSAULT’S RELATIONSHIP WITH OTHERS

In ‘The Outsider’, we begin to understand Meursault’s character through the relationships he has with the people around him.

One of Meursault’s neighbors, Salamano, is first mentioned in chapter three when Meursault sees him beating his dog. From here, we learn that Meursault likes to observe people, but there is no sign of judging. Salamano once again appears in the next chapter when his dog goes missing. Meursault tells him to check the pound. This seems like kind words coming out of Meursault’s mouth, but he simply says this because it seems logical to check the pound.

Meursault also becomes closer to his other neighbor, Raymond. He likes to listen to Raymond, just because he has nothing better to do, and because Meursault finds Raymond’s stories interesting. In chapter three, when Meursault and Raymond are having some wine at the latter’s place, Meursault ends up writing a letter for Raymond. We can get a feeling that Meursault is a bit of a pushover, After writing the letter, Raymond claims that they’re now ‘mates’, and Meursault doesn’t mind that. Although Meursault is actually indifferent, he prefers to satisfy people rather than disappoint.

Marie is first introduced to the reader in chapter two of part one. In chapter four, Meursault narrates that he “really fancied her because she was wearing a pretty red and white striped dress and leather sandals. You could see the shape of her firm breasts and her suntanned face was like a flower.” Meursault certainly finds Marie attractive, but there is an emotional detachment in his feelings for her. This relationship revolves purely around sex and physical pleasure. The coldness and the lack of emotion towards Marie are described well on page 24: “She had her leg against mine, and I was fondling her breasts. Towards the end of the show I kissed her, but badly. Afterwards she came back to my place.” Meursault simply lists a chronology of events, and does not mention any emotion towards her. Through these descriptions of Marie, he appears indifferent. At the end of the novel he assumes Marie was either ill, dead, or has moved on to ‘a new Meursault’; it didn’t matter at all to him. When Marie asked him if they should get married, Meursault doesn’t mind, but they “could if she wanted to.” To Meursault, being married or not made no difference to him. He also states that he probably would have accepted the same proposal if it had come from another woman.

 

REACTION TO HIS MOTHER’S DEATH

Meursault’s reaction towards his mother’s death is not a usual reaction you might express from most people. He is cold, distanced from the people around, and gives an impression that he doesn’t care about his own mother’s death.

At the funeral (direct reaction)

Since Meursault had to go to the funeral, he had to be absent from the work for two days. His boss wasn’t happy about it, so Meursault says, “It’s not my fault (p. 9) ” It gives an impression that the funeral is just becoming an “excuse” of being absent in work, than seeing his mother feeling grief for her and being emotional for her death. It shows that Meurasult is a cold character, and also shows that he is the character who doesn’t like to take blame, or feels blamed. He justifies himself a lot thought the novel.

Meursault refused to see his mother’s face at the funeral. When the caretaker asked him why not, he answered, “I don’t know. (p. 12)” because he didn't want to get the actual feeling of lost, and also trying to avoid being emotional.

Meursault also smoked at the funeral. He hesitates a little bit because he thought that he shouldn’t smoke in front of his mother. However soon after he said, “I thought it over, it really didn’t matter (p. 14)” and started to smoke. Meursault thought that “It didn’t matter” because his mother was dead, and this shows how he lacked grief and respect towards the death.

Meursault reflected the day of the funeral at the end of the chapter, “seemed so inevitable and natural that I don't remember any of it any more. (p. 22)” It gives a feeling that the funeral and his mother’s death didn’t affect Meurasault, because he spent his weekend like any of his other weekends, which is shown in the next chapter: “after all, nothing had changed. (p. 28)”, meaning that his mother’s death made no difference to his normal life.

At the police (how he talked about it later on)

Meursault gets arrested in Part 2 because he murdered an Arab. His Lawyer asks him about his unusual behavior at the funeral and asks him if he felt any grief at the funeral. Meursault answered, “I probably loved mother quite a lot, but that didn’t mean anything (p. 65)”. Like his response to Marie, he doesn’t really think love is good enough reason for doing something such as marrying and crying at the funeral. “I’d rather mother hadn’t died. (p. 65) ” His response is very calm, giving an impression that he is telling the truth, however he is lacking emotion.

Meursault is a cold character, however he seems to be a really honest man. He answered, “To a certain extent all normal people sometimes wished their loved ones were dead. (p. 65)” to the Lawyer’s question, which is quite odd to say this when you are arrested and talking to the lawyer who is trying to commute your sentence. Also the lawyer asked him if he could say that he’d controlled my natural feeling at the funeral. However, Meursault said “No, because it’s no true (p. 65)” shows that he values honesty than being declared not guilty. He didn’t really care about his reputation, and didn’t care about hiding his lack of emotion by crying at the funeral untruthfully.

Magistrate asked him if he loved his mother, and Meursault answered, “Yes, like everyone else. (p. 67)” He is quite an odd man, however he tries to be a normal person, just like everyone else.

 

REACTION TO HIS ARREST

Meursault keeps on observing what is going on around him. He is not panicking, and it seems like he is not that worried about him. He says, “I thought my case was very simple. (p. 63)” shows that he is calm, and quite objective about what he’d done. Examining magistrate told him how the law worked, but Meursault thought “At first I didn’t take him seriously (p. 64)” shows that he is not that interested in laws.

Talking with Lawyer

When Meursault meets his lawyer, he was about to shake his hand, but he decided not to, “but I remembered just in time that I’d killed a man. (p. 64)” shows that he is feeling guilty about what he’d done. He felt faith towards this Lawyer, and Meursault thanked him, showing that he is polite and respects him.

However after questioning about Meursault’s mother’s death, Lawyer was angry because he wasn’t pleased with Meursault’s answer. Meursault didn’t want that, but soon he said “But it was all really a bit pointless and I couldn’t be bothered. (p.66)” He didn’t really care about what lawyer thought about him.

Talking with magistrate

Magistrate tells him that God will forgive him if he believes God. However Meursault thought, “I realized at the same time that his was ridiculous after all, I was the criminal. ”  He felt meaningless being forgiven by someone or god, because he killed someone and admits that it is bad thing to do.

 

INSIDE HIS NEW CELL

In chapter five of part two, Meursault gets moved to a new cell, where he does a lot of thinking. He suddenly remembers the only thing his mom had told him about his dad – that his dad had once gone to see a murderer being executed. His dad coming home and feeling nauseated disgusted him at first, but now Meursault understands it was completely natural. Now he realizes that executions “were the only thing a man could really be interested in! If I ever got out of prison, I’d go and watch all the executions there were.”  He then realizes that he is being irrational because he knew that he was not getting out of prison to see an execution.

We also learn that Meursault doesn’t mind dying. No matter when you die, even if it’s twenty years later, you’re going to die eventually. In fact, the thought of having to live for another twenty years scared Meursault.  However, when the chaplain came to talk to Meursault about believing in God, but Meursault has no interest. It doesn’t matter to Meursault whether he dies now or years later. He will face death in the belief that he will die outright, and he didn’t want to waste the last minutes of his life listening about someone he didn’t believe in.

Meursault is sure of himself, sure of everything, sure of his life, sure of the death that was imminent. This was his truth – that he’d been right, is right, and was always right. To Meursault, nothing mattered, and to him, everyone was condemned no matter how they lived their lives. He is satisfied with this life, and he doesn’t regret anything he’s done.

 

Important Quotes [PART 2]

The Outsider By Albert Camus

Important Quotes Explained (Part 2)


Chapter 1

Quote: “On my way out I was even going to shake his hand, but I remembered just in time that I’d killed a man.” (Page 64)

· Context: After the police questioned him, he was about to shake his hand but stopped himself.

· Explanation: The fact that Meursault “remembered just in time” that he had killed a man, shows how easily he could forget such an important event. It also helps to demonstrate that he is aware of what he has done, he is aware of his place in society now. Even though he feels no regret, he knows he has done something wrong. Showing his logical thinking once again.

Quote: “I probably loved mother quite a lot, but it didn’t mean anything. To a certain extent all normal people sometimes wished their loved ones were dead.”(Page 65)

· Context: When the lawyer asks Meursault if he had felt any grief on the day of his mother’s funeral, he answers that he got out of the habit of analyzing himself and he found it hard to answer the question

Explanation: Again this quote demonstrates Meursault being emotionally detached. He is not sure of what love is and he feels like it does not mean anything. Also by him saying that all normal people sometimes wished their loved ones were dead, shows how unusual a person he is. He cannot form any emotional based relationships with anyone. His relationship with Marie is more physical than anything, and his relationship with Raymond is convenient as they are both quite alike. Also by him making this statement it shows how nothing or no one means much to him, if they were gone or alive it wouldn’t affect him.


Chapter 2

Quote: “Anyway it was an idea of mother’s and she often used to repeat it, that you ended up getting used to everything.” (pg 75)

Context: When Meursault was talking about how he felt closed in inside the prison.

Explanation:
This quote tells the reader how Meursault easily gets use to everything. This is why Meursault gets use to prison easily and doesn’t miss his home that much. This may also be why he got use to the fact that his mother has died recently. He didn’t feel sad about the situation because his mother didn’t live with him and she wasn’t around anyways. The fact that it was his mother’s idea tells the reader that his mother had an influence on him.


Chapter 3

“I just had one impression: I was in a tram and all these anonymous passengers on the opposite seat were scrutinizing the new arrival to find his peculiarities.” (Pg.81)

  • Context: Mersault is going into the courtroom on a hot summer day, and as he sees the jury all looking at him, he has this impression (quote above). He replaces peculiarities with criminality, though he thinks they aren’t very different.
  • Explanation: This quote is showing that Mersault is beginning to become aware of the attention on him, though he doesn’t express sadness or embarrassment or guilt at this point. He is again observant to the people around him, as he has been so far in the book. However, before he would basically say his observances and leave it as that, but in this quote he is using his observations to compare it to another situation (a kind of metaphor) This shows the development of Mersault’s character throughout the book.

“I didn’t quite follow everything that happened after that, the drawing of lots by the jury, the questions put by the presiding judge to the layer, the prosecutor and the jury…” (Pg.83)

  • Context: This is during the court as Mersault’s case is being argued.
  • Explanation: This quote simply shows that Mersault has changed from the beginning of the book, because as he used to observe everything he saw, but this quote is an example of him not being observatory.

“For the first time in years, I stupidly felt like crying because I could tell how much all these people hated me” (Pg.87)

  • Context: The prosecutor is asking Mersault questions in front of the jury in the courtroom. And this happens as the Procecutor exclaimed, ‘Oh! No, that’s quite sufficient,’ in such a resounding voice and with such a triumphant glance in my direction that…(quote)’
  • Explanation: This shows his “people pleaser” personality and the fact that he knows these people hate him makes him sad. It is one of the rare times in the book where he expresses his emotions, making it very significant. The fact that he thought the cry was ‘stupid’ shows his dislike of emotion, but it showed because he could not avoid it this time.

“Yes, this was the time of day when, long ago, I used to feel happy. What always awaited me then was a night of easy, dreamless sleep…As if a familiar journey under a summer sky could as easily end in prison as in innocent sleep” (Pg.94)

  • Context: Mersault is leaving the courtroom to return back to the prison, and the few moments of freedom makes him think back on his life.
  • Explanation: In this quote Mersault realizes that he was actually happy in his life before the prison. He also realizes that it was too late to notice – because now he was in prison and no longer had the chance to be happy. It is expressing is realization of what happiness was and that one life is not always equal to another, but can actually be very different. Compared to the quote in chapter 5 (part 1), where he believes that all lives are the same, this quote is saying the opposite, and his ideas contrast. It shows his development as a character and he is beginning to gain the same human emotions that he had lacked before.


Chapter 4

Quote: “…I couldn’t help admitting that he was right. I didn’t much regret what I’d done” (Page 97)

· Context: When the prosecutor announced that Meursault had not once expressed any regret, Meursault agreed.

· Explanation: Regretting killing another person, is something almost anyone would feel if they committed such a crime, but Meursault doesn’t. This shows again how he doesn’t understand the extent of his actions. It also shows how honest he is, and how he never lies. He doesn’t care whether his honesty, will give him a harsher sentence, he speaks what he feels is the truth. This is shown by him agreeing with the prosecutor, because it is the truth. He doesn’t grasp all logic though, as he understands the crime he has committed but not why it is so regretful. As later Meursault is surprised at why the prosecutor was so furious about what he has done.

Quote: “He announced that I had no place in a society whose most fundamental rules I ignored, nor could I make an appeal to the heart when I knew nothing of the most basic human reactions.” (Page 99)

· Context: What the prosecutor concluded of Meursault, from the trial

· Explanation: This quote summarizes how other people in the novel view Meursault other than his friends. Those who don’t understand him and his ways are threatened by him. They view him as a danger to society because he is different. People view him as cold, and without a heart because he did not cry at his mother’s funeral. For that, people view him as lacking the most basic human reactions. Even to the readers, he may seem indifferent but this is because he doesn’t understand emotion very well. Some people see Meursault as a monster, while others view him to be kind and honest person.

Chapter 5

Quote: “As if this great outburst of anger had purged all my ills, killed all my hopes, I looked up at the mass of signs and starts in the night sky and laid myself open for the first time to the benign indifference of the world. And finding it so much like myself in fact so fraternal, I realized that I’d been happy, and that I was still happy For the final consummation and for me to feel less lonely, my last wish was that there should be a crowd of spectators at my execution and that they should greet me with cries of hatred.” (pg 117)

Context: Last lines of the novel, after his meeting with the chaplain.

Explanation:
Meursault fully accepts the impossibility of avoiding his death. He realized that he is happy with his position in society and doesn’t mind that he is a criminal. As he says, “to feel less lonely”, shows that he just wants to feel a connection with society. He accepts that the only connection he will feel with society is in the form of anger on his execution day and he doesn’t mind that.

Narrative Style&Linguistic Features

Narrative Style

Camus chose to write this novel as a first person narrative. It is Meursault who recounts what happens, what he feels, and what he sees, expressing himself in short, compact sentences. This makes the character of Meursault believable to the reader as we get insight into his reasoning. Meursault is considered as an observer, where he sees the surface but does not analyze the undercurrents. Unlike many first-person narrators, Meursault makes no attempt to filter his account through an awareness of its meaning.

Linguistic Features

Structure
The Outsider is separated into two parts: Part One and Part Two
Part One opens with the death of mother and ends with the murder of the Arab. By separating the story in to two parts, the reader can see how Meursault is affected by various deaths. There are three major deaths in this novel, at the beginning, middle and the end;
  1. Meursault's mother dies
  2. Death of Arab
  3. Meursault is executed
By including the image of death throughout the novel, the reader can predict, or foreshadow what is going to happen to Meursault at the end of the novel. It can also be seen as a way for the reader to distinguish if Meursault is actually an outsider. At the beginning of the novel, when Meursault's mother had died, it is possible to see Meursault as an ordinary person, who does not want to show his feelings, therefore hiding his sadness within him. The lack of emotion or ambition throughout Part One does not greatly represent that Meursault is an outsider. He wrote the letter because his friend asked him, and he has desire to be with a woman. If the story was not titled "the Outsider", it is probably hard to tell that Meursault is abnormal. However, in Part Two, the reader notices a clear difference in Meursault. Everything he claims seems to prove that he was guilty for the murder, and he does not regret in killing the Arab. Camus separated the novel into two parts to emphasize the abnormality of Meursault compared to ordinary people.

The sentences used in this novel are short, unconnected statements, which emphasize the boredom or the lack of enthusiasm in Meursault's actions. The style used emphasizes the narrative style, which contribute to creating Meursault's character. Even though there are no jargon used, his description is very detailed, which reflect the character of Meursualt. 

The sentences gets even shorter towards the ends of the book, especially in page 102.
  • The judges returned. The jury was very rapidly read a series of questions. I heard 'guilty of murder...', 'premeditation...', 'extenuating circumstances.'
This passage shows that Meursualt is eager to hear the punishment put on him. The short sentences represent rush or impatience of Meursault. It can also represent the built up of tension before Meursualt is being taken away.

The story is chronological, which allows the reader to follow the order of events, especially because of Meursault's descriptions. Meursault does not seem to care much about the time, or anything around him in Part One, however, during his imprisonment, he becomes more aware of the time. 

Repetition
There are words or phrases that are being repeated several times in the novel. Some examples include:
  • "It's not my fault"
  • "I couldn't be bothered"
  • "it annoyed me"
By repeating the same phrase several times in the novel, it creates the character of Meursault, and makes his character believable. 
 
Another technique used by Camus is creating snap shots of scenes in page 66:
  • "Raymond, the beach, the swim, the fight, the beach again, the little spring, the sun and the five shots."
By listing out what has happened to Meursault before the murder, it creates an image that he is confused about what has actually happened and trying to think back at what he has done. To the reader, this list of events create snap shots, (that we can visualize in our heads) which is like one scene of a movie. 

Diction
Camus uses wide range of vocabulary to describe the situation that Meursault is in, making him an observer. 
  • "The Arabs were advancing slowly and they were already much nearer" (page 54)
By using the word "advancing", it sounds as though the Arabs are an army, approaching Meursault. This can also create a thought of a fight, building the tension before the gunshot. 

English translation & Significance of the title

The Outsider is originally written in French, and has been translated into English by several authors. There are three main translations of The Outsider:

  1. Stuart Gilbert
  2. Joseph Laredo
  3. Matthew Ward

Three translations differ much in tone (for example Gilbert's translation is much formal) but more importantly, the opening of the story is different for each translation.

  1. Gilbert's translation: "Mother died today. Or, maybe, yesterday; I can't be sure. The telegram from the Home says: YOUR MOTHER PASSED AWAY. FUNERAL TOMORROW. DEEP SYMPATHY. Which leaves the matter doubtful; it could have been yesterday."
  2. Ward's translation: "Maman died today. Or yesterday maybe, I don't know. I got a telegram from the home: Mother deceased. Funeral tomorrow. Faithfully yours. That doesn't mean anything. Maybe it was yesterday."
  3. Laredo's translation: "Mother died today. Or maybe yesterday, I don't know. I had a telegram from the home: 'Mother passed away. Funeral tomorrow. Yours sincerely.' That doesn't mean anything. It may have been yesterday."

Not only the translation affects the way the story is written, but the title differs depending on where the story is translated, and who it is translated by. The Outsider, originally L'√Čtranger can be translated in three different titles:

  1. The Foreigner
  2. The Stranger
  3. The Outsider

The Foreigner
  • Meursault is a French Algiers
  • He is a foreigner to the land , but text establishes that in fact his family has lived there fore several generations
  • Anti-heroic protagonist is culturally foreign to Algeria
  • Meursault is detached - foreigner to society, to human customs
  • Most fitting considering the time it was written and existential nature of the novel

The Stranger
  • Meursault is a stranger among other people because he is so isolated from them - mentally, emotionally, spiritually and by the end of the text, physically (because he is imprisoned)
  • Implies that Meursault has been viewed as a "strange" or "odd" person
  • Meursault is a stranger even to those who think they know him
  • But this can be seen as a wrong interpretation - Meursault is, if anything, ordinary - because he works like every one and goes out with his friends and girlfriend like everyone else
  • He is not really a stranger, but rather an observer without an emotion connection to the world

The Outsider
  • Meursault feels alien to the Arab (Muslim) society in which he lives as a colonist
  • As he is oblivious of the motifs he lives, he is not restricted by any meaning exterior to his sensory experience, a character trait rendering him foreign to his contemporaries: thus, most English translations are rendered as The Stranger and infrequently The Outsider

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Themes

Absurdity of Life:

‘Absurdity’ = ‘the quality of being absurd or inconsistent with obvious truth, reason, or sound judgment; a logical contradiction’

‘Absurd’ = ‘The condition or state in which humans exist in a meaningless, irrational universe wherein people’s lives have no purpose or meaning’

(Definitions from www.dictionary.com)

The definition is relevant because it reflects the situation that Meursault is in against the society. It is paradoxical how the society views Meursault as an ‘outsider’ and criticizes him for being indifferent because the truth is that Meursault is only being sincere to his feelings and unlike the rest, he accepts the irrationality of the society.

Regarding Meursault, this is the absurdity of life because the society does not understand his indifference that he challenges to pursue. It is absurd in the sense that we ostracize him from the society when he is being honest to his feelings. It is also absurd how the society immediately thinks of him as extraordinary not because of the crime that he committed, but mainly because of the way he acted after his mother's funeral. This is evident during the trial that decides upon the sentence of the incident, as first of all, the courtroom is astonished by the fact that Meursault had offered a cigarette to a caretaker and had recieved a cup of white coffee at the funeral. The jury claims, "A stranger may offer a cup of coffee, but that a son must refuse it beside the body of the one who brought him into the world," indicating that this behavior was unethical. Secondly, the jury pronounced that, "One the day after the death of his mother, this man was swimming in the sea, entering into an irregular liaison and laughing at a Fernandel film," as if this was almost an illegal thing to do after such an event as the funeral. Ever since, the entire courtroom viewed Meursault as the criminal not because of the actual murder, but because of his irregular behavior which lead him to a death sentence. 

Throughout the novel, Camus inserts the notion of ‘absurdity of life’ as he himself believed the universe was completely irrational and meaningless. He conveys this theme through the protagonist, which is emphasized due to the juxtaposition of the behaviors and reactions of the society as explained before. The society attempts to impose rational orders to everything in order to make life meaningful, which is exactly what the lawyer and the prosecutor did on the case for Meursault. Meursault had simply no rational reasons behind killing the Arab, or dating Marie, thus he had accepted the irrationality of the society. On the contrary, the society is scared of facing this truth so they tend to fabricate everything in order to make it 'rational'. 

In addition, towards the end of the novel Meursault seems happy and rather satisfied with the death sentence because he had accepted the absurdity of life. He realized that death is inevitable so whether he dies of old age or dies by execution, it does not matter to him because death is death and it is all the same. In fact, this was another philosophical idea that Camus had- that life has no meanings or purposes, but the only certain thing is that death is inevitable because all lives are equally meaningless. 


The Physical world

The novel emphasizes the importance of the physical world. The reader can notice that Meursault focuses more on the physical aspects than on the emotions. For example at the beginning of the novel Meursault observes the physical aspects of Marie, however when he is asked if he loves her he simply replies that he doesn’t think so. Here it can be noticed that Meursault gives more importance to the physical aspects than the emotional ones. As the reader isn’t used to this kind of behavior we perceive him as strange. This relates to the plot of the novel where Meursault is condemned for having a different character. It can be understood that the source of happiness for Meursault isn’t a balance in the emotional life but rather a balance in the physical world, as it is evident from the line “the perfect silence of this beach where I’d been happy’. 

In addition the reader can understand that the reason why Meursault shot the Arab was because of the sun tormenting him,“ the sky seemed to be...sheets of flame”. This shows how physical aspects affect Meursault greater than emotions. 

Overall if we look at the way in which Meursault describes physical aspects compared to the way in which he describes emotional aspects, it can be noticed that Meursault describes in great detail the physical apects whilst pays little attention to the emotional ones. 


Values of Society VS An Outsider

Noticeably, the character is ostracized against the values of the society. This is shown especially in the second part of the novel where we find the protagonist being judged for acts against the values of society rather than for the crime he actually committed.   “On the day after the death of his mother, this man was swimming in the sea”. In this example the main character is being judged for acting in an unconventional manner after his mother’s death, rather than for the actual crime he committed.  This relates to the title of this novel as its showing how anyone who acts against the conventional manners of society is deemed as an “Outsider” and will be treated differently.

Another example is when Meursault is asked to say that he regrets his crime, he refuses to do so although he is condemned to say yes. This shows how the main character is independent from society, as he does not behave in the way that he is expected to.

In this novel Camus tries to portray the absurdity of the society we live in and how we may behave in different manners just to fit the behavior which society deems "acceptable". 


existentialism.

The philosophy of existentialism explicates that people are in control of their own lives and only themselves are elemental in the influencing their opinions, morals and actions.

Literature critics have labeled Camus's the outsider as an existentialist novel. Camus denies the notion. However the novel does have traits of existentialist ideology.

An existentialist is free do decide what is ethical. If it is legitimate to him or her, it is legitimate. They believe that the human nature is nothing more than we make of it.

Camus in that sense is a proponent of the existentialist cause. Meursault lives life by his own rules. In the afterword of the novel (Camus 1955), he asks the reader why Meursault doesn't play the game. Camus replies"He refuses to lie...saying more than one feels". Meursault is not shackled by the rules of society in the sense that he doesn't try to make life simpler by hiding his thoughts. He is objective in this actions and refuses to state what he doesn't believe. When asked if he could have controlled his natural feelings on the day of the murder, he replies,"No, because it's not true."

There is no social authority for Meursault. He doesn't buckle under social pressure to hide his opinions and ideas, he simply does them. The reader finds it shocking that Meursault stalks the lady he was observing at Celeste's. However to Meursault it is convention. If he wants to know more about this "peculiar" lady, than it is fit to do follow her. If Meursault doesn't feel like crying during his mother's funeral because to he hadn't related to her in some time, than it is valid. For the reader the very idea of the death of our mother sends us into paralytic shock, however Meursault remains indifferent for he had, at least recently, no apparent connection with his mother. The trial goes on and persecutes Meursault for this event, however he seems, somewhat in shock when the court debates the point. To him it was perfectly valid to drink white coffee, smoke a cigarette and date Marie the day after his mother's death. However to both the reader and the prosecutor, the very notion of fun,the day after one's mother's death is blasphemous.

Meursault has no faith in god either. He refused to see the chaplain and simply stated he doesn't believe in god. There is no faith based authority that rules Meursault. In the conversation with the magistrate, Meursault denies belief in god even though it could have brought him on the good side of the magistrate, and thus, even though slightly, influence his case for him. Meursault believes in the truth. For him the truth was that there was no god, and he will not wave from the truth no matter the circumstances. The chaplain also had no avail in converting Meursault. "Every man that I've known in your position has turned towards Him",(112). The quote shows that unlike other prisoners Meursault is not burdened by the authority of god, and thus has not left his path into larger hands. He is in control of his actions and believe, that only himself is the cause for the situation he is.

To Meursault everything is an absolute. If he does a job, he gets it done. If he likes Marie he lets her know, physically even. If he isn't sad about his mother's death, than he doesn't show it. " I replied that I thought my case was very simple",(63). To Meursault, even his case was an absolute. He had murdered someone and was to be punished. There need not be the formal procession of court and the hiring of lawyers to forward his case, Meursault believes, the case is simple, and Meursault is ready to accept the decision.

Existentialists believe that the only thing that is true is the physical world, and they lay an influence in human nature. The heat has influenced Meursault in countless accounts. He was getting annoyed when the Magistrate for talking about god, not because of his atheist belief but because of the heat. He shot the Arab due to the heat. He didn't like Marie because of the heat. He didn't feel remorse on his mother's funeral, not because he loathed his mother, but because he was annoyed by the heat. The physical scenario plays more of an influence on human actions, than human nature itself.

Finally in the theme of Death, Meursault follows an existentialist view point. He believes that death is inevitable. May it have be "today.Or maybe yesterday",(9), or even by 1 shot or 5 or "read out at eight o'clock rather than at five o' clock...decided upon by men who change their underwear...credited to so vague an entity as the French(or German, or Chinese) people", death was still death. It was the inevitable end and Meursault realized this near the end of his death, in his time in prison after the trial.

In summation the existentialist have no authority. They are not controlled by either institutions of social manner and faith and they believe that the actions they decided to do are the only significant influence on their lives and current scenario. Death to them is an inevitability and the only thing that matters is the physical world, such as the heat, and not human nature.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Symbols and Motifs

Motifs

='a recurring subject, theme or idea' (www.dictionary.com)

Observation:

It appears that Meursault is constantly observing what is going on. Observation is a motif because it reflects the absurdity of life- how life is meaningless. Thus, the observation could symbolize that humans are in everlasting search to find purpose. This also displays Camus' absurdist philosophy that highlights the importance of the physical universe that does not have much significance. 

There is a juxtaposition that contrasts two major scenes:Meursault observing from his balcony and people observing Meursault in the courtroom. When Meursault is watching people on the street from his balcony, he is passive as he makes no judgments. On the contrary, the atmosphere in the courtroom is exactly the opposite and people are very judging about Meursault due to the facts that were revealed about him. Therefore observation is a significant motif that portrays that humans in general are in search for purpose. 

Death:

A recurrent motif in the novel is death. At the beginning of the novel the reader is presented with the funeral of Meursault’s mother. Meursault is emotionless and what bother him the most are the heat and the sleepiness whilst society believes that he should be in grief. Another example of death is the one of the Arab, which the society believes that he should regret his crime and yet again he only feels “annoyance about it”. Finally the idea of death is shown once again in the final chapter, where the chaplain tries to convince Meursault that there is a God and an afterlife, “In that case, God would help you”,while Meursault believes the complete contrary.  In all the examples where death was present Meursault acts against the way in which society would want him to act. This motif has great significance as it allows the reader to understand what kind of character Meursault is and how he acts against the conventional manner that is imposed by society.


Symbols

Salamano’s dog:

Salamano’s dog is a prominent symbol which helps convey the society’s perspectives. The dog symbolizes Meursault in the way that they are both unique and are ostracized by the surrounding people. The dog is peculiar to other breeds because it has a skin infection called ‘mange’, which makes all of its hair fall out and forms brown blotches all over the body. Not only is this dog physically different, but also is distinctive because of the poor treatment that is given by Salamano, which causes him to be in constant fear.  Similarly Meursault is deemed different due to the indifference and lack of ambitions. Even at his mother’s funeral he shows neither grief nor affection. Instead, he “wasn’t sleepy, but was tired”, and he was irritated by the silence. Nevertheless, he replies to his boss saying, ”About Sixty,” when he asked of Meursault’s mother’s age which verifies that he does not know much about his own mother and that he is peculiarly different. In addition, the dog could foreshadow Meursault in a sense that they both disappear from the society. The reason why the dog ran away is unspecified, however we do know that no one has seen the dog ever since. Likewise, Meursault vanishes from the society because he receives a death sentence for being responsible of the murder, which erases his presence physically from the eyes of the society.  Perhaps both the dog and Meursault ‘vanished’ from the society because neither of them could adapt in the society. 


The sun & heat:

The sun is a significant symbol in the book as it is referred in the end of part 1, which is the climax of the novel. It is the sun that made Meursault commit the crime: “ All I could feel were the cymbals the sun was clashing against my forehead” which conveys the intensity of the sunlight. The sun and heat could symbolize the pressure in society since in the beginning of the novel it is the heat that annoys Meursault in the procession of his mother’s funeral rather than the actual fact that he is burying his mother. The sun and heat representing the pressure of society would explain why Meursault is always bothered by it. 

Here Camus is telling the reader how someone who behaves differently from the conventional manner imposed by society will be pressured to change his values and the way he behaves into a more "acceptable" one.

The Chaplain:

The Chaplain signifies Christianity. At the end of the novel the Chaplain offers a chance for salvation "God would help you". The fact that Meursault refuses to do so is viewed as peculiar from the reader. From this the reader can understand that Christianity signifies rational order and something that all society has to follow, and since Meursault refuses to do so he is deemed as irrational and is condemned as an "outsider" to the society. Therefore, Camus conveys a message that anything the society views peculiar is a threat to the society. 


Absurdity

Definition---> completely illogical or ridiculous

In the novel Albert Camus exposes different types of absurdities, these being the absurdity in Meursault's character and the trial. Throughout the book the readers are revealed to Meursault's strangeness and so he is seen as a rather "weird" person. After the murder of the Arab the trial can be seen as rather absurd since it is mainly being based on the fact that he didn't cry at his mother's funeral and also for being absolutely honest.


Absurdity in Character

At the Funeral:
Meursault's absurdity is expressed throughout the whole novel, this is first shown at the funeral of his mother where he refuses to see his mothers body. At first readers think of it as being understandable, however when the caretaker asks him 'Why not?' (12) it makes the readers consider the abnormality of not wanting to see his mother's body. At this point the caretakers reaction of the situation helps express the absurdity of Meursault. This though does not make the readers think of Meursault as bizzare but later on when he expresses his interest of the effect of the humidity and heat on the rate of decay on his mothers body instead of mourning, it makes readers speculate him as somewhat odd. 

At Home:
When Meursault gets back home after the funeral he does not do much, he rather spends the day alone. He is revealed as an observer because he spends his afternoon on his balcony watching the streets. This shows how he is curious but at the same time "stalkerish": 

"First of all it was families out for a walk, two little boys in sailor suits, with the trousers below their knees, looking a bit cramped in their stiff clothes, and a little girl with a big pink bow and black patent leather shoes. Behind them the mother, and enormous woman in a brown silk dress, and the father, a small, rather frail man whom I know by sight." (24)

Meursault does not believe his actions are absurd since he thinks of his day as a "typical Sunday" (26) while the readers think of him as rather awkward. Readers at first don't think much of it however further on in the novel when his obsession of curiosity is a reoccurring motif he is seen as crossing the limit of observing. This is when he is having lunch at Céleste and a woman sits across from him, he is rather surprised but after h watches her eat. When she finishes he decides to follow her until he looses sight of her, this is when it is a shock for the readers and he is seen as someone who is curious but out of the ordinary. However it is ironic because after losing sight of her he thinks to himself; "I thought how peculiar she was, but I fairly soon forgot about her,"(46) and this represents him as being even more abnormal. Meursault chooses to live as honest as he wishes and therefore stalking to him seems normal.

The Heat:
During the novel heat is very important because it always seems to intervene with his actions. It makes him easily irritated, for example he doesn't fancy Marie in the sun, he kills the Arab in the sun and on the eve of his death he realizes he has been happy. This not only shows how easily annoyed he gets but the impact of the sun on him. This is also presented further on in the novel when the room Meursault and the magistrate are talking in gets warmer and warmer and Meursault gets irritated and "snaps" at the magistrate for talking about God (68) and insisting him in having faith in God.

Outsider:
Meursault always feels as if he is watching and not doing the actions. For example, when he shoots the Arab he feels as if he watched himself shoot him instead of actually shooting him. This is also shown as previously discussed when he is on his balcony watching people on the streets and when he doesn't get a police officer because he wants to see what Raymond is doing to his mistress. All his unusual actions make him a very absurd and "weird" person and separate him from our society.

His Conclusions: 
"As if this great outburst of anger had purged all my ills, killed all my hopes, I looked up at the mass of signs and stars in the nightsky and laid myself open for the first time to the benign indifferent of the world. And finding it so much like myself, in fact so fraternal, I realized that I'd been happy, and that I was still happy." (117)
At the end of the novel Meursault analyzes his life and concludes that he lives in a life of no meaning and no hope. He realizes of his absurd position in society, how he was an "outsider", but he mentions how even so he had been happy of his life. 
 
Absurdity of the Trial
When Meursault is arrested he is asked if he had chosen a lawyer and when he confesses that he didn't and he doesn't need one because his case was simple the examining magistrate answers by saying:

"'That's your opinion. But this is the law. If you don't choose a lawyer yourself, we'll appoint one for you automatically.' I thought it most convenient that the legal system should take care of such details. I told him so. He agreed and said it showed how well the law worked." (63)

It is ironic that the examining magistrate says that the law works well because during the trial readers are shown the absurdity of the situation. The trial is centered on his mother, he is asked why he had sent her to an old home, and why he hadn't cried at her funeral. It would have been alright if the court had addressed the topic for background and possible motifs for him killing the Arab. However, instead of the court questioning him for killing the Arab, it revolves around his actions at his mothers funeral. Meursault chooses not to force himself to cry at his mothers funeral and so he is being punished for his actions. So Meursault gets sentenced to death for not following society's unspoken rules.

Important Quotes [PART 1]

THE OUTSIDER by Albert Camus
Important Quotes Explained: PART 1


Chapter 1


Quote: “Mother died today. Or maybe yesterday, I don’t know.” (pg 9)


Context: The day of Meursault’s mother’s death.


Explanation:This quote is the first sentence of the novel. This sudden opening to Meursault’s character tells the reader that it is very important to understand how Meursault is like. The main thing that is shown in this quote is that Meursault isn’t an ordinary character. He isn’t close to his mother and he lacks emotion to the fact that his mother has just died. When he says, “I don’t know”, to when his mother has died shows that he doesn’t care about the situation and that he just wants to get over what happened in the past.


Quote: “She said, ‘If we go slowly, you risk getting sun-stroke. But if you go too fast, you perspire and then in the church you catch a chill.’ She was right. There was no way out.” (Pg.22)


Context: When the nurse spoke to Meursault during the funeral procession.


Explanation:If you take what the nurse says literary, she is talking about how the hot weather during the funeral procession, but when Meursault says, ‘There was no way out”, reveals another meaning to what the nurse said. The hot sun is used to symbolize life and what the nurse said made Meursault think that life will always end by death and there is no way around that. This thought made Meursault think that you can have a slow or fast life but either way you will die in the end. This may suggest that Meursault thinks that there is no point in life.


Chapter 2



Quote: “It didn’t mean anything. In any case, you’re always partly to blame.” (Pg. 24)

· Context: Mersault says this when him and Marie Cordona are speaking about his mother, and he is about to say it wasn’t his fault but stopped himself

· Explanation: Rather than believing that the death was his own fault, he just believes that any death is always partly someone’s fault. This expresses his lack of sadness or guilt for his mother’s death, and the same indifference in his personality overall.


Quote: “I didn’t have lunch at Celeste’s as usual because I knew they’d ask me questions and I don’t like that” (Pg.25)

· Context: Mersault is trying to decide what to do on his free Sunday.

· Explanation: It seems that Mersault dislikes expressing emotions because this quote shows that Mersault tries to avoid ‘questions’ on his Mother’s death or anything that would make him have to talk about his feelings.

· Also, this quote is an example of Mersault always trying to justify his actions with a logical explanation, with the repetition of ‘because’. He does this many times in the book, for example:

o “I cooked myself some eggs and ate them out of the pan, without any bread because I’d run out and I didn’t feel like going down to buy some” (Pg.25)

o “I turned my chair around like the tobacconist’s because I found it more comfortable that way.”(Pg.26)


“I realized that I’d managed to get through another Sunday, that mother was now buried, that I was going to go back to work and that, after all, nothing had changed.” (Pg.28)

· Context: Mersault looks back at his Sunday as he comes back inside from his balcony and is about to go to bed.

· Explanation: This is a very strong quote, especially when he says, ‘nothing had changed’, even though his mother was now dead. This normality even though his mother died is very concerning to the reader – we wonder what kind of person he is or problem he has that would make him say this. It again emphasizes his lack of emotion and grief for his mother.


Chapter 3

Quote: “I told him that I hadn’t thought about it but it was interesting.” (Page 35)

· Context: After Raymond told him the different ideas of how he wanted to punish his mistress, he asks Meursault of his opinion.

· Explanation: The way Meursault replies to Raymond when he asks his opinion of how to punish Raymond’s mistress shows his indifference again to the problems of others. It also shows the peculiarity of Meursault’s character, because he has no strong reaction to what he has just been told and he finds it interesting. An ordinary person would not find different ways to punish someone interesting. Meursault’s reply also helps to demonstrate his bluntness and honesty.


Quote: “I wrote the letter. I did it rather haphazardly, but I did my best to please Raymond because I had no reason not to please him.” (Page 36)

· Context: Raymond asks Meursault to write a letter to his mistress for him, and he replies that he doesn’t mind doing it for him.

· Explanation: The fact that he doesn’t mind writing this letter for Raymond when he knows the reason for it which is to persuade Raymond’s mistress to return only so he can punish her by spitting in her face after going to bed with her, shows how he merely observes and does not interfere. He also replies quickly that he doesn’t mind writing the letter shows how he can be a pushover. Also his reason for wanting to please Raymond was not necessarily based on friendship or to gain anything, it was based on logic like most of his decisions. He doesn’t over think things he just does it, without emotionally involving himself in the situation.


CChapter 4

Quote: “I really fancied her because she was wearing a pretty red and white striped dress and leather sandals.” (pg 37)


Context: When Meursault met Marie on Saturday before going to the beach with her.


Explanation:The fact that Meursault likes Marie because of how she looks shows that Meursault lacks emotion and does things through logic and nature. Throughout the book he mentions that he fancies her through observations such as what she’s wearing, when she smiles, and her breasts. His relationship with Marie to him is completely sexual and lacks emotion, showing that he can have the same relationship with a woman as long as she looks good. He doesn’t really care about ones personality.


Quote: “A minute later she asked me if I loved her. I told her that it didn’t mean anything but that I didn’t think so.” (pg 38)


Context: The morning after Meursault and Marie made love when they came back from the beach.


Explanation:This quote shows how Meursault lacks a great deal of emotion. He believes that there is meaning to love. When Meursault says, “It didn’t mean anything”, tell the reader that he doesn’t understand love. In fact Meursault doesn’t comprehend any emotion because he doesn’t feel them.



Quote: “Marie said it was terrible and I didn’t say anything. She asked me to go and fetch a policeman, but I told her that I didn’t like policemen.” (pg 38)


Context: After Meursault and Marie heard the woman screaming and yelling while Raymond was hitting her.


Explanation: The contrast between Marie and Meursaults reaction to the screaming of the woman shows how Meursault is very different from the others in the society. How Meursault doesn’t react much shows how he doesn’t feel any negative emotions in the situation. When Marie refuses to get the police, it tells the reader that Meursault wants to avoid any trouble and he doesn’t want to get involved to complicate his life.



Chapter 5

Quote: “I wanted to hang up straight away because I know my boss doesn’t like people ringing s up from town.” (Pg.43)

· Context: Raymond phones Mersault in the office, and invites him and Marie to his chalet outside Algiers. He also mentions that he had been followed by a group of Arabs and asks Mersault to warn him if he sees any Arab near his house.

· Explanation: The quote shows that Mersault is a hard worker when it comes to work, and works diligently to please his boss. It extends to his overall personality of wanting to please people and do a thorough job, whatever he did. When Raymond asks him on this phone call to warn him if an Arab is near his house, Mersault says yes without questioning anything. This demonstrates his ‘people pleaser’ personality where he can’t say no.


Quote: “I said yes but I really didn’t mind. He then asked me if I wasn’t interested in changing my life. I replied that you could never change your life, that in any case one life was a good as another and that I wasn’t at all dissatisfied wit mine here.” (Pg.44)

Context: The boss announced to Mersault that he wanted to give him a promotion, to work in Paris. He says, ‘You’re a young man, and I imagine that sort of life must appeal to you”

Explanation: This shows that Mersault is different from an average young man, in the fact that he lacks ambition and, in this example, ‘doesn’t mind’ in an exciting life in Paris. This quote also shows that he likes his simple life the way it is, but with his ‘anything goes’ personality he doesn’t mind going. In addition, he says that even with small changes life is always the same. He also thinks that ‘one life is as good as another’, and believes in the equality of life. This quote is also significant as it is one of the rare times he talks about the future.


Quote: “That evening, Marie came round for me and asked me if I wanted to marry her. I said I didn’t mind and we could if she wanted to. She then wanted to know if I loved her. I replied as I had dome once already, that it didn’t mean anything but that I probably didn’t” (Pg.44)

Context: basically explained in the quote J

Explanation: The fact that he answers this important question so honestly and bluntly shows his lack of emotion. It also shows that he doesn’t understand what love is, or any kind of emotion for that matter. It again shows that he is not a normal person. He doesn’t think marriage is a serious matter and thinks it’s just ‘another thing to do’. It expresses his personality in terms ignorance, detachment, and honesty.


Chapter 6

Quote: “He hasn’t said anything to you yet. It’d be unfair to shoot just like that.” (Page 57)

· Context: When Raymond and Meursault see the Arabs again after the first fight, Raymond is ready to shoot the Arabs but Meursault convinces Raymond not to shoot until provoked, as it would be unfair.

· Explanation: This quote demonstrates the logical thinking of Meursault once again. Another example of Meursault’s logical thinking is when he tell Raymond, “if the other one intervenes, or if he draws his knife, I’ll let him have it”. This shows how Meursault is rational in his thinking, but at the same time indifferent to the situation. He doesn’t care if he might have to shoot another person or not, if it happens, it happens.


Quote: “It annoyed me to have to explain things to them” (Page 56)

· Context: After the men get into a fight with the Arabs , Raymond needs to be taken to the doctor and Meursault has to stay and explain to the women what has happened, but he doesn’t want to.

· Explanation: After an important event has happened, Meursault doesn’t want to explain it to the women, and is annoyed at the fact that he has to. This shows again how he never involves himself emotionally to situations. Not necessarily showing that he a cold person but detached, even with his own mother.


Quote: “I’d realized that I’d destroyed the balance of the day and the perfect silence of this beach where I’d been happy” (Page 60)

· Context: Meursault has just shot and killed the Arab.

· Explanation: This is a very strange reflection to have after just killing someone. He does not regret it or panic, but is disappointed that he has just ruined the mood of the day. He does not understand the significance of what he has just done. This shows an important attribute of Meursault, as it demonstrates that he lacks emotion and the importance of life. Emotions, family, friends and even himself do not matter to him.


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