Wednesday, April 22, 2009


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

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". 

No comments:

Post a Comment

Copyright © 2009 ib world literature. All rights reserved. Theme by Laptop Geek. | Bloggerized by FalconHive.