The Outsider- Is Meursaults Life Absurd

1100 Words5 Pages
Camus is deservedly more famous for his novels, where many of his philosophical ideas are worked out in a more subtle and more engaging manner than in his essays. He wrote The Stranger (also translated as The Outsider) around the same time as The Myth of Sisyphus, and the two books in many ways parallel one another. The Myth of Sisyphus can be read as an attempt to clarify and to make explicit the worldview expressed in The Stranger, and The Stranger can be read as an example of the absurd hero and the absurd fiction described in The Myth of Sisyphus. The Stranger tells the story of Meursault, who lives for the sensual pleasures of the present moment, free of any system of values. Rather than behave in accordance with social norms, Meursault tries to live as honestly as he can, doing what he wants to do and befriending those whom he likes. He also refuses to simulate feelings that he does not possess, and thus he does not force himself to cry at his mother's funeral or to mourn her death too deeply. A series of events leads to the climactic moment when Meursault haphazardly murders an Arab on the beach. The subsequent trial condemns him not so much for the murder as for his lack of commitment to the unspoken rules of society. Most of the philosophical content of the novel comes near the end, where Meursault sits in his cell awaiting his execution, and particularly in a heated exchange between Meursault and the prison chaplain who tries to convert him to Christianity. Meursault rejects the chaplain's entreaties, telling him that he has no interest in God or anything otherworldly. He wants to live with the certainties of this life, even if his only certainty is the death that awaits him. Meursault is an absurd hero both on a figurative and on a literal level. On a figurative level, Meursault, condemned to death and awaiting execution, is a metaphor for the
Open Document