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Camus' Absurdist ideas in 'The Stranger'

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Lucy Wardle

on 18 February 2014

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Transcript of Camus' Absurdist ideas in 'The Stranger'

Absurdist ideas in 'The Stranger'
The Stranger
In ‘The Stranger’ by Albert Camus, Camus includes his philosophy of the absurd through the main character Meursault. The main theme of the novel is that the significance of human life is only understood at the point of death. One of Camus' main philosophical beliefs was that only when facing the possibility of death, does a person obtain an accurate perception of life.
Absurdism in 'The Stranger'
Camus first introduced his philosophy of the absurd in his book 'The Myth of Sisyphus' where he discusses man's unsuccessful search for meaning, unity, and clarity in our world.

In the novel he expresses his theory that humanity lives in a world that will always be indifferent towards them.

In a world devoid of God and any truths or values, is suicide the only option we have left?

Absurdist ideas are included in many of his novels like 'The Stranger' (1942), 'The Rebel' (1951) and 'The Plague' (1947.)

These themes are also included in his plays like 'The Misunderstanding' (1942), 'Caligula' (1944), and especially in his essay 'The Rebel' (1951).
The first example of absurdism is Meursault's relationship with his mother.

From the first line
"Maman died today"
Camus suggests that Meursault cares little for his mother.
Whereas at the end we see that actually Meursault does love his mother when he says
"For the first time I thought about Maman. I felt as if I understood why at the end of her life she had taken a 'fiancé,' why she had played at beginning again."
The lack of emotion towards the death of his mother is an idea based on one of Camus' absurdist ideas of

meaningless of human life.
Meursault faces the matter with moral indifference showing how he excludes himself from society.
Examples of absurdist ideas in 'The Stranger'
Examples of absurdist ideas in 'The Stranger'
Another example of absurdism is Meursault's attitude to sleep.

One of Meursault's favourite hobbies is to sleep. He sleeps slumped against the solider and sleeps in his prison cell.
He says
"It was probably because of all the rushing around, and on top of that the bumpy ride, the smell of gasoline, and the glare of the sky and road, that I dozed off."
This is based on Camus' absurdist idea of
the importance of the physical world.
Despite excluding himself from society, the physical aspects in Meursault's life still affect him.
Examples of absurdist ideas in 'The Stranger'
Another example of absurdism is Meursault's ability to obtain happiness once he kills the Arab.

Meursault follows the same daily routine everyday but shows no real enthusiasm for it. He is only able to obtain true happiness when he kills the Arab and realises that everyone lives and everyone dies and will have no further importance after that.
When he is in his prison cell, he looks up at the stars and
"opens himself to the gentle indifference of the world."
Camus incorporated one of his absurdist ideas of
the irrationality of the universe
in this sentence showing that no internal or external thoughts of his, have any logic or reason.
Camus and absurdism
Literary techniques linked with Absurdism in 'The Stranger'
In conclusion, Camus wrote the book about the significance of human life being truly understood only when facing death. Meursault looks back and realises the importance his life had. Now that he knows it will end, instead of feeling regret, he welcomes it as the start of a new beginning. He feels free because he realises that all human actions are absurd and so the real purpose to these actions is to be aware of death and to accept it. Camus suggests that when finally Meursault faces death, he obtains the accurate perception of life, confirming Camus' own absurdist ideology.
'The Stranger' by Albert Camus
A book that implies moral orders have no rational or natural basis. Camus includes themes based on his absurdist ideas through the eyes of Meursault.

Begins with the death of his mother which he is unaffected by because it makes no difference to his own life. Death has no great meaning or importance to him.

On the beach he sees no significance of human existence. He sees the same outcome whether he shoots the gun or not because the loss of the Arab's life makes no difference to the universe.

In his prison cell he accepts death because he knows he will die. At this realisation he considers the possibility of freedom after death. Camus' main theme in 'The Stranger' is finally shown when Meursault sees the value of facing death. Then and only then is he able to open himself to the "gentle indifference of the universe."
Literary techniques linked with Absurdism in 'The Stranger'
is a form of low comedy based on a farfetched situation.
Shown in the courtroom when the judge asks unrelated questions about Meursault's mother.
The witnesses are unhelpful and talk only about Meursault's mother and his lack of feelings towards her at her funeral.
Raymond unknowingly gives Meursault a motive for murder instead of defending him.

Meursault finds himself imagining a scenario for himself where he sees his own trial and verdict of execution. He imagines his own absurd downfall as if feels he deserves it.
is when two ideas that are contradictory to one another are placed together and are made significant.
Shown when Meursault is only able to obtain true happiness once he has been sentenced to death.
Death is his freedom.

Camus' theory of the meaningless of human life is shown when he realises that whatever happens, you live and die. He is finally content and welcomes death.
Absurdism and examples
Absurdism refers to humanity's need to look for a meaning to life and their inability to find one.
Absurdism was later reborn in a European existentialist movement, first recognised when the French Algerian philosopher and writer, Albert Camus, rejected certain aspects of it and published his own beliefs in 'The Myth of Sisyphus.'
Camus always said that the good times people have in life are what make it worth living. It is from this that they make a meaning to their own lives. Camus insisted that, although people are entitled to invent objectives for themselves to strive for, they must not lose sight of the absurd and their need for meaning to their lives.
For example Meursault takes great pleasure in the enjoyable moments of his life like cigarettes, coffee, swimming and Marie.
Camus introduced the theory of "acceptance without resignation" which, in his opinion, is the closest to freedom that we will get. His belief is that without a higher meaning we can only be truly free if we accept the absurd.
For example Meursault finally accepts the absurd lying in his prison cell and feels more free than he ever did before.
To absurdists, hope is just another way to avoid the belief in the absurd. Camus emphasised that not believing in any gods or higher powers and just being content with what we have, allows us to really live our lives to the fullest they can possibly be.
For example Meursault rejects the Chaplain and therefore religion when he comes to visit him as he refuses to believe there is a higher power. He neither wants nor hopes for any higher meaning now that he has accepted the absurd.
From an absurdist like Camus' point of view, the divide between right and wrong is often extremely flexible. Meaning sometimes things do not appear to be right
wrong as there is not a sense of either.
For example at the climax where Meursault is facing the Arab, gun in hand, he has no sense of right or wrong as he sees the same result whether he pulls the trigger or not.
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