The Demonstration of Existentialism in Albert Camus’ Novel “The Stranger”

Existentialism is defined as a philosophical attitude that stresses the individuals unique position as a self-determining agent responsible for the authenticity of his or her choices. This philosophy goes against other philosophical attitudes, including rationalism and empiricism. where decisions are based upon prior knowledge. The one thing that existentialists believe is inevitable In life is death. In the novel The Stranger. by Albert Camus. the protagonist, Meursault. lives a passive lifestyle where he chooses not to make decisions. However. when Meursualt is faced with the ineVItable. he begins to have emotion and passion. As the novel progresses. Meursualt makes a transition and begins to think like an existentialist. At the beginning of the novel. Meursualt chooses to have his life live him instead of living his own life. This is clearly illustrated by Meursualts weekly Sunday. On Sundays Meursault does not have work and is therefore not told what to do.

Instead of making decisions and enjoying his day off. Meursault does nothing with the opportunity of free choice and simply disassociates himself from society. Meursault sits at his window and observes the citizens in his community. He uses his senses to describe the exact physical setting. He even notices small. minor details like a little girls big pink bow and her black patent leather shoes. He can determine where people have been based on their attitude and facial expression. The young men among [the moviegoers] were gesturing more excitedly than usual and [Meursault] thought they must have seen an adventure film (23). This quote not only depicts the accuracy of Merusualts observances. but also depicts his experience with these Observances proVing that this is a usual Sunday for him. By the end of the day Meursault is happy for a new week in his life to start and begin. He says.

It occurred to [him] that anyway one more Sunday was over. that Maman was buried now. that [he] was going back to work. and that. really. nothing had changed (24). Although a death in the family could be the most important and monumental moment in everyones life, Meursault does not seem phased by his mothers death All Meursault thinks about is how another week in his life is over when in reality he is now a week closer to death and he has done nothing with his life. Meursaults Sunday clearly illustrates his passive lifestyle void of responsibilities and feelings. Later in the novel. Meursault makes a decision but does not understand the consequences of his action. When Meursault went to the beach to Visit Raymonds friend. Masson. Meursault decides to murder an Arab man. After Meursault and Raymond already ran into the Arabs once. Meursault decides to walk back to the Arabs shaded area and kill him, It occurred to [Meursault] that all [he] had to do was turn around and that that would be the end of it (58). However. Meursault could not turn around because he already made his decision.

He has no angst and does not see the difference between shooting and not shooting when really it is one persons life that he is taking away. Meursault finds the burning heat causing him to move closer and closer to the Arab, As he gets closer the sweat in [his] eyebrows dripped down over [his] eyelids and covered his eyes (59). This film of sweat shows how mentally his whole mind is being blinded and how it causes him to not think. The first time Meursault shoots the Arab he claims the trigger gave and is not ready to live up to his decision (59). However. then [he] fired four more times at the motionless body And it was like knocking four quick times on the door of unhappiness (59). At this point. Meursault admits that he was the one who fired the gun and finally understands that there will be consequences. He confesses that prior to this he was happy and knows that that Will change.

This point in the novel marks the start of Meursaults real life. Prior to this mcrdent. Meursault plainly existed. He did not make any decisions for himself and lived a passive lifestyle. After this incident. Meursaults life will change. At the end of the novel. Meursaults character finally develops causing him to have emotions and passions. After Meursaults trail. he is sentenced to death by a guillotine. As Meursault first starts to think about his execution. he tries to think of ways to escape the inevitable. However. he soon begins to think existentially. Whether it was now or twenty years from now. [he] would still be the one dying (114). He realizes that it does not matter what day he dies or how he dies because he is going to die one day anyway. He also realizes that in the end it does not matter how you live your life or what decisions you make because you are ultimately going to die. His feelings come out when the Chaplin comes to Visit him in his cell.

Whenever the guards asked Meursault if he would like to see the Chaplin he always refuses. When the Chaplin went to Meursaults cell [he] was expressrng his certainty that [Meursaults] appeal would be granted. but [Meursault] was carrying the burden of a sin from which [he] had to free [himself] (118). Meursault cannot make an appeal because he knows he is the only one who can free him from his sin, not God. He finally realizes he has committed a sin and is now living With the guilt associated With that sin. When the Chaplin continues to try and talk to Meursault about God, Meursault snaps. He wants to try and make the best of the rest of his life and he feels the Chaplin is intruding.

Meursault goes crazy and [he] started yelling at the top of [his] lung [he] was pouring out on [the Chaplin] everything that was in [his] heart, cries of anger and cries of joy (120). This reaction ponrays how the Chaplin causes Meursault to finally have emotion and passion. Although at the end of the novel, this is a ma]or turning point for Meursault. Before Meursault was Viewed as a stranger that could not fit into society because he was void of emotion Finally, we see Meursault as havtng feelings and choosing not to be a passwe bystander. Many view The Stranger as an existential novel due to the choices Meursault makes in life. As the novel progresses, Meursault gradually begins to live a less passive lifestyle which causes him to have feelings. At the beginning of the novel Meursault did not fit into society. rather he observed society from afar. Once Meursault makes a life changing decision, he is forced to think about the ineVItable and begins to view life more existentially.

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