Thursday, April 3
Camus uses the lack of emotion, then the explosion of emotion of his character Mersault to explore the importance, or rather lack of importance, of finding a meaning in life. Camus had some interesting views on life and was quoted as saying “For if there is a sin against life, it consists perhaps not so much in despairing of life as in hoping for another life and in eluding the implacable grandeur of this life.”(Camus). This quotation shows one of the view that Camus was trying to express in his writing of The Stranger. This view is that trying to explain the awesome nature of the universe is a sin. Mersault is a character that is used to express Camus’s ideas, rather than a mirror of a true person in his lack of emotion, and eventual overload of emotion. The first passage takes place after Mersault murders the Arab, and after he is questioned by the police. He is now being questioned by the magistrate. The magistrate was curious why Mersault “hesitated before,”(68) he fired his “second shot,”(68). Mersault believed that the magistrate was “wrong to dwell on it, because it really didn’t matter,”(69) which suggests that Mersault didn’t have a higher purpose of firing the shots. The bigger picture in Mersault’s case was that Mersault felt like he “was the criminal,”(68). He didn’t feel any need to repent like “a man must repent,”(68) to the magistrate’s God because it was “ridiculous,”(68). The magistrate asked Mersault if he “believed in God,”(69), but Mersault “said no”(69). Mersault didn’t see a purpose in repenting, because he knew he was guilty. He saw the magistrates belief was so strong that “if he were ever to doubt it, his life would become meaningless,”(68). Mersault the magistrate’s meaning in life came from his belief in God, and his relationship with God. Mersault didn’t want anything to do with the magistrate’s view and belief in God. Therefore Mersault was trying to stay away from finding any higher meaning in life. The magistrate even goes as far as to ask if Mersault wanted his “life to be meaningless,”(69) to which Mersault said “it didn’t’ have anything to do with him,”(69). Mersault is literally saying that the magistrate’s building up of emotion had nothing to do with Mersault, himself. Camus wrote this exchange in such a way that suggests the magistrate quest for a meaning had nothing to do with him, and thus meaning had nothing to do with Mersault. As the magistrate grows in expressing his meaning, Mersault reacts by being less involved. The magistrate grew to “screaming irrationaly,”(69), which Mersault responded by being even more removed from the conversation by “not really listening to,”(69) to the magistrate. Mersault even became complacent and “made it appear as if,”(69) he “agreed,”(69). He became more and more removed from the magistrate. The magistrate is an official from the court. The court is part of government, and government is often to used to represent the established rules and laws. The magistrate is very religious. As the magistrate, which is the culmination of the established laws and religious views at this point in the book, becomes more intense Mersault became more removed. Mersault removes himself from the established belief of religion. Religion is the search and ,arguably, the science of a higher purpose. The character Camus created kept removing himself from the concept of religion. This continued until finally the magistrate “fell back into his chair,”(69) and this representation of religion and order removed itself from Mersault. During this whole exchange Mersault remained emotionless , as he did through most of the book, until he came across an actual deliverer of this religion and bigger purpose of life. The only emotion that Mersault shows is in front of a religious man. There is also a figurative “tying of a bow” in having Mersault connections with religion be the place he was originally sentenced and the moments before that sentence would be carried out. There is also a opposite reaction the second time. Mersault goes from no emotion to being so emotional that “the guards were threatening,”(122) him. The outburst of emotion that Mersault expresses is created by Camus in order for Mersault to help him create his message of the unimportance of a higher purpose. This passage take place when Mersault is visited by the chaplain on the eve of his execution. Most prisoners used this time with the chaplain to repent and find a place in their God’s heaven. Mersault however chooses another route. The chaplain is trying to convince him to repent, but Mersault “started yelling at the top,”(120) of his “his lungs,”(120). Although, he doesn’t “know why,”(120) something “snapped,”(120). This inability for Mersault to even know why he reacts the way he does shows that Camus didn’t want Mersault to have a higher meaning in what he was about to say. Camus wants Mersault to be a character without a higher meaning. Mersault doesn’t want the chaplain to “waste his prayers,”(120) because they would be in vain because Mersault believes there isn’t a place that they go to, or even if there is he didn’t believe in it. There was no higher purpose to Mersault. Mersault thought that none of the chaplain’s “certainties was worth on hair of a woman’s head,”(120) because there wasn’t any evidence of his God, yet the chaplain believed in him so strongly. Mersault even goes as far as to say the chaplain was “living like a dead man,”(120) which suggest that dedicated your life to a spreading a higher meaning in life made you no better than a corpse. The next part of the passage Mersault becomes more introverted about what he was feeling. He begins to realize his fate, and understand that he is soon to become a dead man and in some people’s eyes become “emptyhanded,”(120). He however saw the bright side in having a “hold on it as it had a hold on,”(120-121) him. He enjoyed the fact that he could grasp the fact he was going to die, and that he was “sure of his life,”(120). He didn’t live for a bigger purpose. He lived for the here and now. He also says that “nothing, nothing mattered,”(121) in life because there is no greater purpose or meaning in life. We all should go about life doing what we want to do, not live by some father figure telling us how to live, like we find in religion. This large moment finally comes in the presence of a religious person shows that the concept of religion is important to the story. Religion is one of the many ways people attempt to find meaning in this life. Camus uses Mersault to suggest that there is no meaning in life, especially though an organized religion. The more religion pushed toward Mersault, the less he paid attention and accepted it. Mersault felt there was no meaning in life other than the physical needs of the moment.