Existentialism

In the stranger, Camus uses Mersaults’ experiences such as his mothers’ death,
killing the Arab, the trial, and his interaction with other characters
throughout the novel to convey his philosophy, which satisfies all principals of
existentialism. The existentialism idle proposes that man is full of anxiety and
despair with no meaning in his life, just simple existing, until he’s made a
decisive being. To convey his existentialism philosophy, Camus use the death of
Mersaults’, mother in the beginning of the novel. On the first page, Mersault is
more concerned about the time of his mothers’ death, and not the fact that he
had recently lost a loved one. This shows that Mersault felt that there is no
reason to mourn for his mothers’ death, and also conveys the existentialist idea
that reason is powerless to the idea with the depths of human life. The fact
that Mersault shows no compassion ultimately conveys Camus’ philosophy. Also, at
Mersaults’ mothers funeral Mersault does not cry or behave the way that society
expects him to act. This is because Mersault is an existentialist, and does not
act in the appropriate manner in which society expects, which makes him a
stranger from the people around him. The murder of the Arab is clearly the
central event of the novel, therefore, Camus placed it right in the middle of
the book. This violent crime interrupts the routine of the story. It is the last
incident recounted in part one, so its importance is underscored by a structural
break in the story. It is related in one of the longer chapters, which records
in fine detail the events of the day, even when their relevance is not an
obvious for example, several paragraphs are devoted to describing how Marie and
Mersault frolic in the sea. The murder marks an obvious change in Mersaults’
life, from free man to prisoner, and more subtle associated changes, such as his
increasing introspection and concern with memory. Mersault himself describes the
shooting in terms that emphasize both the destruction of a past and the start of
something new: “and there, in that noise, sharp and deafening at the same
time, is where it all started’ I shook off the sweat and the sun. I know that
I had shattered the harmony of the day, the exception silence of a beach where
I’d been happy.”(pg. 59) Until the murder, nothing very dramatic has
happened and nothing dramatic seems likely to happen. Partly, of course, this
air of normality results from the way Mersault tells the story. His mothers’
death could have been a momentous event, but he begins the novel with the
statement: “Mother died today. Or maybe yesterday, I don’t know”.(pg.


1) The tone and the uncertainty combine to make us feel that this is not a
significant event. Mersault agreeing to marry Marie, could have been presented
as a turning point in his life; however he relates their engagement as if it
were a routine decision: “That evening Marie came by to see me and asked me
if I wanted to marry her. I said it didn’t make much difference to me and that
we could if she wanted to” Mersault expresses very much the same attitude
toward the murder as he has previously; his actions have no conscious motives.

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In the event leading up to the point when Mersault kills the Arab, the heat,
sun, and the light begins to affect him more and more, at which point his
sensual feeling overwhelms him and causes him to pull the trigger and kill the
Arab. I was walking slowly towards the rocks and I could feel my forehead
swelling under the sun. All that heat was pressing down on me and making it hard
for me to go on… But the whole beach, throbbing in the sun, was pressing on my
back…The sun was the same as it had been the day I’d buried Maman, and like
then, my forehead especially was hurting me. ( pg. 57-58) This part of the novel
shows how Mersault is a stranger from nature, in the way that for the first time
the sun and his sensual pleasures begin to act against him, and cause him to
lose control. During the trial, Camus begins to ridicule the legal system, and
make apparent the fact that Mersault is truly an outsider. Camus does this by
making Mersault feel out of place at has trial; also by showing that Mersaults’
case is rushed, due to the fact that there is an exciting parricide case next.


All throughout the trial the prosecutors try to make a case that, because
Mersault did not cry at his mothers’ funeral, he was guilty. The distortion is
that society believes that if you don’t cry or show grief in some outward way,
you have no soul. The prosecutor in his closing arguments says that: But here in
the wholly negative virtue of tolerance must give way to the sterner but loftier
virtue of justice. Especially when emptiness of a man’s heart becomes, as we
find it has in this man, an abyss threatening to swallow up society. (Pg.101) As
if to say that the murder of the Arab was a direct result of the fact that he
did not cry at his mothers’ funeral. Society has distorted the facts of the
case, he is actually being tried for the fact that he did not cry at his
mothers’ funeral rather than the actual crime at hand. This reveals Camus’
philosophy by making Mersault a stranger from society, and the legal system.


During the time in which Mersault is imprisoned, he begins to feel as though he
is unable to accept death and wants to escape the inevitable. This is how Camus
uses Mersault to explain other principles of existentialism, which is fear,
anxiety, and angst. The reason that Mersault feels this way is that he’s denied
everything in prison and has nothing to deal with but himself, which makes him
able to consider what is doing to happen to him. In the novel, Mersault deals
with people such as his friends or acquaintances that were not readily accepted
in the society of that time. When Salomano comes to talk to Mersault about his
dog, instead of being compassionate and consoling the old man, Mersault tells
him that the pound keeps the dogs for a few days until it is put down. This
shows that Mersault feels no reason to lie to Salamano or tell him something to
comfort him; Mersault does not feel pity for the old man. This is also an
existentialist viewpoint in the way that Mersault has no need to conform to
society how most people would. In conclusion, Camus writes the novel in order to
explain the absurdities of life, with the actions of Mersault to portray his
existentialist beliefs. By showing that Mersault goes against everything that is
defined as appropriate in society, Camus has managed to do well enough that one
who did not have much knowledge about existentialist may gain an insight of what
it is, and the belief that an existentialist has.

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