'the Stranger' and the Absurd

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The Stranger is heavily rooted in philosopher Albert Camus’ theory of the absurd: the notion that human life has no definable purpose, and while the pursuit of an intrinsic meaning to life and the universe holds value, it will inevitably prove futile. Meursault, Camus’ protagonist, lives his life according to these tenets, however unwittingly, and for the majority of the novel reacts only to concrete, sensory things, showing neither understanding nor interest in more abstract societal constructs. Grief, guilt, passion and morality are foreign concepts to Meursault, but it is only through the prospect of impending death that he realizes that he lives in a separate world from the rest of society, where his perceptions and beliefs about the meaning of life are not scorned and decried. In his world, the arbitrary nature of life is something just as beautiful as a life with divine significance. The benign apathy exhibited in the novel’s first lines is an early indicator of the course of Meursault's character; after reading the telegraph, his first reaction is not one of sadness or remorse or pain, but of stark pragmatism. After reading of her impending funeral, Meursault declares, “That doesn’t mean anything,” since the telegram could have been sent any day (pg. 3). There’s no indication of his reaction to the death, only to the potential futility of trying to attend her funeral when it may have already occurred. Meursault doesn’t have any deeper emotional reaction, and when he mentions his mother throughout the book, he cannot muster any of the typical emotions associated with the death of a family member. While at the home, Meursault enjoys being told by the caretaker about the need for a quick burial, saying that he “thought what he’d been saying was interesting and made sense” (p. 8). Never mind that the caretaker’s wife reprimanded him for speaking of such things in front of a man whose mother was lying dead in the next room. Unlike a “normal” person, who would...
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