Existentialism: Does Life Have Meaning?

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Most people would like to think that their life has some kind of meaning or purpose. However how this meaning in life is obtained can cause some differing views. One may believe that they were born with a purpose in life and the other may believe that it is their own responsibility to give their own life meaning. While the first belief may be the preferred option, it doesn’t seem very practical. Existentialists believe that one must give meaning to their own life, which in all reality seems to be the truth. In the novels Their Eyes Were Watching God, Crime and Punishment, The Awakening, The Stranger, and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, the existential view that the individual is responsible for giving their own life meaning is confirmed through the character’s actions, pressures of society, and the overall meanings of the works.

The behaviors of the characters in these various novels help explain their search for meaning in life. In the novel Their Eyes Were Watching God by Nora Zeal Hurston, the main character Janie is on a search for her true purpose in life. She spent her whole life being controlled by her grandmother and her first two husbands, and now that she is living her life with her third husband Teacakes, she is beginning to discover her true potential. Janie is always trying to serve the men in her life so much to the point that she belittles herself into having no meaning to her own life. Janie began to try to find her own meaning in life early in the novel. In chapter two it states, “Janie was stretched on her back beneath the pear tree soaking in the alto chant of the visiting bees, the gold of the sun and the panting breath of the breeze when the inaudible voice of it all came to her. She saw a dust-bearing bee sink into the sanctum of a bloom; the thousand sister-calyxes arch to meet the love embrace and the ecstatic shiver of the tree from root to tiniest branch creaming in every blossom and frothing with delight. So this was a...
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