A detailed study of an extract from pages 14 to 15 from The Outsider by Albert Camus
Word Count: 1,378
I have decided to focus on an extract from chapter 1 of Albert Camus’ The Outsider as I feel this extract is highly significant as it serves as a device of exposition to develop Meursault’s, continuously judged, character and provides foregrounding for the rest of the novel. The prose style throughout this extract allows Camus to convey his philosophy of the absurd and portray Meursault as a social outcast and ultimately an ‘outsider’. The Outsider is set in Algeria and was published in 1942 alongside The Myth of Sisyphus, during WW2, an essay exploring the principles of the absurd highly embodied by Meursault’s character. The extract recounts the wake of the protagonists’ mother, a social ritual adopted traditionally to observe the souls of the departed. Here Meursault is established as an ‘absurd hero’ as he fails to meet cultural expectations by his absence of grief. Thus breaking social conventions as Meursault embodies a “solitary and sensual” character that refuses to “hide his feelings” and therefore convey the lack of grief struck by his mother’s death.
In this passage Camus’ use of language intensifies showing the increasing harshness of light “The glare from the white walls was tiring my eyes.” Camus use of alliteration in this image conveys the weariness Meursault feels due to the intensifying severity of light. The use of literary devices throughout this extract allows Camus to externally reflect the effect of a stimulus on Meursault’s internal state of mind, this is further evident as Meursault states “(…) through the open door I could smell the flowers in the night air. I think I dozed off for a while.” This quote illustrates the sensuous physical world Meursault lives in, showing how Meursault seems to be purely driven by an external stimulus, this being highly significant as it foreshadows Meursault’s killing of the Arab later in the novel.
Light throughout this extract is significant as it is strategically used by Camus as a device to explore the concept of the ‘social game’ Meursault fails to abide by and also as a tool to foreshadow Meursault’s killing of the Arab. At the start of this extract Meursault asks the caretaker to “turn off one of the lights” however the caretaker explains that “(…) he couldn’t” as they had been “installed” that way “it was all or nothing” therefore presenting a stark comparison to Meursault’s response to the nurse’s statement later in the first chapter of the novel where Meursault states “She was right. There was no way out.” Therefore conveying the flaw in humanity, as from birth man is born into a life in which the only certainty is death, conveying Camus’s idea of mankind’s incapability of discovering a grander meaning to life as all life results in death. Hence establishing a society which abides by certain rules in order to pathetically attempt to find a purpose to human life, thus implying the quote “That was how they’d been installed: it was all or nothing” illustrates Meursault as an outsider as he fails to follow society’s rules.
The motif of light serves to foreshadow Meursault’s shooting of the Arab, this is palpable in “(…) gliding silently into the blinding light” as it provides a stark similarity to “(…) I could see a small, dark lump of rock surrounded by a blinding halo of light (…)” later in the novel. Perhaps Camus’ repetitive use of the verb “blind” implies that perhaps Meursault is morally blind, this being explored in the metaphorical “veil of salty tears” blinding Meursault. Hence emphasizing the 20th century theme of a meaningless existence as Meursault fails to find enlightenment in the universe, and thus foreshadows the novel’s ending.
This extract further establishes Meursault as an ‘outsider’...