AP Language & Composition
September 17, 2012
“Everything is true and nothing is true!”:
Meursault’s Plague with Human Absurdity in Camus’s The Stranger
In accordance with natural human behavior, we feel as though for every action there is a reaction, as well as a reason. We vie to inject logic inside our world because to accept the idea that there is not rationale for anything, including our own existence, is unthinkable. This idea that we unawarely manufacture reason to the world because in actuality, there is none, jeopardizes the very balance in our society. Our quest is not noble, rather fueled by our fear of uncertainty. Since the logic of our world is derived solely from the knowledge of pervious humans, we continue the pattern and attempt to create a sense of rational structure. Albert Camus explores this theory of “absurdity” in his narrative novel The Stranger, through his character Monsieur Meursault. The novel follows Meursault through his seemingly senseless life which perpetuates to his senseless murder of another man. Throughout his trial, the reactions to his lack of reasoning display this particular theory front & center. Within a excerpt from the latter of his trial chapter, Camus’s use of a removed tone, syntax, and lack of sentence fluency, ultimately illustrates humanity’s reaction when faced with the thought of a lack of meaning to the universe.
After his reasonless killing of an innocent man, Meursault is faced with his trial. Contrary to his previous tone throughout the novel, his “steam of consciousness”thought process is replaced by a detached, almost reporter-like tone as he chronicles his own trial. Meursault has already previously confessed he was guilty to his legal party, but could not summon up a reason to why he killed the man. The opposing prosecutor then attempts to fabricate a rationale for Meursault’s actions by implementing events from his past, against him. Meursault’s few human connection’s are now called to the stand to testify that he indeed is not a malicious killer, as the prosecutor portrays him.
Camus makes Meursault’s narrative tone change very obvious at the very start of the trial chapter. The change becomes increasingly more pronounced as the chapter moves on. Meursault’s tone change directly correlates with the unusual sentence structures within the excerpt. Camus interchanges between short choppy sentences describing the happenings of the courtroom, and long cumulative sentences providing irrelevant details. A prime example of both types of the sentences occurs during the testimony of Meursault’s friend Céleste. Meursault’s narration begins with, “The judge instructed him to step down. He sat there throughout the entire trial, leaning forward, his elbows on his knees, the panama hat in his hands, listening to everything that was said” (93). The first sentence accurately depicts his succinct narrating of the entire trial, constituting this removed air between him and his surroundings. This is very unorthodox of a man who is facing his very accelerated fate. The following sentence from the quote, displays the cumulative sentences that frequently transpire within the excerpt, Meursault’s rapt attention to these futile details, leads one to conclude that while heeding to his normal personality of avoiding the truth, his mind fixates on these details in attempt to distract himself from his ominous fate. The removed tone could allude to the thought that Meursault does understand that he had no reasoning behind the crime he committed, and therefore understands that universe is irrational in a sense, an idea that the people surrounding him are so futilely trying to diminish.
Within the same paragraph, we see Céleste striving as well, to put reasoning behind Meursault’s actions, but for entirely different reasons than the prosecutor. The focal point of the testimony begins with him stating, “The way i see it, it’s bad luck....