Sartre states in context of Camus’ work, The Stranger, that the adventures of Meursault are chiefly intended to emphasise on the absurd nature of the universe, world and existence. Camus’ writing techniques like, use of irony, symbolism and foreshadowing is a way to enhance the absurdity of life and existence, absurd nature of world and universe and absurd situations, behaviours and ideas, to help an individual to have an image of absurd, to establish the link between an individual’s struggle to search for meaning and purpose in life and also to reveal an individuals motivation to live his life in the face of the absurd. Meursault, the protagonist also realises during the course of events that, “anyhow, one life was as good as another and my present one suited my quite well” (Camus, 1989: 47).
He affirms that he was happy with what he have in his life by stating that, “I’d been happy and that I was still happy” (Camus, 1989: 154) The Stranger demonstrates the theme of existentialism, but as Albert Camus is an absurdist writer, the intended theme of the novel is the philosophy of absurd. Camus also reach to the theme of absurdity at the end of the novel where, Meursault realises and accepts his death, considering death is inevitable and is the eternal truth of any individual, if not today, tomorrow the individual has to face it. Absurd is referred to the conflict between human seeking meaning and purpose in life and the inability of him to find any, but as Kierkegaard states, it does not mean “logically impossible,” rather “humanly impossible.” (Kierkegaard, 19). The theme of absurd comes at the end of the novel, where Meursault is in the prison, waiting for his execution for the crime he has committed and gets into a heated argument with the chaplain, who tries to make him believe in God and also tries to convert him to Christianity, where Meursault explains, I explained to him that I wasn’t desperate.
I was just afraid, which was only natural.” (Camus, 1989: 116). He rejects his offer saying, that he has accepted the certainties and uncertainties of life and has accepted the eternal truth of life, i.
e., death. He explains that, “if I don’t die today, you’ll die tomorrow, or the next day.” (Camus, 1989: 117). He by this time understood that an individual has to die if took birth in this world, if not today then tomorrow, but death will come is very certain.
The protagonist of Albert Camus’ novel The Stranger, at many occasions show his existential beliefs and ideas which were seen strongly as the sharp contrast to his otherwise submissive nature and laid back attitude. Meursault’s absurd worldview is expressed in his argument with the prison chaplain when he offers to convert him to Christianity. Meursault demonstrates that nothing really matters, as we all live a life, we all will die one day and what all one does in between the span of life and death is not important. After his discussion with chaplain, Meursault uncovers about himself and also a moment of realisation comes to him, “And I felt ready to live it all again too.
As if that blind rage had washed me clean…really-I felt that I had been happy and that I was happy again.” (Camus, 1989: 122-123). He didn’t care much that he was going to be killed and chaplain will live another day, because he realised his awakening to life and recovered from the absurdity of his life and understood the fate of every human being, be it today or tomorrow the end result remains the same, as it is inevitable. However, the chaplain will remain there with his empty prayers, the living the life of someone else, depending upon others and acting according to others.
This realisation makes him rediscover himself in a new light with motivation and zest to live again but this time with purpose and meaning in life. He became sure about himself, his life and also his death. He then worried about nothing, except himself. According to Camus, in the quest to find meaning or purpose in the life of an individual, the further step in progression could be the acceptance of Absurd.
Camus states, “in this unintelligible and limited universe, man’s fate henceforth assumes its meaning…and now studied lucidity, the feeling of the Absurd becomes clear and definite” (Camus, 1942: 21). Therefore, Meursault realises and understands the absurdity of life and his existence and accepts his fate. The main motive of the writers while writing the novels like this is to motivate an individual to evaluate his life and understand the significance of his life. The readers might struggle with the characters of Camus and Sartre, specifically with the protagonists but not sympathise with them. The lack of emotions and sentiments in the characters of Sartre and Camus helps the readers to maintain a certain distance with them, but at the end of the novel, when the real side or the real emotions and sentiments emerge, readers are able to relate themselves with the protagonists of the novels.
Throughout the novel, the struggle to find meaning and purpose in life makes the individual isolated from the society or the nature of the being makes them isolated in the society. During this isolation, the individual start feeling alienated from the familiar things. The things used in day-to-day life becomes strange him, which helps him to reach to the truth, i.e.
, death. The ultimate truth of any individual living in the universe is death, which is inevitable. Therefore an individual should be able to accept it gracefully. Generally, man feels confused regarding their career, work, relationships, etc.
and tries to find significance in his life or in the work he does. These protagonists and the characters of the novel are presented as a lesson to teach them how to face the absurdity of life or the absurd situations, that every man face now and then in their life, with the dedication to live life without hope, dedication to continue to search for meaning and purpose in life and beauty of nature. As each sentence starts independently and ends the same without the transition to the other, just like that an individual should live his life by carrying his worth in himself. Man should not fear death, rather accept it and deal with it in the most mature way, so that the daily routine and even the thought of upcoming death bring peace to an individual’s mind. Camus in his essay Myth of Sisyphus explains and emphasis that “the Absurd is essentially a divorce” (Camus, 1942: 22). Camus tries to give an outlook to what an individual should have and should not have in the face of the absurd, because according to Camus a man cannot escape the absurd, therefore, “there can be no absurd outside the human mind .
… The absurd ends with death ..
. There can be no absurd outside this world, either” (Camus, 1942: 31). He outlines that in the face of absurd, a man should possess intelligence, freedom, desire to revolt, accept his death, etc., and a man should not rely on hope, future, hope, transcendence, etc. He believes that the absurd is essential and it’s the truth.
According to Sartre, to whom the term absurd is associated very usually, believes that the absurd denotes the casual nature of human existence. The realisation of the absurd arises the feeling of strangeness, which Sartre terms as ‘nausea’. He states in Being and Nothingness that an individual’s existence is absurd and defines absurd as, “…which is meaningless. Thus man’s existence is absurd because his contingency finds no external justification” (Sartre, 1943: 628). According to Sartre, absurd is related to the feeling or presence of meaninglessness in an individual’s life and for Camus, absurd is nothing as such, but the sudden awakening and realisation of the individuals mind towards the reason through his own experiences and the chaos he goes through.
Absurd could be seen as gap which can’t be bridged between the questions the individual’s mind ask and the world or nature that keeps silent on that matter. Svenjna Schrahe comments on the same difference among both the writers as, “Sartre’s overall feeling is disgust; Camus’ in contrast is absurdity”(Existentialism, 2009: 44). Sartre also comments on the different explanation of the absurd of Camus and his as, “For him (Camus) the absurd arises from the relation between man and the world…I do not recognise the absurd in the sense of scandal and disillusionment that Camus attributes to it.
What I call the absurd is …the given, unjustifiable, primordial quality of existence.” (Cruickshank,, 45) According to Sartre, the feeling of the absurd is the last stage for an individual, whereas for Camus, absurd is not the end, instead is the starting point or beginning of an individual’s journey, as the review on Nausea in 1938 states, “The realisation that life is absurd cannot be an end, but only a beginning…It is not this discovery that is interesting, but the consequences and rules for actions” (201-02). On the other hand in Camus’ Myth of Sisyphus, the same idea is presented as, “… the absurd, hitherto taken as a conclusion, is considered in this essay as a starting point” (10).
So no matter who deals with absurd and how, but whoever tries to find the meaning in existence will face the absurd.