Meursault as an Absurdist Hero in the Stranger

Category: Literature
Date added
2022/07/05
Pages:  4
Words:  1114
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The Stranger, by Albert Camus, is a novel telling the story of a man named Meursault and the events that occur after his mother‘s death. Camus, an absurdist philosopher, believed that a tnie hero is defined as one who realizes the absurdity of the world and human existence, while finding meaning in struggle itself. This type of hero is called the “absurdist hero,” Throughout the novel, Meursault displays characteristics of Camus’s absurdist hero; the most notable being his acceptance of his death and revelation of human existence at the end of the novel, his addiction to the pleasure of the physical world and present time, and his zeal for life and refusal to conform to societal rules The idea of Meursault being an absurdist hero is best demonstrated in the conclusion of the novel when he accepts the fate of his death and realizes the meaninglessness of human life.

Throughout the novel, Meursault is seen as emotionless, believing emotions are a waste of energy and are pointless. However, when he is sentenced to death and realizes he is going to die, we see the first glimmer of emotion from Meursault. He is, for the first time in his life, afraid and thinks of ways to try to evade his death, He regrets not being able to enjoy life any longer and despairs. When he comes to terms with the inevitability of his death, he realizes that it does not matter whether he dies by execution or of a natural cause With this truth, he is able to see that he lived a good life and plans to live his last days to the fullest. In his rage against the chaplain, Meursault truly becomes an absurdist hero, realizing that we all receive the same fate of death and what we do before we die is meaningless. This is summed up in his revelation after the chaplain leaves: “MAS if that blind rage had washed me clean, rid me of hope; for the first time..,l opened myself to the gentle indifference of the world Finding it so much like myself”. I felt that] had been happy and that I was happy again. (Camus 118)”, Meursault recognizes himself in a universe without meaning and without hope. At the end of the novel, he comes to a full acceptance of the worthlessness of hope and his actions. His liberation from this hope means he is free to live life and to make the most of his last days. With this, he is happy and accepts his fate, coming in full circle with being an absurdist hero.

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One of the distinct characteristics of Meursault is his connection and involvement in the physical world. Throughout the novel, Meursault’s attention centers on his body, his physical relationship with Marie, and the other physical elements of his surroundings. This is exemplified by the symbolism of heat which was, “..,hot in [his] dark clothes [and]… inhuman and oppressive” (Camus 21) .The intense heat throughout the novel, though a minor hindrance to those around him, is unbearable to Meursault and is prudent in both scenes of the novel when he acts most irrationally in the eyes of society. The heat during his mother’s funeral causes Meursault to feel far more pain than the thought of burying his mother. The sun on the beach torments Meursault before he murders the Arab man and he even identifies the sun as the reason he killed the Arab.

The style of Meursault’s narration also reflects addiction to the physical. This is shown in the one of many quotes in which he describes his environment: “It was pleasant; the coffee had warmed me up, and the smell of flowers on the night air was coming through the open door.” (Camus 71) His descriptions are vivid when he discusses topics such as nature and the weather, noticing little details in his surroundings and enjoys observing others. On the other hand, he offers plain, boring descriptions when explaining emotional or social situations, Furthermore, Meursault emotionally detaches himself from the rest of the world as an absurdist hero would. He prefers observing events than getting involved. Even when he is directly involved in events, he is unable to get too caught up in them, When he kills the Arab, he particularly notes that he has a sense that he is not really there and he is observing himself shooting the Arab rather than actually shooting. When his lover, Marie, asks him to marry her, he says “,,,it didn’t mean anything but that [he] didn‘t think so.” and [he] kissed her.” (Camus 38). Meursault finds emotions boring and meaningless and prefers to dwell on the physical aspects of life. In terms of Marie, this means he would rather enjoy her physically rather than commit to her emotionally.

Finally, Meursault is Camus‘ ideal absurdist hero because he lives for the sensual pleasures of the present moment and refuses to conform to societal rules. One example of this is when he agrees to help Raymond plot against his significant other, “because [he] didn’t have any reason not to please him.” (Camus 47). He is not tied down by emotional or moral values and this frees him to act however he wants Relating to Raymond, he helps because he does not see the moral wrongdoing of participating. Rather than comply to social norms, Meursault tries to live as honestly as he can and this brutal honesty makes him an outcast in society He refuses to force feelings that he does not possess, as exemplified by his inability to cry at his mother’s funeral.

When Meursault murders the Arab man, the jury condemns him not only for the murder, but also for his lack of commitment to the rules and regulations of society. They are disgusted by his lack of emotion and straight forwardness seeing him as a sociopath and resulting in their sentence of the death penalty, Meursault refuses to comply to custom He asserts his freedom by doing what strikes him as appropriate at any given moment, He lives in the moment and revolts against restrictions on his life. His passion is evident and his kindred pursuit for pleasures around him obviously show his love for being alive, Much like Sisyphus in ancient Greek mythology, Meursault is, in Camus’ eyes, a hero From his zeal for life to his ultimate acceptance of his death, Meursault is a definition example of what Camus saw as an absurdist hero. His novel, The Stranger, gives new perspective on what is considered heroic and challenges the traditional hero seen in the literature of his time.

Works Cited

  1. Dumas, Claire, The stranger. New York: Ballantine , 1977. Print.
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Meursault as an Absurdist Hero in The Stranger. (2022, Jul 05). Retrieved from https://papersowl.com/examples/meursault-as-an-absurdist-hero-in-the-stranger/