The Ideas and Philosophy of Existentialism and Absurdity of Life through Meursault in the Stranger

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Updated: Jul 05, 2022
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“The Stranger,“ written by Albert Camus, utilizes the main character Meursault and his personality traits to portray the author‘s philosophical ideas regarding existentialism and the absurdity of life itselft Meursault, being the narrator of the novel, describes the events he comes into contact with, his personal feelings, and his evident rejection of decision-making, excitement, and life as a whole highlight such existentialist ideologies. By creating a main character who views life as not being worth living and who does not grow much throughout the story, Camus portrays the ideas and philosophy of existentialism and the absurdity of life.

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However, Camus goes farther than merely create a character to show his ideologies, as he also uses simplistic, descriptive language without emotions. Existentialism believes that life is worthless and equates to nothing in the grand scheme of things, which is why the fact that Meursault iscontinually acting as if life does not matter highlights such ideology within the novels.

Most who do not believe in such ideas would betroubled by the idea of spending the rest of their lives in jail, which is why Camus’ portrayal of Meursault and his sentencing is a key point to demonstrate the ideologies above Meursault understands that he will spend his life in jail, and will eventually die there, yet he reveals to the readers that such a fate is unavoidable and does not bother him. His views on this matter are evident as he consistently refuses to be visited by the jail’s chaplain, just because he had nothing to say to him. Such actions re?ect that he does not believe in an afterlife, in eternity, or in God himself, which brings the readers back to existentialism and its ideas that the idea of life lies within the human actions and experiences, not within God, When Meursault says, while thinking about his sentence appeal, “life isn‘t worth living” (Camus 114), he makes it clear that he does not believe that life is valuable or worth anything, which is also an idea of existentialism.

Camus goes a step further in showing existentialism as he also uses a simplistic, descriptive language and narration-style to symbolize the simplistic ideas of existentialism regarding life and death Throughout the novel, only the physical aspects and words spoken during any conversations are showed to the reader, yet Meursault, the narrator, never describes his own emotions or reactions to what is happening, showing a robust existential trait and highlighting the absurdity of life as a whole. Such language can be seen at his mother’s funeral, whom he calls Maman, which is the French word for mom, which makes sense since the novel was initially written in French. Throughout the funeral, Meursault fails to mention his emotions regarding the fact that his mother is dead, yet he has no issue talking about small details, such as guests’ clothing, in a descriptive, simplistic language, such as saying that the casket is made of “walnut-stained planks” (Camus 6) Since he focuses on the trivial aspects and descriptions of the funeral instead of his feelings, he demonstrates his existentialist characteristics, which was undoubtedly done by Camus as a stylistic choice. Another event with similar language and descriptive choices is Meursault’s questioning and trial, where he focuses upon the magistrate‘s eyes and the lawyer‘s tie rather than upon the severity of the occasion and his predicament.

  The language throughout the novel, however, is not only descriptive and straightforward, but it is also nonchalant, showing Meursault‘s existential, and therefore nonchalant, way of handling life, The language, whether it be the lack of emotions in the descriptions or the conversations, makes it evident that he believes that things happen the way they are to happen and that he simply cannot do anything to stop fates. Demonstrations of this language can be seen with his mother’s death, when he tells his boss “it’s not my fault” (Camus 1) when requesting a few days off to attend the funerali Such a lack of an emotional response shows detachment from his own mother’s death. After the funeral, once he goes back to work, he tells his boss that his mother was “about sixty” (Camus 25), which means that he did not remember exactly his mother’s age, showing a lack of feelings and a tendency for existentialism. But his act of nonchalance towards his mother’s death and age also carries over to the fact that he merely, nonchalantly accepts her death and does not question it, just like he accepts Marie’s proposal to please her, not because he loves hero.  The novel’s main character, Meursault, makes it obvious to the readers that he does not believe in life being worth living and that his faith lies within the idea that when one dies, life continues and the dead will soon be forgotten by those still living. Camus, the author, uses this character as the narrator and uses a simplistic, descriptive language to represent Meursault as a man with existentialist beliefs and character traits.

Works Cited

  1. Camus, Albert, The Stranger. Translated by Matthew Ward, Vintage International, 1988.
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The Ideas and Philosophy of Existentialism and Absurdity of Life Through Meursault in The Stranger. (2022, Jul 05). Retrieved from