World LiteratureAlbert CamusThe Stranger

A Study of Absurdity in Novel “The Stranger” by Camus

5 Mins read

Albert Camus’s existentialist novel, The Stranger, is a tale of absurdity. This novel tells the story of a man by the name of Meursault, who is sentenced to death for the murder of an Arab. In the novel, the author intertwines the story of two men, one who is sentenced to death and one who is guilty of the same crime. This duality is mirrored in the novel’s use of conflicting storylines and is also present in the way Meursault’s

There are different methods and approaches to text analysis which are carried out at different levels and at different stages. Absurdity is the view of existentialist philosopher that human existence in this universe is ambiguous and chaotic. In a literal sense absurdity is meaninglessness, bizarre, incongruence, silly, ridiculous, and strange.

In absurdity, no meaning exists in this universe for man, but it is man himself who must search for the meaning. Absurdity is in fact a condition where man is compelled to exist without his individualism in society and hence does not possess any degree of effective communication.

In the real sense, man existence cannot escape from being absurd. One cannot claim that he has some solutions for attaining the life which is without being absurd.

Now, the question arises that why death is so welcomed besides the fact that it is the harshest aspect of one’s life. The answer to this question is escapism i.e., to escape from the very source of absurdity, which is life.

Overview of Absurdity in The Stranger

Absurdity is obvious from his novel “The Stranger”. Meursault the protagonist of the novel got no interest in the world but rather see it quite hostile towards him and thus being tired of its cruelty, represents the absurd world. He becomes aware of the insane nature of life and considers himself as an alien to this world. Camus also comes in the category of atheist existentialists who does not believe in God as his man character Meursault does.

Absurdity in the Title of “The Stranger

The title of the Camus’ novel “The Stranger” also reflects absurdity but from different angles. Here the stranger or outsider is used for a person who is rejected by the community and particular society. This fact is obvious from the text where Meursault, the protagonist is thrown away by the community not only to jail but also tries him to be executed. Meursault has become a stranger to all i.e., who so ever know him or not. Another proof of his strangeness is his weak belief on God and in this way, he is estranging to God as well. Hence, the title shows the absurd nature of the novel.

Absurdity in the Setting of “The Stranger

The setting of the novel also possesses some elements of absurdity as here we observe no single setting where the whole events are taking place rather two three places where the actions are taking place e.g., hometown of Meursault, the beach and lastly the court and jail. Thus, if the happening in each of these settings are observed (almost deaths) then the absurd nature of the novel will come to the surface.

The Structure of Novel and Absurdity

“The Stranger” also got a complicated structure which is completely absurd. What happens in the very beginning is that Meursault’s mother dies and starts giving hints of the absurdity in the novel. In the second part of the novel, Meursault kills an Arab which leads to Meursault’s trial and finally execution and death in the last part.

So, we can say that death, which is fear, and the end of life, time and hope is the overwhelming theme in The Stranger. We know that death is the worst happening and nobody will want it to have but still if we look to the protagonist Meursault, he not only wants death but also welcomes it. He wants death to escape the harsh realities of life and to achieve his goals and this is the sign of absurdity.

Absurdity in the Theme of Novel

Meursault is living alone in an isolated apartment, quite away from his hometown and from his parents without any family, represent his physical isolation. In the same way, he is emotionally and spiritually isolated without any love for his girlfriend Marie and no respect to the existence of God, which is spiritual isolation. This theme of isolation is absurdity.

Read About: The Castle by Franz Kafka as a Presage of Dystopia

Absurdity in Characters

The character of Meursault is a depiction of absurdity as we find this from his nature and that in the novel many events occurred but without slight attention and care from Meursault, which shows his indifference and meaningless of life. During the trial he is asked many times about the five shootings for influencing him, but he remained untouched and unmoved.

Similarly, he is questioned about the death of his mother but still he was unmoved because he was sure about the chaotic world where he lives and so got no means of defending oneself. Furthermore, he appears more absurd when he is asked about God, but he did not appear to believe in any such existence.

Absurdity of Actions and Dialogues

When Meursault’s mother dies and he receives a telegram, quite carelessly he explains:

“Mother died today. Or maybe, yesterday; I can’t be sure. The telegram from home says: Your mother passed away. Funeral tomorrow. Deep sympathy”.

It is because that from the very beginning he is not taking thing seriously. He recounts his mother’s death as nothing has happened. Furthermore, when he goes for the funeral, the caretaker asks him that whether he will see his mother, he replies with simple no.

Meursault has come to believe that human life is meaningless, and it makes no difference whether one exists or not. Rather he considers death as a solver of all problems.

Similarly, Marie loves him and most of the time she remains with him, whether in cinema or at home. He has been to the extreme of having sex with her. He recounts:

“A moment later she asked me if I love her. I said that sort of question has no meaning, really; but I suppose I didn’t”

p. 42

This shows that he is quite detached from the society and social norms. Though he goes with the girl but without any love. He considers these things as quite meaningless as the human existence is.

If we consider the trial and execution scene, there too he shows his indifference. This time his indifference is not only to society but also to God. When he is asked in the last chapter, do you believe in God? He responded,

“I explained that I didn’t believe in God. Are you sure about that? I said I saw no point in troubling my head about the matter; whether I believed or didn’t was, to my mind, a question of so little importance.”

All this shows that he is so estranged even from the existence of God that he came to the state that he clearly announces that he does not believe in God. Meursault has even lost all his hopes and become pessimistic consciously.

Conclusion

To conclude, we would say that Camus is famous for his absurdity, so his present works, also shows absurdity because of the meaninglessness of actions, sterility of the characters and strangeness of setting etc. Furthermore, we can say that The Stranger shows some sort of absurdity.

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