How is death presented in The Stranger?
In the novel The Stranger by Albert Camus the theme of death may be found in different parts of the book. It is the leitmotif of the novel. In his development of the topic the author explores that death is the only thing in life which makes people equal to each other, irrespective what they had and how they lived their lives. It shows that no man is privileged over another.
The main character of the novel, Meursault, is indifferent at a first glance, but there is an idea and a worldview behind his zero emotionality. The main character has his own philosophy over death and is of the opinion that death is the only thing inevitable for all people. This man does not believe in afterlife and ignores any religious theories. Meursault believes that no matter what a person is doing in their life it has no influence on their fate and on their spiritual life, as well as on the universe in general. His point of view is that the universe is so big that people’s lives and actions do not matter at all (Camus, 1998).
Camus’s novels are mostly carrying the philosophical tone of absurdity, and so we cannot find genuine reasons in the way the main character of the novel behaves (Brombert, 1948). He has no distinctive reasons to marry Marie or to kill the Arab but he does it. This irrationality of Meursaults actions comes into conflict with the rules and order of the court later in the novel, and Camus represents the latter as weak attempts of people to maintain discipline and rationality in a world where most of the things happen for no reason. In this way, the whole trial process is depicted in an elevated tone of absurdity, showing the desire of people to impose their own rules on an universe that has no rationality at all. Camus tries to render the idea that human life is meaningless and senseless, therefore his main character does not try to escape the execution as he understands it as the same form of inevitable death as the natural death (McCarthy, 2004).
Camus, A. The Stranger, trans. Matthew Ward, 1988.
Brombert, V.(1948). “Camus and the Novel of the “Absurd””. Yale French Studies 1: 119–123.
McCarthy, P. (2004). The Stranger (Albert Camus). New York: Cambridge University Press. p. 12
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