Black Robes

Nadia is consistently wearing her robes even when they are no longer in her home country. Nadia never wears the robes as a religious statement but more as a way to prevent people from messing with her.

The type of robe that Nadia was wearing was probably a chador, which is a full-body shawl that is held together at the neck either by a pin or hand. It is popular in Iran.

In my Modern Middle Eastern Class, I did a culture project on reasons why women would wear head covering and robes. In Western Culture, it is sometimes tough to not see head coverings and robes as oppression of women. However, for many it is a very personal choice and not an oppressive act at all.

Dr. Mrs. N.Z. Vakil explains, “ I feel protected and confident when I step out [in a hijab].” This is very similar to Nadia’s reasons for wearing her robes. In America, we see dressing super modestly as a form of being politically conservative or as old-fashioned. But for Nadia and Dr.Vakil, it is something way more then that. Deciding to wear some sort of covering could be because of religion, style, protection or a statement. We have to understand that not every head-covering or robe is a forced act or as extreme as a burqa. There is no denying that Nadia is strong and independent with or without the robes.

Being Moral in a Uncaring World

When Nadia and Saeed come to London, they live in the mansion that they arrived in. While Nadia adjusts without much of a hitch, Saeed feels uncomfortable. When narrating about Saeed’s adjustment to his new existence, Saeed “felt in part guilt that they … were occupying a home that was not their own, and guilty also at the visible deterioration brought on by their presence” and was “the only one to object when people started to take for themselves items of value in the house” (132). This contrast between Nadia’s self-preservation and Saeed’s morality begs the question, how does one be moral in times of crisis?

On one hand, Nadia’s enjoyment and willingness to do whatever she can to do to survive is perfectly reasonable. After all, it’s hard to blame her for using the few liberties she can, e.g. looting laptops from her former workplace, taking a shower, and snatching some valuables from the mansion, because ultimately, it’s nothing compared to the hardships of migration, hostile militants, and sexual assault that she deals with. I doubt anyone would argue that anything Nadia does is unreasonable or even wrong.

In contrast, Saeed abides by his moral code of conduct even as the world around him throws him for a loop. Even as his mother dies and he’s forced out of his hometown without his father, he still remains adamant in his moral code. He still refuses to have sex with Nadia, objects to looting their mansion, and even feels guilt for living in the mansion, even though it gives him a reprieve from the months of hardship before him. His behavior is unquestionably morally upright, but it’s unknown how sustainable or realistic his behavior his. Without the pragmatism of Nadia, Saeed would still be stuck in the Greek camp, completely broke, and without a comfortable place to live. Saeed’s goodness is unpractical and ultimately self-defeating in a world where surviving is a struggle.

I believe that in the end, that one cannot be fully moral in this world, especially not in times of crisis. I don’t mean to say that our moral compass needs to be compromised completely for the sake of getting ahead slightly, but that sometimes one must act less than morally for their own sake. This practically comes at a condition, because only those without a good standing need to act immorally as any privileged enough to not have to act improperly simply shouldn’t. Ultimately, being good in the worst times I believe means doing the most good as you can while living contently.

Schrodinger’s Jew: Exit West and Jewish Migration

I’ve spent a lot of time contemplating exactly how Jewish I am. I promise, I am bringing this up for a reason.

I contemplate how Jewish I am because it’s not exactly a clear cut answer, as it it for most people. My mother is Catholic and my father is Jewish, so I would be 50% Jewish, right? Except Judaism traditionally is passed down through the mother’s line. So I’m 0% Jewish. Except that alongside Christmas and Easter, my family celebrates Hanukkah and Passover. My last name is very Jewish; it roughly means “date branch” in Hebrew. The vast majority of my family migrated to the United States long before the Holocaust, but not all. I will never know who those distant relatives were, or if I would have ever gotten the chance to meet them. They would have been so, so distant, but I still wonder.

My family, both sides of it, is frequently obsessed with genealogy. We can trace my mother’s family all the way back to the United Kingdom and Ireland. In fact, a fun anecdote I was told as a child is that not only were my ancestors on the Mayflower, my great-great-great-however-many-greats grandfather fell off the Mayflower and had to be rescued. With my father’s side, however, it’s not so easy.

We can trace my father’s family back decently far for a Jewish family. Inevitably though, as many Jewish families do, we end up hitting a dead end: we simply have no idea what country we are actually from. Not only that, those places we would be from have changed throughout the years. Depending on when you look, I could be Russian, Polish, Lithuanian, or Latvian. With my mother’s side, we know most of my relatives were from Scotland and Ireland. We can trace exactly where they were and where they went. With my father’s side, however, all I know is that I am vaguely Eastern European. That’s it. I have no more information.

Towards the end of Exit West, friction between Saeed and Nadia starts up as to exactly how much they want to stay connected to their homeland. As Nadia becomes more and more separated, Saeed in turn yearns for connection with other Middle Eastern migrants. This friction is a part of their inevitable conclusion, which I won’t say because we’re not supposed to have finished the book yet. Despite their different reactions to migration, however, one thing is clear: their home is not their home anymore, no matter how much they may or may not want it to be.

I never got to choose how much I wanted to connect with my roots. I wear green for St. Patrick’s Day. My parents went and visited the place in Scotland my mother’s family comes from. I even chose a Celtic name for myself. But I don’t get those same things on my father’s side.

For all it matters, I’m a practicing Unitarian Universalist who is an active and passionate member of Unity Temple’s youth group. UUism is neither Christian nor Jewish; indeed, it was chosen by my family because it is a religion where my parents can still exist in the faiths of their childhood while still attending the same church.

I don’t know how Jewish I am. I’m not even sure it’s my decision to make. I’m stuck in a strange limbo between Jew and goy. I’m both and neither at the same time. I’m less Jewish than my Jewish friends, but more Jewish than my friends of other faiths. I’m not not Jewish, but what does that really do for me? At the end of the day, though, it’s not really a question of how Jewish I am. It’s about this sense of home that I don’t get to have. It’s about the fact that I more-or-less get to choose whether I am affected by anti-Semitism. It’s about me playing three-way tug-of-war with religion while not believing in a God. I can see it Saeed and I can see it in Nadia, being pulled every which way, not knowing which direction is right for you, endlessly straining to stay in the middle and always, always failing.

Exit West: The Antithesis Of The Stranger

It’s not hard to notice the stark differences between The Stranger and Exit West. At a fundamental level, we as readers are no longer following a possibly deranged sociopath. On a more literary level, we as readers have been charged to forgo our new found ideas of existentialism. In an unnamed war-torn region, Nadia and Saeed spend their days in the constant knowledge that these may be their last. Balmy sunny mornings are not an opportunity to go to the beach with one’s lover, instead, Nadia and Saeed spend their quiet moments to secure emergency supplies and the means of escape. See, Nadia and Saeed can’t afford to be existentialists. The “life has no meaning” attitude doesn’t really fly when people are depending on you. The idea that existentialism is a luxury isn’t quite noted in The Stranger. From Exit West, you realize the deeper purpose of some of our social constructs. You always can say that religion, family structures, and relationships have been used to oppress others in the past. But when we take a closer look, these are also the structures that push us to stay alive. When Saeed’s mother is senselessly killed, Saeed and his father turn to one another and their shared religion to grieve. These societal pillars allow the two to move forward and progress with their lives. You could make the argument that if Saeed’s father was an existentialist, then he would have been able to move on from the absence of his wife. If he didn’t feel such a loving connection to his lost wife, he could have made the more rational decision, and made the passage through the doorway. But by refusing to accept this existentialist rational, Saeed’s father may have saved Nadia and his son. Saeed no longer has to be entrusted with the safety of his father. A burden that may have slowed him down in the long run. Saeed as a character somehow manages to keep a positive outlook on life, even in the midst of all of the chaos he has experienced. You could make the argument that his strong faith has allowed him to perceive the world in this light. He clings to the loving relationship he shares with Nadia and his religious views to get him through each day. In contrast, Mersualt rejected religion and a traditional relationship. Two aspects that may have prevented him from making the choices he did. And in the end, where does he end up? The gallows. 

Maria and Matthew: 2 Meursaults, One Movie

When I first read about Trust, a movie directed by Hal Hartley, and how it was supposed to be from the perspective of a “female Meursault”, I was expecting there to be only one character similar to Meursault. Instead, while watching, I found myself looking at 2.

In my opinion, I thought that both Marie and Matthew represented Meursault’s character. I think that the similarity in names to The Stranger in some sense, is to throw the watcher’s view off. Maria, is expected to be similar to Marie, and Matthew is expected to be like Meursault. However, because of their personality traits, I think that Marie’s lack of understanding for people and Matthew’s alienation from people around his community, cause them to both be similar to Meursault. Together, both of them face problems from all sides, whether its Matthew’s abusive father or Maria’s extra controlling mother.

Matthew and Maria’s “last hurrah” can be seen as the grenade going off at Matthew’s workplace. Similarly, Meursault’s last hurrah can be seen as him killing the Arab. Though, Maria didn’t end up getting punished for the grenade (because she wasn’t the one to ensue the problem) however I think she played a large roll in the events leading up to it.

Her lack of empathy towards Matthew can be seen when she tells him she no longer wants to marry him and wants to pursue what she wants individually; Matthew is heavily affected by this, most likely because it’s his last string of hope he had. Nevertheless, I think that while the two of them are not “fully” Meursault, they both have characteristics that are very much similar to him.

I also think that Hartley’s writing up of the characters were fantastic. In my class, I found that many people found the characters weird if not just boring; I think that the lack of emotion and the grittiness of the camera work added to this aesthetic that was very much Stranger-esque(?)…

Honestly, I missed a day of viewing so to say the least, I was pretty confused watching the ending. Other than that, I thought the movie itself was pretty interesting. What are your thoughts on Trust? Do you think that both of the main characters represented Meursault? Or only one?

Woman at War and the Musical Element

The beautifully crafted film “Woman at War” follows the actions of an Icelandic activist, Halla, fighting to raise awareness on environmental issues.

Halla does this by destroying power lines that supply miles of the country with power. This gains a massive amount of news coverage in the country and attracts the attention of other countries. Her goal is to make the government change their ways to better the environment for future generations.

I thought that the visual aspect of the film was truly great. The drone shots from high above of the beautiful country, and the strategic angles and film elements incorporated were amazing.

Although I thought the film was amazing and very inspiring, I do have a few critiques.

I thought that the musical element of the Icelandic band and Ukrainian singers took away from the magic of the movie. In the middle of a powerful scene where Halla is doing something so moving, we are interrupted and distracted by singers and instruments that take away from her actions.

Image result for women in war film

I know many other people would disagree and say that the music added a new and special element to the movie, but in my opinion it was unnecessary.

Overall, I thought the film was beautiful, inspirational, and amazing. I would definitely recommend it to people and would want to watch it again.

The Fall of Yugoslavia and Exit West

In the novel, Exit West, Nadia and Saeed live in a city undergoing a civil war. Nearly 25 years ago, my parents lived in Yugoslavia during its own civil war.

The moment we began reading Exit West, I could not help but relate the details of the novel to stories my parents had told me about their life during the war. Nadia and Saeed both met in an adult education course, similar to my parents, who met at a University in Serbia. Once my parents fell in love, they did everything they could to get out of Yugoslavia. They were desperate to leave their falling country, as were Saeed and Nadia in Exit West.

In the novel, Nadia and Saeed’s relationship grows stronger as the war worsens. From Saeed waiting for Nadia in front of her apartment all day, to Nadia expressing her feelings for Saeed, it is clear that the characters have a deep bond. I believe that during a war, people hold on to others they love with more strength than otherwise. At the beginning of the novel, Saeed had his parents to take care of, but no one to truly hold on to besides them. Nadia on the other hand had no one, until she met Saeed. Therefore, when Nadia and Saeed finally do form a relationship, they hold on to each other with much strength.

When my parents first immigrated to this country, they struggled both financially and emotionally. Migrating to a new place requires immense emotional strength and endurance. Accents, for example, are a huge definer between who is a native, and who is an immigrant. Having lived in Serbia for most of their lives, both of my parents still struggle with pronunciation in America. Along with this, there are huge cultural barriers for any immigrant migrating to a new country. Small differences make immigrants stand out from the natives in a crowd. Emotionally, this can be very hard for an immigrant, making them feel out of place and marginalized.

My parents held on to each other through all of the hardships they faced during the war in Yugoslavia, and the process of assimilating to a new country. I have therefore heard many stories from my parents about their migration, and have thus have been connecting their migration to Nadia and Saeed’s own migration. I am now very curious to see where Nadia and Saeed’s migration through the magical doors will lead them, and to keep track of their relationship.

The Love Formula

The film Trust written and directed by Hal Hartley portrays the romance between two troubled misfits who feel disowned by their parents. 

Maria, who is pregnant and a high school dropout, supposedly kills her father because of disgust and disappointment. But in reality, he died of heart failure. Her mother immediately disowns her, forcing her to move out of the house. While Maria wanders town looking for a place to stay, she comes across Mathew, an educated and moody electronics repairman. 

They develop a strong connection to each other in which they are accepting and understanding of one another. They understand the hardships one another faces as they continue to live with their insulting parents.

Throughout the film, Maria and Mathew build a sense of mutual admiration and trust. When Mathew asks her to marry him, Maria constructs a formula: respect + admiration + trust = love

I believe that this formula represents their relationship because they are essential factors in what makes them happy. In addition, I think that Maria and Mathew’s relationship solves the problems they face because it allows them to comfort each other. Maria helps Mathew stay sane as he struggles to keep the same job for a long period of time. Mathew cares for Maria by making her feel loved. He helped her become more confident in wearing her glasses, which ultimately allowed Maria to accept herself. Both Maria’s mother and Mathew’s father are emotionally abusive, and Mathew’s father is physically abusive too. By getting married, they have the opportunity to start a new life without any constraints such as their parents.

Where in the World Are Nadia and Saeed?

When I began to read Exit West, I wondered about the setting of the book, as it is never stated. It clearly is our world, or at least an alternate version of it, because there are references to places such as Australia, Japan, and the United States. However, the city that the two main characters, Nadia and Saeed, call home is never named, nor is their country or even general region of the world. Although it is never specified what religion the characters practice or what is predominant where they live, as I read I began to assume they live in a majority-Muslim area, primarily because their names can be Arabic in origin and because they reference evening prayers and Friday religious services (someone please correct me if I’m wrong, because I’m not Muslim, but I believe traditionally Muslims pray multiple times per day and observe the sabbath on Fridays). However, I wondered why the author, Mohsin Hamid, chose not to specify what place that might be. Obviously, it was a very deliberate choice and a very noticeable one. 

In a video we watched in class, Hamid mentioned that Nadia and Saeed’s city is based off his home city of Lahore, Pakistan, but that the situation that is occurring there is more based on the situations occurring in certain places in Syria, such as Aleppo. This made me wonder why he didn’t just set the book in Aleppo. It does not seem like it would cause any major plot issues if he adjusted the events in the book to be historically accurate to what has been occurring there over the past few years. However, this may just be my ignorance; it is possible that things have occurred in Aleppo that I don’t know about and that would have been impossible to include in the book. 

But since I didn’t know for certain that Exit West’s plot required it to not be set in a specific city, I began to wonder about other motives Hamid might have had for leaving its setting unnamed. So I looked online, and found that Exit West was first published in Great Britain and the United States, not Pakistan. This made me wonder—was Exit West meant to provide a view of migration that was palatable to a Western audience? By this I mean, did Hamid purposefully avoid giving the characters in his novel a nationality so that all readers, but especially people in Great Britain and the United States who would make up the majority of his readership, would be able to better identify with them? And if he did this, was that the right choice?

Watching the clip of Hamid’s talk that we did in class, I saw clearly that a major goal of his was to humanize and “de-other” refugees. He said this was why he decided to include magical doors that his characters travelled through to a different place in the world rather than having them undergo a long and arduous journey to get there: he wanted to focus more on what made them the same as non-refugee readers rather than on what made them different, and a dangerous journey would have made them different as it is something many people who have never been refugees could never imagine experiencing. 

I realized the same logic would apply to not giving his characters a nationality or religion. Making them say, Syrian, or even mentioning outright that they are Muslim would put up another divide between them and Western or non-Muslim readers, make those readers come in with all kinds of preconceived notions and even more of a reason to say “Those characters are not like me at all.”

However, I question Hamid’s decision to leave the nationality and religion of Nadia and Saeed ambiguous. While I understand the appeal of making them more relatable to Western and non-Muslim readers, I wonder if by not giving them a clear nationality or religion, Hamid fails to challenge those readers’ tendencies to “other” and refuse to relate to Muslims and people from places such as Syria. In my opinion, Nadia and Saeed are extremely likeable characters. I mean, Nadia is a total queen. She’s a strong, independent woman who is surviving on her own against all the odds. And Saeed is sweet and charming; he’s a respectable family man and always a perfect gentleman toward Nadia. I, and I imagine other readers as well, immediately feel attached to them and root for them just because of their personalities. If Hamid were to make them from an actual place, such as Syria, I believe it would have a powerful impact and lead Western readers to better humanize people from that place rather than pitying or fearing them. And I believe if he specifically mentioned they were Muslim rather than just hinting at it, it would have the same effect: non-Muslim readers would grow in empathy for Muslims.

However, by leaving their nationality and religion ambiguous, Hamid does not challenge Western and non-Muslim readers to put aside their preconceived notions. Readers get comfortable with Nadia and Saeed because they, by nature of the fact that those characters are not stated to be from any particular country or religious group, do not connect too closely to our world. My fear is that Western and non-Muslim readers’ comfort with Nadia and Saeed might not translate to real people from real places, because Nadia and Saeed are simply not real enough without a real country or religious group to be from. Therefore, Exit West might not go far enough to challenge xenophobia and Islamophobia. 

What do you think? Why do you think Hamid chose to leave Nadia and Saeed’s nationality and religion ambiguous, and how does that impact the story he’s telling? Or, am I just dumb and there’s a really obvious plot reason that I’m missing for why Exit West is not set in a specific place? If the last one is the case, someone please let me know!

Woman at War and Maternity

The movie Woman at War tells the story of a woman named Halla, who is a social activist fighting to end climate change in Iceland. Halla’s strong passion for protecting the environment has led her to extreme actions, as she has repeatedly turned off and even completely destroyed power lines that power the city.

In the midst of Halla’s extreme political activism, she received a call that her application for adoption has been approved, and there is a young girl from the Ukraine named Nika who is in need of a new home.

This news did not stop Halla from continuing to fight for the environment, and she was eventually arrested for her crimes.

After her arrest, Halla’s sister had agreed to be the new mother of Nika, and had planned to go to the Ukraine and bring her back to Iceland.

But, during a prison visit, Halla’s sister was telling her about her plan to move to the Ukraine when she gets Nika. Halla’s sister chooses to switch places with Halla in order for her to become the mother of Nika, which is something she has always wanted.

Halla then makes the journey to the Ukraine, and is able to adopt Nika and start her new life in the Ukraine.

Halla is depicted as an independent, resilient and determined woman, and is a strong, influential female protagonist.

In society, women who become mothers are often told to “settle down” and only focus on raising their children in the home. For Halla, this reality of motherhood is quite the opposite.

Even immediately after she leaves the orphanage with Nika, the bus they are on breaks down and they are forced to walk through extremely high levels of water.

Halla’s strength and aspirations will most certainly not “slow down” as she begins to parent Nika. Halla represents an independent woman who will be both a loving mother towards her child, as well as an activist that will keep on working persistently to change the world they live in.

Meursault and Matthew: An Examination of how Existentialism Varies Between The Stranger and Trust

Meursault seems to care about no one but himself and nothing but his physical needs. I will argue that Matthew is a direct foil for Meursault. 

Matthew loves Marie and fixing radios. He is also passionate in the inverse: he hates his dad and fixing televisions. Yet Matthew is still an existentialist. He makes rash decisions like inviting Marie into his home, and has a blase attitude about death by carrying around a hand grenade “just in case”. As we’ve seen in The Stranger, Meursault holds little value to marriage, expressing to Marie that he would marry any other woman who asked. Matthew, on the other hand, outright proposes to Marie several times, even conceding that he loves her by agreeing that respect, admiration, and trust equal love. 

Had Meursault been at the kitchen table with Trust-Marie’s mother, he would have agreed that he probably would’ve gone for Peg since she’s prettier. I’m a bit worried about Meursault having access to a hand grenade though, so let’s journey away from this plot-crossing. 

I would say that Meursault’s existentialism is “every man for himself” whereas Matthew’s is based more on living how he wants to live by picking and choosing which parts of society he wants to live by. 

Is Meursault a Sociopath or an Existentialist?

The definition of a sociopath is “a person with a personality disorder manifesting itself in extreme antisocial attitudes and behavior and a lack of conscience”. In the story The Stranger, the main character Meursault can be seen as a person with very sociopathic tendencies, such as having a lack of emotion, and lack of remorse, shame, and guilt after the death of his mother and his murder of the Arab. But is he actually a sociopath? Or has he just realized that there is no true meaning or purpose to life and that we are the ones who create our own happiness by accepting that?

As we discussed in class, existentialism is the theory that “existence precedes essence”, basically, we exist the moment we are born, without any purpose or meaning, and we define ourselves later in life through our experiences.

Meursault perfectly fits this description throughout the story as he constantly addresses the absurdity of life with his relationship with Marie, and the lives of the Arab and his mother.

Why Bloodchild Could be a Major Motion Picture

While reading the short story that my group presented on, Bloodchild. I could not help but picture it as a Hollywood major motion picture or an episode of Black Mirror. Black Mirror episodes take a part of human life and criticize it, by dramatizing certain behaviors that humans engage in, and showing how this plays out in an often not so distant future. Bloodchild is the perfect example of this. One of the most important political issues of this generation is abortion rights. A small group of powerful men are making decisions about something that they will never have to experience. They have all the power, and they are often making decisions, (such as restricting abortion rights), that negatively impact others.

The “Tlic”, the alien life forms that have taken control of humans, restricted their rights to drive, own weapons, and many other basic freedoms. This comes most severely at the expense of the men, who are forced to carry the Tlic’s babies, and have them violently removed at the time when they are ready to be born. Sound familiar? This completely flips the script on one of the most heavy political debates of our time.

Does Existentialism Suit Me?

As someone who had never previously been introduced to the idea of existentialism, the novel The Stranger and our in class conversations about existentialism have been my only exposure to the topic. Upon learning about this new way of viewing the world around us and all the things that society tells us have meaning, I wondered if this is a belief system that one must adopt or be born into, and if this is something that would either enhance or detract from my life if I applied it to myself. Aside from the grim ending of the novel and Meursault’s existence, the idea of existentialism was not showcased as something completley negative.

While the reader and those around Meursault are taken often back by his lack of emotion, for example the way he does not cry at his mothers funeral, his lack of a desire to find a lifelong partner, and when he turns down a new job opportunity, Meursault himself does not suffer from making these choices. If anything, the way that Meursault looks at the face value of things instead of holding them up as pillars of humanity that hold immense value helps him see the true importance of things in his life and prioritize what makes him happy.

This is not to say that things like friends, family, and religion are not useful and fulfilling parts of many peoples lives, but it does make the point that we must value aspects of our life based on the real benefits they bring us instead of trying to live by what most of society views as “success”. I personally believe that I can take many lessons out of this novel and existentialism as a whole. While I would not call myself an existentialist, I very often find myself not valuing things that society deems important, but after careful examination I have realized are either not for me, or do not bring me happiness in the long run.

Why the Idea of Existentialism is so Absurd

After hearing Mr. Heidkamp’s lecture about existentialism, I didn’t know how to feel. Everything I had ever known to be true in my life was suddenly being questioned. It was hard for me to believe that the things I considered meaningful were simply just lies that humans created to avoid confronting the harsh realities of life.

Having English 1st period, this conversation about existentialism stuck with me for the rest of the day. I was constantly trying to wrap my head around the idea. After thinking long and hard about it, I decided that in no way do I agree with the concepts of existentialism. And here is why: Existentialists believe that the loving relationships people form are not what give meaning to life. In fact, they believe that these relationships prevent people from living at their fullest potential. I find this hard to believe because from the moment we are born, we develop these types of relationships with our mothers and fathers, and with the people we meet as we grow up. No one teaches us to love or to care for others. It is a natural human phenomenon.

Rather, I think that the concept of Existentialism was created as a coping mechanism for people who are unsatisfied with their lives. It is an excuse to not feel and not care about things that are not going as well as one would have hoped. This seems to be the case for Meursault in The Stranger. Instead of mourning the death of his mother, he acted indifferent about it. Similarly, during his trial, he didn’t seem to care whether or not he was charged as guilty. Throughout the book, we see many instances in which Meursault avoids confronting the emotions he should be feeling. Then, when he is sentenced to death, Meursault explodes and all his emotions come out all at once in the form of anger and hatred.

To me, the ending of The Stranger seems to reveal the inevitable result of existentialism. Although Meursault stuck with his existentialist mindset through the book, his behavior in the last few moments proves that no good will ultimately come out of existentialism.

Is Existentialism Really The Right Way To Live?

 In the story “The Stranger” by Albert Camus throughout the entire story Camus shows Meursault as a nonchalant and non connected emotion based person towards everyone he is around. Meursault does not seem to think too hard about his mother’s death since he feels that he should not have to be so dramatic like every other person in society. This type of ideology is an okay way to feel but when Meursault is asked if he wanted to get married or loves Marie he does not seem to care or even interested in the conversation. This type of reaction from Meursault is almost manipulative since throughout the story he would say he wanted her but when she would want more he would say he didn’t care. In society a person would be looked at as manipulative towards people even if the other person like meursault was just being brutally honest.

Throughout the story, Meursault does not show that he is sad nor does he show the desire to better his own life at work he just feels that life without desire is more meaningful than following social norms. The idea that achieving things in life is pointless kind of makes living uneventful if you can not achieve things in life you really won’t be able to find a true happy version of yourself. If a person lives life as an existentialist they won’t ever truly be happy they would just be breathing with no direction it would only leave you lonely with no peace.

Meursault vs The Chaplain

Camus brings up the topic of religion throughout the story such as the moment with the religious investigator, and towards the end of the book when Meursault denies to meet the Chaplain. Camus uses the religious investigator and Chaplain to display religion compared to Existentialism and shows the battle between the two.

Throughout The Stranger, I feel as Camus sets up our character as an existentialist, which in my opinion, Meursault strongly portrays.Towards the end of the book (basically his death), Meursault’s existentialist beliefs weaken for some moments. This can be seen in his conversation with the chaplain which he denied to meet twice before. I will not talk of who brought up the stronger arguments and who technically “wins” this battle of wits but rather the moments of weakness that Meursault displays.

Camus sets up a battle of religion vs Existentialism in these final pages with our chaplain and Meursault. In this moment, Meursault for once shares atleast one emotion, fear. As the Chaplain enters the prison cell, Meursault describes a “little shudder” run through him. I took this as a foreshadowing of his battle with the priest. He tells the priest of his fear, which the priest offers to help with because he has dealt with situations like these before. Meursault replies with disinterest which I believe results from his strict belief of no higher being. He stands his ground well but I can’t help but get the image of Meursault basically just holding his ahnds up to his ears to block out the priests words. He uses language such as “annoying” and “disinteresting” to describe the priest and his words.

The priest brings up the idea of seeing the previous men condemned to this cell. Their faces, embedded within the stones of the walls with their suffering and grief. Meursault speaks of the face he searched for as Marie’s. I find this interesting because I interpreted this in two different ways. One way, Marie being the face of his sexual pleasure and desire of women which he speaks of earlier to the prison head. The other, that maybe, being close to death, he searched for a face that “loved” him, that could comfort him, down a path he knew for certain he would travel, that being his death. But we all know this is far-fetched for Meursault does not believe in love, much less feel it.

The passage continues, and Meursault releases his anger onto the chaplain. Cursing, insulting, yelling at the priest. He calls the priest a hypocrite, a man who believes he knows how to live but is truly dead within while Meursault makes himself as “right”. I believe this outburst by Meursault displays weakness being close to his final moments. Meursault is never pictured nor written as having an outburst during the entire book. Especially not during Mamans funeral, killing of the Arab, and within the courtroom. He also does not show this weakness when talking to the other religious figure within the story, that being the religious investigator. Meursault stays composed during this interrogation not failing his beliefs. But close to death, he suddenly explodes. Why? Did death truly scare him? Did he stay true to himself, what he stood for? What does he stand for?

Is Society Hypocritical?

Society today is all for individualism and expression although there are restrictions hidden within that we fail to recognize. It’s almost as if it is an illusion. Over the years we have made boundaries for what you can and cannot feel. If you don’t feel something similar to what you’re “supposed” to, then you are labeled in a negative way. Yes, as the human race we are similar in numerous ways but no one’s background and experiences are exactly the same, so why do we limit our emotions? We isolate people who feel something real and the worst part is no one even recognizes it.

From the first few paragraphs it is extremely clear that Meursault is not your typical guy. This was based on his attitude and actions towards his mother’s death. Right there the reader plays into society’s stereotypes of what is and isn’t emotionally acceptable. Readers lack that realization that there are various layers to this natural stereotype such as gender roles, age and race. Author Albert Camus confirms this distant pattern with Meursault throughout, as he is emotionally detached from not only his relationships with other characters but life itself. As I was reading, I found myself constantly criticizing his decisions and thoughts. Even in class the next day my fellow classmates were making statements along the lines of “I would have done” and “he makes no sense”. I also felt this way, until part two, when gained consciousness that there is absolutely nothing wrong with how he is feeling. The way he lives isn’t ideal but he makes it work. With the lack of knowledge we have about his past, we as reader can’t assess why he’s so detached. Overall, we need to learn how to accept that sometimes our emotions are just out of our control.

The Beginning of The Book

At the beginning of the book, it was interesting how Mersault reacted to his mothers death. Looking back on the first chapter in the story, Mersault described how he felt a lot in his surroundings. It was rather weird when Mersault also did not want his mothers casket to be opened. Even though this is something that not all people do, Mersault acts differently in this situation, and gets annoyed when the caretaker will not leave the room. When someone asked Mersault how old his mom was, he answers vaguely because he does not know her exact age. I find this interesting because it brings up questions on their relationship before her death. I think from all of this in the beginning of the story we can see that Mersault is indifferent ti his emotions. It does not seem like he is sad or happy about his mothers death, but that he is indifferent to the situation at hand.

This creates confusion to me about Mersault and the way he acts in the rest of the book. I almost see all of this as foreshadowing. When first reading the book, I knew we were in for a ride with Mersault, because of the way he acted and interpreted the situation.

Existentialism in the Trial

I think that one of the most interesting parts of The Stranger, is the trial. The main focus of Meursault’s trial is how he reacted to his mothers death, not that he killed a man. Meursault is being convicted since he is an existentialist, he is living how he wants to instead of following societies constraints. Killing a man is unimportant to his trial even though that is the only crime that he committed.

I think that this is a very interesting point because it shows how society views those who do not fit into its norms. If you do not follow the societal norms then you will be punished which is why Mersault is executed. He did not cry at his mother’s funeral and after it he went to watch a movie with Marie. When someone who is supposed to be important to you dies, such as your mom, society expects that you mourn for a long period of time. Everyone is supposed to be sad when an immediate family member dies and while I agree that this is a very sad time I think that everyone has different relationships with their family. I believe that family, friends, and happiness are some things that do give a meaning to life however existentialism does have a point in that everyone has an individual way of living life. I think that a valid question could be whether Meursault was wrongfully convicted since his trial was primarily based off of his feelings towards his mother. I think that this is also something to be considered in our justice system. Do societal norms have an impact on how people are tried? I am unsure on the answer to this questions but I do find it interesting that Meursault’s entire trial was about his mother instead of the fact that he killed a man.