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?