Meaning of Life in “The Stranger”

The story opens with Mersault, the main character, realizing his mother is dead. His tone is indifferent, as he seems he hasn’t processed his mother’s death: “Maman died today. Or yesterday maybe. I don’t know. I got a telegram from home: “Mother deceased. Funeral tomorrow…” That doesn’t mean anything. Maybe it was yesterday” (chapter 1) This quote highlights the lack of emotionality of the main character by showing that he believes death and life are not big deals, which is also seen later in the book.

In chapter 3, Mersault’s idea that life is meaningless carries over to his relationships. He becomes friends with Raymond, his employer, and states that he does things for him because there’s no reason not to: “I tried… to please Raymond because I didn’t have any reason not to please him”. Because Mersault does not see life as having a meaning, he blindly pleases people because he believes there is no reason not to. This idea is expressed again in chapter 4 when he is talking to Mari when she asks him if he loves her: “I told her it didn’t mean anything but that I didn’t think so”. By stating that love doesn’t mean anything, he is again showing his nonchalant tone towards life that it is meaningless. If life does not have a purpose, neither does love or any other emotion in the human experience.

Judgement in “A Conversation about Bread”

“A Conversation about Bread” by Nafissa Thompson-Spires highlights the struggles of what it’s like being a POC while attending universities attended by mostly white people. The short story follows Brian and Eldwin as they interview as part of a project. During this interview, it becomes clear just how out of place the men sometimes feel, stating that they are constantly being watched and frequently being asked questions. Brian, who is in a wheelchair, states he is “more self conscious about his black maleness than his disability” (177). He says that he is constantly judged for his action just because of his skin color, just like his mother was while in college. Although the two men attend prestigious universities, they are still being treated differently, which just shows how prevalent racism is in the US. This short story brought attention to the every day things other people don’t have to think about, such as the “white gaze” (181).

Deserved Punishment or Criminal Behavior?

In the short story Escape from Spiderhead by George Saunders, Jeff, a convicted criminal, is forced to take drugs and engage in sexual activity as a test subject in a research facility. He must do these things as punishment for his criminal background, however as the story progresses it becomes more and more clear that the people in charge of running the facility are acting in similar ways as the “bad guys”.

In the story, the people in charge gave a test subject Darkenfloxx, a drug which makes you want to kill yourself. She had killed people in her past which had wound her up in the facility, however it begs the question of why they would risk her life just because of her past. Yes she had killed people, however testing this drug on her when it was unnecessary (and against her will) and killing her only makes the administrators murderer too. Punishment should be put in place for violent crime however the severity of the punishment dehumanizes the criminal. Jeff was dehumanized to a point where only in death did he finally experience true human emotion, stating: “no. This is all me now” (80). In the real world, the criminal justice system is very much like this. Of course in different cases different forms of punishment must be put in place, but by dehumanizing these people it is making them believe that they can be nothing more than what they were in their past.