Orientalism In The Stranger

Orientalism; the idea that Middle Eastern or Asian cultures are stagnant, savage, and only used to show the progress of a Western culture or person, can be seen in many works of literature. Novels such as Exit West, and The God of Small Things fight this system by depicting Eastern cultures as complex and independent cultures. On the other hand, many famous works like The Stranger, fail to break free from this trope.

The main instance of Orientalism in The Stranger comes when the main character Meursault (a western man) kills an Arabian man for no particular reason. The way Camus writes this ordeal is where Orientalism can really be seen. Camus refers to this Arabian man simply as “The Arab”. He is not given a name, a backstory, or a reason why he is killed. He is widdled down to the most one-dimensional version that a human being can become. As a metaphor “The Arab” possibly represents more, but as a character however, his only purpose is to die. Between this killing and the way he “objectified”, the Arabian Man and Meursault are as far away from mutual recognition as possible. The man is not depicted as a full human being and in the novel, his life only exists to be taken.

This is different from typical orientalism where an entire culture or nation is simplified because it is just one man. However, “The Arab” is the only “Eastern” character in the entire novel which means that the idea of Orientalism can still be applied. Throughout the novel, the only “Eastern” character is never given a life of his own, never shown progressing and is never even given a name. His only purpose is to interact with the western character (Meursault). Since he only exists to develop other characters, is never given an identity of his own, and is never recognized as truly human, “The Arab’s” treatment in the stranger is one of the most clear and concise examples of Orientalism in the literature we have studied this year.

Edmund or Gloucester, Who is to Blame?

Throughout King Lear, Edmund, the illegitimate son of the Duke of Gloucester, is the main antagonist who tries to unravel his family and the rest of the kingdom in order to gain power. But Edmund is not entirely at fault for this. Edmund is mistreated by his father on numerous occasions throughout the play. In act 1 scene he is publicly referred to as a “Knave” and a “Whoreson”, on top of the fact that he is not able to receive any inheritance from his father.

While Edmunds actions in the last act of the play cannot be dismissed in any way shape or form, it is not his fault for being in that situation. Due to the constant humiliation and lack of upward mobility in the kingdom it is only natural for Edmund to try and work around the “Laws” to better himself. Edmund has no other choice but to be deceitful in his attempt to gain power. However the same cannot be said for, his father, Gloucester. All of Edmund’s problems stem from Gloucester, and all of these problems could be avoided.

First of all Edmund being illegitimate, a bastard, born out of wedlock, etc is not his fault at all. It was due to Gloucester’s unfaithful actions that Edmund was born a bastard, so why should Edmund have to live with the consequences of something that he cannot control.

Secondly Edmund’s treatment is what prompted him to commit crimes and undermine his father. Edmund did not choose to be treated this way, but Gloucester chose to treat him poorly.

Since Gloucester brought about these circumstances (which could have been easily avoided), some blame can reasonably be shifted away from Edmund and onto Gloucester. While this does not excuse edmunds treasonous actions against Lear and Cordelia, not all of the blame should be on Edmund.

Hurricane

On his hit 2021 Album Donda, Kanye West had several popular rap songs with lots of deep meaning behind the lyrics. One of the most prevalent tracks on this album is called Hurricane written and produced by Kanye West himself, featuring The Weeknd (Abel Makkonen Tesfaye) and Lil Baby (Dominique Jones). The three artists featured in this song rap about their past experiences with certain vices, hardships, and mental struggles (of which they are not proud) and how they have escaped their past through finding God and devoting their life to Christianity. This song can be considered poetry because of the several striking lines and deep meaning in the song.

One of the most powerful segments of the song comes during Kanye West’s first verse when he says;

Sixty-million dollar home, never went home to it

Genius gone clueless, it’s a whole lot to risk

Alcohol anonymous, who’s the busiest loser?

These lines are especially powerful because they each convey a struggle that West has dealt with despite his fame and great success. The first line represents how West is unable to spend time with his family because of his job. This is especially powerful because it is coming at a time where West is going through a divorce and will likely never be with his family in the same way he used to. The second line represents West’s lack of direction in his life. He is often referred to as a lyrical and musical genius, but when he says he has “gone clueless” this represents the lack of purpose and direction in West’s life. The last line shows that West still struggled with substance abuse even when he became rich and famous. Overall West’s verse on the song represents the inevitable worldly struggles faced by everyone.

In The Weeknd’s (Abel Makkonen Tesfaye) chorus he sings about how religion has saved him when he says;

I see you in 3D, the dawn is bright for me
No more dark for me, I know You’re watchin’ me
Eighty degrees, burnin’ up the leaves
Finally, I’m free, finally, I’m free
As I go out to sea, I can walk on water
Won’t you shine Your light? Demons stuck on my shoulder
Father, hold me close, don’t let me drown
I know You won’t

This final chorus contains several striking lines. In the first two lines, Tesfaye describes how God’s guidance has opened his eyes and given new meaning to life. The final two lines are debatably the most powerful of the entire song. Tesfaye describes how he has put his full trust in God. Overall Tesfaye’s verse represents rebirth and renewal through God and how God is more powerful than worldly problems.

West and Tesfaye’s verses have a very stark contrast in terms of message and meaning. But when seen in context next to each other we can see the meaning behind the juxtaposition of these two verses. West describes the hardships of being a human, and how money fails to solve these hardships, while Tesfaye describes God’s ability to solve any problem no matter how great. When combined these two messages represent West and Tesfaye’s struggles in life, they thought that riches and fame would solve these issues, but in the end, they learn that God is the answer to all of their worldly problems.

The Prolonged Ending

During the final pages of Exit West by Mohsin Hamid, We learn that the two main characters, Saeed and Nadia, end their relationship. Saeed and Nadia met in their home country while there was a relative sense of peace. As their relationship progressed the world around them seemed to deteriorate as militants slowly took over their city. The state continued to worsen until Saeed and Nadia decided to leave the country together leaving behind everything in their old lives including their families. Saeed and Nadia travel the world looking for a place to call home using mysterious portals called “doors”.

Saeed and Nadia’s relationship is more than just any romantic relationship. Their relationship represents their old way of life. When they leave their home country the only thing they have from their old life is each other. After their time in their country ends their relationship begins to end because they grow further apart from each other. The more distant they get from their old home, the more distant they get from each other. This is why Saeed and Nadia’s relationship represents their old lives and it was destined to end once they left their home.

The Trial of Meursault

On page 63, Meursault goes on trial for murdering the Arab man. But during the trial and the period before it, little, to no investigation of the crime itself is done. Meursault is asked to provide details of what happened and he says everything, including confessing to killing the Arab man. What people take the most interest in is Meursault’s character, especially his reaction to his mother’s death.

The trial then begins to become an investigation of Meursault himself, instead of a trial of his actions. The lawyer is puzzled by his lack of concern over his mother’s death. The lawyer becomes so frustrated with the situation that he waves a cross at Meursault screaming to him that he must repent. Meursault has no reaction to this and simply agrees with the lawyer, as to not have to listen to his speech about God.

After this confrontation with the Meursault, the lawyer and judge both accept that their efforts to change Meursault are futile and simply acknowledge that: “I have never seen a soul as hardened as your’s”. The judge also refers to Meursault as Monsieur Antichrist showing that they have lost all hope for him and perceive him as evil.

Does Meursault Care?

Throughout The Stranger by Albert Camus, it is implied that Meursealt is indifferent to his mother’s death. In the opening chapter Meurseault shows a lack of knowledge of his mother’s death, stating “Maman died today. Or yesterday maybe, I don’t know”. During his mother’s funeral he observes things such as; the weather, the screws on the coffin, and what the other people at the funeral are wearing. But throughout the funeral Meursault does not reflect on his mother’s death and does not even mourn. This leads the reader to believe that he does not care that his own mother has died.

However, in the final chapter when Meursault faces his execution, he has a true understanding about his perceived indifference to life. He thinks about all of his friendships and all his romantic relationships and realizes that they hold no inherent meaning to the universe. After doing this he thinks about his mother for the first time in a while. He relates his impending death to what Maman was feeling in the nursing home. He feels a sense of freedom as his death approaches and realizes that his mother must have felt that same comforting indifference of impending death. After realizing this he declares that; “Nobody, nobody had the right to cry over her.”

To me this shows that Meursault did love his mother and that a part of him was affected by her death. His lack of emotion was due to his indifference to the world but not because he didn’t care. He did not show emotion because he knew that his mother was at peace on her deathbed and therefor nobody should be sad for her. He realized that death is something and Maman was at peace in her final days. This gave Meursault the comfort to know that his mother did not suffer so neither should he.