Marriage in The Stranger and Trust

The main characters Meursault in The Stranger, and Matthew and Maria in the movie Trust (1990), are all prototypes for the Absurdist hero. All of them live as misfits, ignoring social norms and expectations. This is especially evident in their regard for marriage. While Meursault was willing to marry Marie even though he admitted to her on multiple occasions that he did not love her, he did so with emotional involvement of deciding what to eat for dinner. Not once did he question or wrestle with the idea of marriage; he was okay with it if it was something Marie wanted. He certainly didn’t see marriage as a life-changing decision that needed any deep thought.

Similarly in the movie Trust, Maria was willing to marry her boyfriend more out of convenience due to her pregnancy than any true love for him. She sees him more as a stable provider as he will probably work for his father’s business and have a stable income. When he dumps her, she’s not upset and doesn’t express any real love for him. Matthew too has a strange view of marriage as he offers to marry Maria and raise her baby while only knowing her mostly as a friend and for a short time. None of them take marriage seriously. Although I guess this fits with the Absurdist view that nothing really matters in the end, including marriage.

Would Meursault Be a Stranger in Today’s Society?

Throughout Camus’ The Stranger the main character Meursault was portrayed and perceived by others as an uncaring, emotionless sociopath. Though he doesn’t cry at his mother’s funeral, it’s clear that Meursault did care for his mother as he thinks back to her at times throughout the story. If he truly didn’t care, he wouldn’t waste his time on his memories of her. Meursault was aware of how others were probably interpreting his actions such as not wanting to see his mother’s body and not openly sobbing like others at the vigil. Still, he wasn’t interested in what others thought. Perhaps it’s cultural, but we all grieve in different ways. Today, while not typical, it wouldn’t be considered unacceptable if Meursault wasn’t crying at his mother’s vigil. Our society today is more accepting that some people grieve openly and some more privately. Meursault was still solemn. He. Other than having a cigarette, he wasn’t joking or drinking. He wasn’t acting inappropriately at the funeral home. His behavior certainly wouldn’t be used as evidence against him as to the kind of person he was at a murder trial. Meursault was emotionally isolated. While not antisocial, he clearly was annoyed by people at times. Today’s society accepts that some people think and act this way and are not strange for doing so.

A Conversation About Race

In Nafissa Thompson-Spires’ story “A Conversation About Bread”, two African-American anthropology graduate students Brian and Eldwin discuss the racial implications of an assignment where Eldwin reports on Brian’s childhood story of another school boy, Junior, bringing different types of bread for other black children to try at school. The school children are amazed by the flavors of these new delights such as potato bread and croissants. Brian has an issue with discussing the perspective of the kids as “we”–generalizing all black southern children as a stereotype. He asks, “Why do you want to tell the story anyway?” What purpose does it serve unless it’s to show yourself as somehow better than them?”

Brian clearly feels like the writing casts the children and specifically black children as a novelty. As he references the kids as being portrayed as “an elephant”, an exhibit– look at these odd children who’ve never experienced potato bread or croissants before. Eldwin (who is also black) doesn’t see it that way.

Maybe Brian is what Nabakov would consider a bad reader in that he is seeing himself in the story and using his and his mother’s experiences to interpret the writing? Is Brian being over-sensitive about race? Clearly Brian and Eldwin, although both black, don’t see things the same way. Is it possible to tell this story without a racial bias? If not, is it still okay to tell the story? Who gets to decide especially if the writer is someone of that race? Is it bad to peek at another culture through a story even if it does lead to stereotypes?

This ties in to a lot of the current discussions of implicit bias and whether it’s okay for someone to write from another culture’s perspective. I don’t know the answer but I think it’s important that we continue to have the discussion.

Who’s in Control in Victory Lap?

While many view Victory Lap as a triumph over control and the influence held by those who are present in one’s life, its ending portrays a different narrative. Weeks after the main events of the story take place, Alison is found to be having nightmares about what she went through, and Kyle’s role in what happened. She recounts how she had a chance to stop Kyle from killing the attacker and did nothing, only to be reassured by her parents that she was remembering incorrectly. This creates two possibilities for the ending as it’s unknown how truthful her parents are being. The possibility of her parents lying about the events to her, in an attempt to reprogram her memory, fits with some of the control and manipulation that is commonly shown by all of the characters’ parents. Earlier in the book Kyle states how Alison’s parents created a perfect world for her to live in, and have kept her sheltered. Now this denial can be seen as an attempt to shelter her emotionally by protecting her from the traumatic event. Due to the evidential manipulation in the earlier parts of the story, it should be seen as more likely that this is the true ending. This demonstrates that even while some freedom may be gained, the remnants of control never truly dissolve.