The exact moment Meursault finds happiness.

“And I felt ready to live it all again too. As if that blind rage had washed me clean, rid me of hope; for the first time, in that night alive with signs and stars, I opened myself to the gentle indifference of the world. Finding it so much like myself — so like a brother really — I felt that I had been happy and that I was happy again” (122).

In Albert Camus’ The Stranger, the main character, Meursault rejects the traditional societal structures that many people value. For example, he doesn’t want to marry his girlfriend, Marie, he doesn’t cry at his mother’s funeral, and he doesn’t believe in God. Meursault believes these relationships create false hope for people that death isn’t certain. People don’t want to face the meaninglessness of death and death itself, so they grasp onto these societal structures to escape it.

In the last chapter of the novel, Meursault rises above these societal structures and realizes the indifference of the world. After waiting in his prison cell, hoping for the appeal to his eviction to come back positively, Meursault finally grasps the certainty and reality of death. “Everybody was privileged. There were only privileged people. The others would all be condemned one day. And he would be condemned too” (121). No matter what anyone did in their lives, they were all elected to the same fate. During their lives, people are never satisfied because they always try to reach greater success.

Through Meursault, Albert Camus argues that one isn’t truly happy until they face the certainty of their death. They can live their lives with meaning once they accept their inevitable fate. In The Stranger, once Meursault accepts his appeal will never come back positive, he spends every waking hour appreciating his last days. The guards were going to take him away to be exiled at night, so he takes peace when dawn comes around knowing that he will live another day.

Once Meursault accepts death, he finds happiness.

Did the Elephant really Vanish? A response to “The Elephant Vanishes” by Haruki Murakami

“That’s probably because people are looking for a kind of unity in this kit-chin we know as the world. Unity of design. Unity of color. Unity of function” (327).

In “The Elephant Vanishes” Haruki Murakami illustrates a contrast between unity and disorder. In his little town in Tokyo, the community members seem to be in constant disagreement. First, it was a disagreement about if the old elephant should even be kept. Then, it was a disagreement about where the elephant should be kept. Finally, once the elephant “vanished”, some townspeople blamed the Mayor, “As they had the year before, the opposition-party members of the town council made accusations” (316). Evidently, this town is constantly split into opposition with each other, maybe even on some accounts, they are polarized. Therefore the elephant “vanishing” may be a sign of the town’s inability to compromise, leaving them with an even larger problem.

Murakami takes such a deep interest in this elephant vanishing because he can see the unity between the elephant and keeper that isn’t evident in the town. Additionally, the unity that isn’t present in his own life. Although he seems to be a very structured person – having the same morning routine every day and reading the newspaper in chronological order – he uses these things that he can control to be structured. He admires the elephant and keeper’s relationship, “I had the feeling that to some extent the difference between them had shrunk” (325).

Ultimately, the question appears to be, did the elephant actually vanish or was this an alternate reality that the narrator wanted from his own life? It’s hard to tell from just the writing in the story because it never clearly states what actually happened to the elephant. I believe based on the evidence presented above, that the narrator saw the “elephant and the keeper become balanced” to signify something he deeply longed for in his life. Whether or not the elephant vanished, he saw something in their relationship that made him long for the same thing: unity and recognition of both sides. I think the narrator wanted his town to recognize where others were coming from and open up to the possibility of compromise.

How much do parents influence their children? George Saunder’s “Victory Lap” gives a possible explanation.

In many instances, children gain their beliefs, values, and their ways of living from their parents. This is inevitable, socialization plays a key role in how children act and shape their identity. George Saunders’ “Victory Lap” illustrates three different characters whose parental influence shaped their actions when faced with conflict. Saunders writes in the third person from inside the character’s minds.

Allison is fun-loving, positive, and sweet. She loves her life and her parents. They have created a supportive environment in which she can see her own value. After her incident involving Kyle and the stranger, Allison’s parents reassured her that she did the right thing. They said, “You did so good” and “Did beautiful”. It’s interesting to see how impactful parent-child dynamics can be. Her positive outlook comes from her parent’s constant support and kindness.

On the other hand, Saunders portrays Kyle’s parents as overbearing and strict. Since Kyle is their only child, they justify their actions by saying, “I know sometimes we strike you as strict but you are literally all we have.” In his every action, Kyle constantly thinks about what his parents have taught him to do and if his actions will be approved by his parents. Although the ending is unclear, Kyle may have gone so far as to “blow up” from his parent’s constant control over him.

Finally, Saunders gives his readers a glimpse from the stranger’s point of view. Even after 15 years of his stepfather, Melvin being dead, he still has a major influence on him. “Melvin appeared in his mind. On Melvin’s face was the hot look of disappointment that had always preceded an ass whooping, which had always preceded the other thing. Put up your hands, defend yourself.” This clues the reader into the reasoning why the stranger did what he did to Allison. To me, violence is probably the only thing the stranger knows: his way of life. He’s doing this to girls because he feels he has something to prove to his father: he’s not a disappointment.