Parallels Between Sherlock Holmes, High Functioning Sociopath, and Mersault, Potential Psychopath?

In Albert Camus’ novel The Stranger, the main character Meursault appears to be very nonchalant and detached. He shows little emotion even at very major events. When his mother dies, he doesn’t cry, he doesn’t wish to see the body; the only thing occupying his mind is how he has a headache and wishes to take a nap, have a smoke, and drink some coffee. When he gets offered a job in Paris, he doesn’t show any emotion, only stating that he already has a job, why should he need a promotion?

In the TV show Sherlock, based on the famous novel series The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Sherlock describes himself as a high-functioning sociopath. A sociopath is defined by Oxford as “a person with a personality disorder manifesting itself in extreme antisocial attitudes and behavior and a lack of conscience”. Sherlock is capable of communicating and making connections with people just as John Watson, hence the high functioning, however, he is nonempathetic towards societal norms.

Meursault is similar to Sherlock in the sense that he acts on his own accord, societal norms not influencing his behavior or decisions in the slightest. However, I believe Meursault exhibits behaviors more synonymous with a psychopath. Sociopaths are seen more as “hot-headed” and have a “rules be damned” mentality, while psychopaths are cold and calculating, and have violent tendencies. Meursault killing a man certainly falls under violent social behavior. Psychopaths are also more personally driven to act the way they do, while sociopaths are still impacted by society and are compelled to act not according to the unwritten rules. Meursault is detached from society in the sense he doesn’t even care about its existence. He simply exists.

Losing Hope

In The Stranger by Albert Camus, the reader follows Meursault on his journey through a multitude of different situations and relationships. But, what I find the most interesting about this story is how Meursault responds to these situations. He is very analytical in nature, and seems almost emotionless. This ultimately results in Meursault getting himself into a lot of trouble and even leads to him being sentenced to execution. Throughout the story he tries to make some sense out of his odd behavioral habits and by the end, is able to connect his own personality to the meaning of life.

For me, the most striking line that embodies this realization is on page 122 when Meursualt is waiting to be executed. Meursault states, “As if a 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”(122,123). I believe that this is one of the most important quotations in The Stranger and that it provides a realization that does a very good job of bringing the story to a close. Prior to this, but after his sentence, Meursault was contemplating ways to evade his execution. He quickly became consumed and very stressed. But, he eventually loses all hope and it is only then that he is able to be happy and at peace. He realizes that the indifference he shows to the world is mutual and reflects right back at him. With this, he no longer felt “alone” and no longer feared his certain death. Death comes eventually anyway, why stress about when it will come.

Life is not a gift

This is just my current perspective, it’s completely subjective, and it definitely stems from self hatred and projection, so there is no real philosophical validity in my thoughts. Regardless, here they are: There is this thing called optimistic bias that overrides any potential validity to an existential argument. Claiming life in general is a gift is a very selfish mindset. claiming that the overwhelmingly incomprehensible amount of suffering on this planet is a gift just because you are alive is straight sociopathic. We all claim to look for the best in life while still wearing our “good person” hats just so we don’t have to accept the actual unbearable pain that others go through. The human ego is unbelievably disturbing and the internal reactions you have in reading this is proof. The feeling of, “oh but I’m not like that, I truly care” No you don’t. You feel empathy, yes, we all do, but you don’t truly care and I don’t truly care. My proof is that I’m here typing this and you’re here reading it when we both know this accomplishes nothing and helps absolutely no one but yourself (also myself) and your ego for thinking your perspective on the world holds some magical levity that makes you a good person. This isn’t calling out anyone in particular because it’s all of us. We simply cannot care about anything more than our own lives for survival. I am a hypocrite, we all are. The counter argument to this is that “you can’t just decide that for everyone.” And you’re right, I didn’t decide it, your biology and internal subconscious defense mechanisms did. Why did my parents have me? To give their lives meaning? Why do we all want to have kids? To give all our lives meaning? It’s selfish to ignore what’s going on and pretend you’re above your biology. It’s literally engrained into us to reproduce like every single animal on the planet, we just attach some “deeper meaning” to it because we don’t want to accept the fact that this decision was made for us when we were born. There is no reason to have kids that doesn’t involve the parents desires. But what if you want your kid to have a good life? What if you’re going to raise him well and give him a happy environment? This is where our ignorance comes full circle; there is still all the unbearable meaningless suffering in the world. It didn’t go away just because you were able to ignore it and focus on your kid. Again, I am not better than anyone. I suck as much as everyone else, but trying to force “self love” into my head as an excuse to not think about the truth in front of me is so conflicting. Yes! Amazing! Why didn’t I think of that? I don’t have to think about it all the time! I don’t have to constantly have the weight of suffering I could never understand on my shoulders because it’s not happening to me! I can stare at my phone and feel like a good person because I’m “against bad”. This article is meaningless, it accomplishes nothing. Our thoughts on how the world works and should be perceived are meaningless because of the infinite amount of experiences we’ve never had. I don’t know why I’m sharing this, It goes against the basis of what I’m saying, but it also goes with it as I also suck. I also think that my privileged view of how the world is meant to be perceived is correct. It’s something I can’t control and you can’t either. The ego hates to be wrong. It denies it but it absolutely hates it. At least our generation is wasting time online rather than having eight kids because they were bored. Moral of the story is I literally don’t know anything and your interpretations on the morality of the subject are completely valid as to pretend I understand anything is narcissistic; also, please adopt.

Marie is Not Naive

To some, it seems that Meursault has completely figured out life more than anyone else and he is living completely free without any illusions. However, I think he is too far over the line between being able to enjoy life vs constantly feeling like nothing matters at all. It is one thing to be naive, but it is another to live without emotion. I think Marie understands life more than she is given credit for, and I like her grasp on everything. Some might think she is portrayed as naive, but in my opinion, she sees the truth yet can still be happy and have a good time. She still loved Meursault after she asked him if he loves her and he “told her it didn’t mean anything but (he) didn’t think so (35),” and it didn’t stop her from being loyal to him even throughout his trial process, because they still had a connection. She does not deny the peculiarity of Meursault, that is one of the things that draws her to him. She feels emotions, but she doesn’t let them dictate her whole life. In addition, it seems the physicality of their relationship and their trips to the beach are some of the only things Meursault seems to enjoy. In conclusion, I think Marie is an important character who has a more sustainable world view than Meursault, and experiencing emotions is a good thing.

Can Existentialists Help Others?

When we discussed the premise of existentialism, I struggled with the idea of individualism above all else. If the only thing that truly exists is random, absurd suffering, then the only thing we can do that matters is to attempt to alleviate some of that suffering. Trying to help others live a happier, more secure, more comfortable life must be the only worthy goal. And to do this effectively, a person can’t be strictly independent; they have to consider the needs and feelings of other people as well.

But according to Frank Kappler’s article “A Torturous Road to New Morality” (linked in the existentialism resources on Classroom), which explains Sartre’s theory of existentialism, helping others is not necessarily at odds with existentialism. Sartre claims that it is in fact a way to escape the despair that comes with the knowledge that life is absurd, describing this principle as “engagement,” or as Kappler puts it, “Committing oneself by a resolute act of free choice to a positive part in human affairs.” As long as you chose this path yourself– in spite of the absurdity– you can remain an existentialist even as you try to fulfill a purpose (although I would argue that if you have such a purpose, then that gives life some meaning). I thought this was an interesting, surprisingly optimistic aspect of Sartre’s theory that made existentialism more understandable.

Mythical Madness

In Albert Camus’s essay, “The Myth of Sisyphus,” he argues that there has been a great misconception in regards to the mental state of the former king of Corinth. Rather than believing Sisyphus to be a miserable being imprisoned by his own fate, Camus notes that this fate might just be his liberation.

Now how might a former king trapped by an eternal condemnation have control over his fate? Well, that’s where Camus points to the part of Sisyphus’ punishment that we might not ponder as much. He claims it is in the, “hour of consciousness” that Sisyphus is “stronger than his rock” (2). That is to say that his descent is not a symbol of his tangible failure, but rather the moment in which his fate belongs to him.

By definition, existentialism as a philosophical principle requires one to assume absolute responsibility over individual free will. And, Sisyphus has accomplished just that. Instead of succumbing to his damnation, he thwarted the gods intentions and became the ruler of his destiny. Just as Meursault rejected the priest’s desire for him to repent on death row, Sisyphus similarly challenges his immortal captors by finding true happiness within his fatalistic condition.

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.

The Truth Behind and Life and Love

My philosophy on life is probably pretty similar to yours. However, The Stranger by Albert Camus has different ideas. I see life as life. That means that life is what we live in and everyone’s experience with life is usually pretty different from one another. I personally do not like thinking about life other than having the best time possible throughout it and living life to the fullest. This might be because I fear death and do not want life to end, but another factor could be that I do not really know the purpose of life, other than that I am a part of life. Sometimes I feel like I am in a movie and life is the movie and I just play my role hoping to succeed.

Mr. Heidkamp on Wednesday had different ideas for class. He decided to lecture us on the meaning and purpose of life. Although I do not necessarily agree with this lecture, the lecture matches up very similarly to The Stranger. Although I am actually really enjoying this book, sometimes it can be a little dry. These kinds of books are almost always discussed in school for different reasons than just the plot of the story.

Beside the point, I would rather live life and experience it than talk about the purpose and meaning of it. With that being said, has anyone ever found out the true meaning of life? No! So why am I going to? I am just going to spend my time living it.

After Awhile You Can Get Used to Anything!

In Albert Camus’s novel The Stranger, Meursault’s mother passes away before the book begins. A series of events occur, including Mersault shooting a man, which result in a prison sentence. To most, prison is probably not the most ideal place to live. With no freedom, Meursault has to give up his job, women and cigarettes. To Meursault, prison is not so horrible after awhile. Camus writes, “So, with all the sleep, my memories, reading my crime story, and the alteration of light and darkness, time passed” (80). Meursault realizes life is meaningless, and everything is up to the choices he makes. When he explains his time in prison, he does not complain about losing the freedom to visit his job, girlfriend, or friends. He decides to live life in prison by using what he has, and not missing what he used to have. Meursualt creates games, digs out old memories, and reads the same crime story over and over. He doesn’t believe being in prison is a bad thing, because he has no other hopes or dreams. He is where he is, because he has done what he’s done, and now he must pay the consequence for it.

Living life this way can seem depressing, but ultimately, it means Meursault is not unhappy. He does not wish for anything and in fact, even when Marie comes to visit him, he doesn’t display affection or happiness to finally see her. While many people pray they will never have to spend a day in jail, Meursault has a different approach. As Maman used to believe, “after awhile you could get used to anything” (77).

Lost In Translation And Existentialism

The Discrepancies Between The Stranger And L’étranger And An Existentialist Conversation

I sat down to read L’étranger for the first time a few springs ago, and every so often I reread the first few pages or chapters aloud.

The flow of …

Aujourd’hui maman est morte. Ou peut-être hier, je ne sais pas.

Camus, Albert. L’étranger. Éditions Gallimard, 1942, p.1.

… is something that has burned into my memory.

Reading both the English and French version of the novel evokes vivid images and a world I constructed and fabricated so clearly sophomore year. Rereading the first few pages of this book had become an almost obsessive behavior, but it was comforting because it transported me to a world that paralleled a time in my life that felt hopeful and purposeful (which was somewhat ironic). I associated the way Meursault would hold a cigarette, the vast expanses of Algerian beaches, the bright lights of the funeral home, and the red sores of Salamano’s dog with the end of my sophomore year in an inextricable way.

When I picked up this book in English for the first time, I was off put. The same images that came with the rhythm of the French version that I had read aloud repeatedly ceased to appear. It was strange, so I would blink, and attempt to read again and conjure up the world of Meursault. I think that as I continued to read, but there was always a certain uneasiness that followed. Which maybe was an appropriate accompaniment for the book.

This anxiety that I am missing something surfaces everytime I read a book that I know was originally in a different language. Anna Karenina should be in Russian, Norwegian Wood should be in Japanese – what is slipping through the cracks of the language barrier that I will never be able to grasp? I trust modern translators, and I know that popular translations are meticulously constructed to preserve the original meaning. But I also know that there will always be something missing – which makes me want to learn more languages. But then I wonder if learning these languages outside of a native context will skew my understanding.

Nevertheless, last school year I hadn’t thought of Meursault for a while until 2020 had upturned all of our worlds in March.

Similarly, I recall turning to Huis Clos (No Exit) by Jean Paul Sartre in order to explain the absurdity and relentlessness that this year. I prominently recall a list of existentialist vocabulary that prefaced the play in our thin paperback copies.

L’absurde – Reality is absurd because we recognize our inability to explain its existence. The outside world exists without apparent justification, foundation or purpose.

La nausée – Nausea is the feeling of repulsion that takes us when we become aware of the absurdity of reality.

L’angoisse – Anguish is the normal condition of those who have become aware of their total liberty, and the fact that there are no universal values that can justify the choices they have made.

L’authenticité – A man who has grasped and accepted the fact that he is free, who has realized what his situation is, and who has, within that situation, chosen to engage himself in the world around him so as to affirm his liberty, is an authentic person.

Le choix – Man is condemned, because he is free, to choose what he is going to be, by his daily actions. This choice also implies the attitude of the Others and hence is another source of anguish.

La liberté – To be free is to recognize one’s complete independence; to make one’s own life through one’s own initiative; to reject any idea of absolute Good or absolute Evil and to accept no judge or mentor to save one’s own conscience.

I remember writing that I was overcome with la nausée while driving in my car, listening to Dreams by Fleetwood Mac last spring. I had taken to driving long distances with my Dad as a form of escapism. I would drive along rural highways and never get out of the car, and that gave me a lot of time to be pensive. I felt as if I was hit by something so large and overwhelming that is was indescribable. It sunk in my stomach like lead. And everything around me seemed to take on a new lens as irrelevant and frivolous. As a went through the sequence of trying to justify the turbulence that had uprooted my junior year (before March, I had also had a difficult and unusual year), I realized that searching only made it worse.

It was cringely nerdy, but I had to take out my copy of Huis Clos in order to explain and document this feeling that had overwhelmed me on the drive. I realized that this was la nausée, but this brutal experience had taken me one step closer towards la liberté. It was something I had to grapple with in order to move away from the brink of hopelessness. Which I sometimes fear removes its authenticity. I can’t use it was a means to escape something, because that is just as harmful. I think I am grappling with my relationship with l’absurde everyday, but not in too conscious a way. It is a balance that I will be trying to find for the rest of my life.

Who Is the Real Robot?

While at Celeste’s, Meursault eats dinner with a small woman. She is very direct, precise, and quick. This intrigues Meursault enough to follow her after dinner to see what she does next. This woman is described as a “robotlike” (43) by Meursault. This woman seems like a foil to Meursault because she does everything with direction: “Ordered her whole meal all at once… While she was waiting for her first course, she opened her bag, took out a slip of paper and a pencil, added up the bill in advance, then took the exact amount, plus tip, out of a vest pocket and set it down on the table in front of her” (43). From the moment she sits down she does everything with purpose. This is clearly the opposite of Meursault, who through the story aimlessly lets life happen to him as he does things like turn down promotions and marry a woman he is not in love with.  

Calling her the robot woman seems odd as Meursault could be described as a robot himself. He seems to feel no emotion and just does exactly what he is told to do. I think this woman could be an example of why some critiques of existentialism and Meursault are hypocritical. As some say that it is dark and assumes life has no meaning. The character of the robot woman shows how a person that is the exact opposite of an existentialist, one that has great belief in the systems that humans have created, could be just as bad. As while Meursault seems not to decide anything for himself she does not either, as she is trapped in a routine determined by systems outside of her control. Meursault and the robot woman show how opposite extremes in world view could result in similar people.

The Passing of Time (and Character)

The Stranger written by Albert Camus is largely a stream of consciousness into a character Meursault. Things happen in the plot, events that would change someone’s life permanently, but the narration is so distant that it brings the focus away from the plot and to the mind of the character.

With Meursault as well as Camus’ portrayal of Sisyphus in “The Myth of Sisyphus”, the characters that are attached to existentialism aren’t philosophers; they are unaware of the exact nature of what distinguishes them from others. Sisyphus goes from sad to happy in his respective story, which is a little simpler of an interpretation of the philosophy despite its being much more difficult to read. Meursault is more complicated in that he isn’t necessarily happy or sad, or important even in his own head. He finds some enjoyment in daily activities like eating and napping, and finds conversations interesting, but he feels neither doomed nor enlightened.

For a lot of the story, Camus seems to throw problems and events at Meursault to see how he reacts.

A lot of time passes in the first and second chapter of part II. And for the most part, Meursault’s lifestyle is stagnant. The eleven months that pass of his questioning have virtually no effect on his mental state, and his five months in prison only act as a rehab from things like going to the beach and smoking, and then he becomes adjusted and lives what to him is a complete life, with brand new daily activities:

“So with all the sleep, my memories, reading my crime story, and the alternation of light and darkness, time passed” (80).

I think that losing track of time is less of an effect of prison and more of the natural consequence of an existentialist philosophy, personified by Meursault’s circumstances. Meursault values life for the sole purpose of being able to live, but there’s no reason for him to value time. There’s evidence that Meursault has abandoned parts of his life just to lead a simpler life, and this chapter shows that he also has the ability to abandon time. So, where Camus threw a prison sentence at Meursault, he discovered something new about how Meursault wants to live life.

The following is my favorite quote from the story (so far).

“At the time, I often thought that if I had had to live in the trunk of a dead tree, with nothing to do but look up at the sky flowering overhead, little by little I would have gotten used to it” (77).

Love Is Not a System

The theory of existentialism is probably the most negative theory I have ever heard in my life- but it is true in many ways. Systems such as school, politics, educational goals, and fashion were created and enforced by humankind. In the end, these factors are meaningless to the universe because they are all “made up.” However, you cannot put love in the category of systems.

Love is a feeling- it is not a made up system. Sure, the word love was created by a person, but the feeling was not chosen by anyone. Love is its own emotion. It is a mix of happiness, anger, sadness, excitefulness, and can even cause physical feelings such as heartache. Love is felt by babies towards their mothers even if they have never heard the word.

I understand existentialism, and I realize that many factors in life are truly absurd. But love should not be represented in this system. It is a strong sense that most people experience at some point in their lives whether they want to or not.

Meursault Is the Stranger

From what I’ve read so far, I believe that Meursault is the stranger. A stranger is someone who is an outsider or a foreigner and I noticed that Meursault is a stranger to society and somewhat himself.

He doesn’t follow social norms. He didn’t show compassion for his mother, Raymond’s girlfriends, Salamano’s dog, etc. In the eyes of society, his kind of behavior is regarded as bizarre. Meursault does not understand why events have a sentimental value for people and this is what makes him disconnected with society. In addition, I think that he is a stranger to himself in a way, but not more than he is to others. He goes through events without a plan and without commitment to either principles or people. He doesn’t know who he is and he doesn’t care. Meursault is a stranger and an absurdity to society because he does not show any emotions, he has no meaning for life, and his only certainty and guarantee is death.

Absurdity In The Eyes of The Reader

Mersault’s character is direct; he sees things how they are without reading into anything, finding meaning in anything, or expressing any real emotion. His view of life is, to say the least, unusual. Though he appears this way to the reader at first glance, his actions suggest a deeper humanity that other characters cannot see in him.

When he is in the midst of his examination Mersault reflects on the clerks’s menaing of life: “That was his belief, and if he were ever to doubt it, his life would become meaningless. ‘Do you want my life to be meaningless?’ he shouted…. But from across the table he had already thrust the crucifix in my face and was screaming irrationally, ‘I am a Christian. I ask Him to forgive you your sins. How can you not believe that He suffered for you?'” (Camus 69).

The clerk defines his life’s meaning based on Christianity, and is utterly confused when he realizes Mersault does not have even an inkling of belief; the thin reality the clerk holds onto threatens to crumble and he grow irrational and terrified.

Mersault is confusing and absurd to other characters, but Camus frames him in this way for that exact reason: to make not only other characters, but the reader uncomfortable. He is meant to make one rethink the constructs of life and recognize that everyone has different definitions of a life well lived, and that meaning must come from a place deep enough that it cannot be so easily unravelled.

Why Does It Matter That Nothing Matters?

Mr. Heidkamp’s discussion on the meaning of life was very upsetting for me at first. Relationships, love, and helping others are all incredibly important to me, and so hearing that all of those ideas were just “illusions” was really discouraging. However, as we continued to talk about these ideas through a pessimistic perspective, I started to wonder if I agreed with everything being said. I came to the conclusion that I wasn’t sure, but even if I did agree, did I even care?

Even if my values were all illusions, what did that really mean? These concepts and feelings are real to me, and in my life, that’s all that really matters. Life doesn’t have to have “meaning” for you to enjoy it, and these concepts don’t have to be “real” for them to be important for you. Since nothing matters, why does the concept that “nothing matters” even matter?

Eventually the class came to a similar conclusion, and we all discussed how life gives the meaning to life, and that that can mean something different for everyone. As long as you’re content with your life, that should be enough. We are the ones who give our lives meaning, so we are also the only ones who can take away that meaning by saying “nothing matters” (so don’t say that!).

I think that these beliefs are why I don’t really like the main character in The Stranger by Albert Camus. Many view him as smart for realizing that life has no meaning and being above it all, but I don’t know if I agree. Sure he’s figured out the “secret to life,” but what does that even do for him? He’s completely disconnected from the rest of society and apathetic towards every thing that happens in his life.

Maybe this is what makes him content, and in that case, he has found his meaning in life and I think that’s great. However, from my perspective, his life seems sad. I want everything in my life to have meaning for me personally, even if it doesn’t for the rest of the world. Since nothing matters, anything can matter.

What the Heck is Life?

Wednesday morning I logged into zoom to see Mr. Heidkamp in some goofy hat, class was already off to an interesting start. I tried to push my giggles aside and start listening to what he had to say, and boy he had some things to say. Personally I really enjoyed Wednesday class. Did I leave utterly confused, completely. Regardless, I find hearing people’s interpretation of life very intriguing. I did not really agree with what Camus’/Mr.Heidkamp had to say, but it did really get me thinking. Evil Mr.Heidkamp really had me feeling like a philosopher. I can completely understand the idea that happiness is just a social construct that humans feel like they need to have. We are told in life to do tasks to feel happy and as soon as we achieve those tasks the happiness is only temporary until we are told to do something else to make us happy again. I try not to think about that though because I feel like over analyzing life puts a damper on it and doesn’t allow you to live life to the fullest. My moto in life is YOLO, so I try not to think about the actual meaning of life too hard because it takes away from the YOLO aspect. I find that having in depth conversations about what life is can only take me so far because I can only fathom so much. Nonetheless, I know that I will never understand what life is and what it holds, I will just try to roll with the punches.

When we started reading The Stranger I kind of thought it as one of those useless books we have to read for English class. The book was sort of bland. Not much too it, like Meursault. After Wednesday class I totally have a new view of the book thinking about Camus theory of life. Meursault doesn’t really care about anything and acts as if nothing matters, just like Camus theory stated that nothing really matters. I’m still waiting for a big AH HA moment in the book. I’ll keep you guys updated if I find it.

Life Doesn’t Matter If You Don’t Live It

So I was a bit groggy after just barely waking up for advisory and then laying in bed until English started. I was hoping for a relaxing start to my day as I didn’t get much sleep, but instead here comes Mr. Heidkamp wearing a crazy hat and talking about the meaning of life. That was definitely not how I expected to start my Wednesday. Throughout my time reading the stranger so far, I’ve been frustrated by lack of plot, the attitude of Meursault, and the general social commentary style of the book. I knew this was coming though and I expected discussions going forward to be more about the meaning of the book than the book itself. When listening to the lecture, I began drifting a bit into my own thoughts about the true purpose of life. That was until I basically heard Mr. Heidkamp say life doesn’t matter after spending 20 minutes discussing the many various meanings. This is when I got upset. I simply just don’t agree with that lecture or the meaning of this book. In my perspective, life is what you make it. If you spend time thinking about life and what it means, you’re wasting time you can spend figuring out what it means to YOU. Life is not the same for everyone. Every single person will have a slightly varied meaning of life. But why spend time trying to think of that meaning when you can just live. I believe that thinking about what life means is a complete and utter waste of time. You’re never going to truly understand life. So why not just live it instead?

What Really Matters?

I remember my friend last year telling me about this talk in AP Lit. I heard her say that her teacher was questioning all of her beliefs and all I could think to myself was how crazy that teacher must be. A year later, to be more specific a messy 2020 later I can start to understand the concept of this talk that was meant to make us think like we have never thought before.

There is no binary in which things are considered important. The word priority is a better way of thinking at it really. Everyone perspective on what matters is different. That is the while point of life. Not to base our experiences, accomplishments, mistakes on what has happened to others, but to base what matters on what we truly believe to matter. I like to connect this concept to Maslows Hierarchy of needs, the most complex of these needs, Self Actualization. Self Actualization is defined by Oxford Language as “the realization or fulfillment of one’s talents and potentialities, especially considered as a drive or need present in everyone.”

It is said that not everyone reaches this level of thinking, which does not necessarily mean that that individuals life did not have purpose, but means that an individual who does not reach self actualization life has meaning as a result of the goals and standards set by others rather than themselves.

Finding the Meaning in Nothing

When beginning to read The Stranger by Albert Camus, I had a hard time recognizing the point or the purpose of this story. I mean, it’s really hard to recognize considering Meursault’s extremely surface level attitude towards everything, including his mother’s death. During his trial, the director of the home Maman was in said, “He had been surprised by [Meursault’s] calm the day of the funeral” and that “[He] hadn’t wanted to see Maman, [he] hadn’t cried once, and that [he] left right after the funeral without paying [his] last respects at her grave” (Camus, 89). It might just be the way Meursault deals with grief, but to be honest, his inability to express his emotions not only confused me, but made me a little angry.

I think the fact that I was so mind boggled by Meursault’s response to usually emotion evoking events made me neglect what the book is trying to get across: is there any meaning to life? Honestly, I find this to be a frustrating theme. I like things to be very cut and dry, so the fact that I have to use my own opinion and figure it out myself isn’t my favorite part of reading this book. However, as Camus says in “The Myth of Sisyphus”, “Myths are made for the imagination to breathe into them”. In the case of The Stranger, I believe the same applies. We as readers have to breathe imagination into this book and form our own opinions on the meaning of life.