Smile at the Little Things

Albert Camus brings up an interesting viewpoint of the meaning of life in his argument within Myth of Sisyphus. While reading, I reflected his proposal for why Sisyphus is actually content with his punishment by the Gods. Sisyphus is punished by the Gods with the task of pushing a enormous stone up a hill, all for it to fall back down, and thus Sisyphus must start again. At first, I believed that this would be an extremely challenging and horrible punishment because the person works so hard to complete something but can never quite finish the task. As a perfectionist and goal-oriented person, not being able to successfully bring the stone up the hill without it rolling back down would strike up an excessive amount of anxiety and anger to myself mentally.

What I had not thought about before Camus’s synopsis was that he mentions how his punishment includes several of the wonderful amenities Earth provides including the stone and hill. I believe that Albert Camus argues that since Sisyphus can control his punishment, embrace his fate, and recognizes the amazing objects Earth provides us, Sisyphus is happy.

This allowed for myself to reflect on all of the amazing things that surrounds my everyday life and all the little things I take for granted. The small cherishes of accomplishing and experiencing life.

Although this is not exactly what Camus was stating or trying to prove, my reflection brought me to the ponderous question; what is the meaning of life? I could state all the big and small things that I live for including: family, friends, my future, love, etc. But I have realized that the meaning of life is subjective. Everyone is living for different reasons. It may be because of faith. Or money. Or even living to find the meaning of life. Everyone is living for their own reasons and meaning of life.

So that leads me to think why live for meaning in life in any construct you choose to live if it all ends the same? Death.

But for now, I will embrace my life and cherish everything in my life to the best of my capability.

Meursault, Salamano, and the Foil

Camus uses other characters in his novel The Stranger to highlight Meursault’s lack of care. For example, Meursault notices a woman who sits with him as she eats at Celeste’s. In particular, he notices how she does everything with assurance. She eats purposefully, she marks her magazine completely, and she prepares her bill to the exact penny before she begins eating (43). Meursault follows her outside as she swiftly walks away, and notes how strange she is, but nothing else happens involving the lady. At first, it seems odd that Camus would add this strange detail that takes up a page of his story and appears to amount to nothing. However, the purpose of this encounter is to provide contrast to Meursault’s indifferent personality. Meursault responds to everything with short sentences that say he doesn’t really care. This lady, on the other hand, seems to care about everything she does. By including this woman into the story, Meursault’s indifference is only made clearer.

Another character that contrasts Meursault is Salamano. In the beginning of the novel, the old man seems like a bad person with no heart. He abuses his dog and calls him a “lousy bastard” all the time. However, on page 39, Meursault hears him crying after he lost his dog. Camus makes a clear point to take this character who seems heartless and give them emotions and vulnerable moments too. This surprising revelation causes the reader to wonder: if even Salamano cares about things, how come Meusault does not?

If the syntax of the novel and Meursault’s own thoughts aren’t enough to show his indifference to everything, the stark contrast between him and others completes the job.

Dogs are Man’s Best Friend

“The Stranger”, a novel by Albert Camus, focuses on a strange relationship between Salamano, an old man, and his dog, who suffers from mange. People say that dogs often look like their owners, this is one of those cases. In the story, Camus explains, “They look as if they belong to the same species, and yet they hate each other” (27). This comes as a bit of a shock because you would expect them to have a great bond, especially if they look similar. But as you later learn, Salamano “beats the dog and swears at it” (27).

However, this relationship of terror, from the dog, and hatred, from Salamano, is flipped upside down in the following chapters. Later, the dog is lost and the reader learns that Salamano got the dog to cure his loneliness after his wife died. He would rub his dog with ointment every day twice a day and said “he was a good dog” (45). This gives the reader more insight into their relationship and spins the perspective from an abusive and negative relationship to a loving and caring one.

Whether Salamano connects his dog to his late wife or as a life long companion, we do not know. But, Salamano does care greatly for his dog and is heavily concerned when it is missing. Although, Saamano shows his affection in a non-healthy way (abuse).

Meursault’s Indifference To Anything and Everything

In the “The Stranger”, by Albert Camus, Meursault appears to be indifferent to many situations he faces throughout this story. Does this mean he truly does not care?

An example of this indifference is present when Meursault overhears Raymond beating his wife, while accompanying Marie: “Marie said it was terrible and I didn’t say anything” (Camus 36). Another example from the story is when Raymond asks how Meursault expected him to react to the cop, and Meusault replies, “I wasn’t expecting anything” (Camus 37).

It appears that Meursault’s indifference is present when he does not say, do, or think “anything” regarding a subject. I think that it is interesting how Meursault does not care about anything and wonder if it is him actually not caring, or him hiding or burying his true feelings because he is content with everything that he has. Part 1 briefly describes that Mersault grew less ambitious after he gave up his studies. It leads to reader to wonder why he gave up his studies and question whether there is a chance that his ambitions may reoccur and cause him to care again.

Meursault’s Apathy

How would you react if you heard that your mother passed away? Would you be saddened? Devastated? Shattered? Meursault, the protagonist of Albert Camus’s novel The Stranger, reacts in a way that defies expectations: apathy. He shows no emotion to news that many would never want to hear. When he shows to her funeral, everyone else is confused or offended by his lack of remorse. Why does he act in such a way? Why would Camus put such a character in his work?

Meursault’s indifference to the world is the trait that separates him from everyone else. He has asked with similar detachment in other scenes. In Chapter 2 — the day after the funeral, he runs into Marie, and old coworker of his, at the beach. After some playful swimming and flirting, she asks him about his mother’s funeral and is shocked to hear that it was yesterday, most likely because of Meursault’s calmness about it. They then see a movie and spend the night together. The following morning, Marie is gone, and Meursault decides to not go to his usual place for lunch, lest he be asked about his mother’s funeral again by her. He spends afternoon in his apartment, thinking about how his life has not changed at all. Despite falling in love with someone, he forgets about it quickly. He acts as if it never happened at all. However, I believe that there is a reason to his apathy. Meursault is written as such because he represents the author’s own opinion of life.

In 1942, the same year he published The Stranger, he also wrote a short story called The Myth of Sisyphus. In it, he introduces his idea of the absurd, which is formed by the conflict between the human desire to find purpose and order in life and the universe’s indifference of creating it. Meursault embodies this philosophy, with him accepting every action in his life without much care. He is indifferent to his mother’s death because the universe is also indifferent to it. The same can be said for his date with Marie, with him seeing it as just the world’s carelessness in action. Meursault is apathetic because he has become indifferent of the universe.

Meursault’s Lack of Emotion Results in Divergence From Society

From the beginning of Albert Camus’ novel, “The Stranger”, the main character Meursault demonstrates a distinct lack of emotion towards typically moving events such as death and relationships which leads to a distinct separation from society. After attending his mothers funeral services and returning home, Meursault’s deepest thoughts are about finally going to sleep. The next day, although boring, results in him reflecting that, “…anyway one more Sunday was over, that Maman was buried now, that I was going back to work, and that, really, nothing had changed” (24). Meursault’s apparent lack of grief towards the death of his mother divides him from the typical societal response to death. He continues on with his daily activities such as going to breakfast at his favorite restaurant, going to the beach, and returning to work after a weekend instead of the archetypal actions such as reconnecting with loved ones, evaluating ones feelings, or reviewing fond memories of the deceased. Meursault further demonstrates his nonchalant view of life after his girlfriend Marie asks him if he loves her. Marie questioned Meursault about his true feelings to which he responds, “…she asked me if I loved her. I told her it didn’t mean anything but that I didn’t think so. She looked sad” (35). Meursault’s clear lack of acknowledgment of typical feelings shared in a romantic relationship makes his character appear disconnected from the world around him. Meursault even recognizes that Marie reacts negatively towards his indifferent response, however his unemotional perspective on life renders him incapable of understanding her sadness. Meursault’s uncaring and dispassionate attitudes of generally important events of his life cause a downfall in his relation to society.

Can Meursault experience deep emotions?

Whether it is mourning the loss of a loved one, evaluating right vs. wrong, or opening up about love, Meursault tends to respond in an unusual way.  In The Stranger by Albert Camus, the main character Meursault does not seem to be capable of having a deep, meaningful relationship with the people around him. His supposed romantic relationship with Marie is passionless, and when asked about marriage Meursault responds in a lackluster way, “it didn’t make any difference to me and that we could if she wanted to”(41).  Providing no emotions or thoughts on the idea of something as important as marriage shows insight on Meursault’s ideas on love or relationships. His descriptions of Marie also focus on her body, as of now, the reader does not know much about Marie as a person other than when she was wearing a striped dress, “You could make out the shape of her firm breasts, and her tan made her face look like a flower”(34).  When talking about Marie, it is always in a sexual way, Meursault talks about her in a surface level way.

Is this casual approach to relationships a way to ensure that Meursault does not get himself hurt? Or is there something else behind his detached approach to life?

Why Doesn’t Meursault Care?

In chapters 1-6 of The Stranger, the main character, Meursault, is indifferent about life. In the first sentence of the book by Albert Camus, Meursault says, “Maman died today. Or yesterday maybe, I don’t know” (1). This quotation illustrates how Meursault doesn’t express emotion at the death of his own mother. It also alienates him from society because most people would be very sad if that happened to them, and he doesn’t express their typical shared emotion. Another instance where Meursault shows indifference can be found on page 41. The text states, “That evening Marie came by to see me and asked me if I wanted to marry her. I said it didn’t make any difference to me and that we could if she wanted to. Then she wanted to know if I loved her. I answered the same way I had the last time, that it didn’t mean anything but that I probably didn’t love her.” When Marie asks Meursault if he loves her, he says no and it doesn’t mean anything to him. This is super sad for Marie and she is confused as to why he answers this way. From these two quotations, we can conclude that Meursault doesn’t care much about life, but why? On page 41, the text states, “Looking back on it, I wasn’t unhappy. When I was a student, I had lots of ambitions like that. But when I had to give up my studies I learned very quickly that none of it really mattered.” The previous quotation doesn’t fully explain Meursault’s attitude, but it helps us to understand his position. After his studies, he became less ambitious and was unmotivated at work. This is not a full explanation, but it helps the reader to better realize why the protagonist is indifferent.

Is She Wrong?

Throughout the time of slavery, many people did the unthinkable by taking their own lives or their children’s lives just to keep them out of the hands of a slave owner. Sethe makes that ultimate choice but is she wrong from taking the life of her child Baby Suggs.

Sethe puts her child baby Suggs to rest after the slave catcher comes to take them back to slavery. Sethe feels that if she out hurts her child from the pain of slavery she can save her child from the time and trama of everything she had to endure doing her time on sweet home’s plantation. Paul D felt she was being an “Animal” and could have easily run before taking the life of her child but is she wrong or is she right the question is why is she wrong and why is she right. She is right from the perspective that no one wants to see someone that they love and care to be placed into a system that works them and destroys them from the inside out. Sethe was not trying to find an easy way out for her kids but find a better way for them to be free and go to the next phase of life. Here is where some might feel she is wrong for killing her child since she has two feet and not four and could have easily run until she reached safety or gave it a fighting chance to make it out safely. Sethe took the choice of her childhood growing up and being able to make it through life without being enslaved. Even if Baby Suggs was enslaved she could have still possible made it out by escaping sweet home even though it would not be easy, it was not impossible since her mother and others in the community were able to escape as well.

Sethe chose to take baby Sugg’s life he choice was not a selfish choice but it was also a somewhat non-moral choice to decide to take another’s life. So is Sethe wrong or was she right for her decision it’s up to you and how you look at it from different non-bias perspectives.

Maria and Matthew: 2 Meursaults, One Movie

When I first read about Trust, a movie directed by Hal Hartley, and how it was supposed to be from the perspective of a “female Meursault”, I was expecting there to be only one character similar to Meursault. Instead, while watching, I found myself looking at 2.

In my opinion, I thought that both Marie and Matthew represented Meursault’s character. I think that the similarity in names to The Stranger in some sense, is to throw the watcher’s view off. Maria, is expected to be similar to Marie, and Matthew is expected to be like Meursault. However, because of their personality traits, I think that Marie’s lack of understanding for people and Matthew’s alienation from people around his community, cause them to both be similar to Meursault. Together, both of them face problems from all sides, whether its Matthew’s abusive father or Maria’s extra controlling mother.

Matthew and Maria’s “last hurrah” can be seen as the grenade going off at Matthew’s workplace. Similarly, Meursault’s last hurrah can be seen as him killing the Arab. Though, Maria didn’t end up getting punished for the grenade (because she wasn’t the one to ensue the problem) however I think she played a large roll in the events leading up to it.

Her lack of empathy towards Matthew can be seen when she tells him she no longer wants to marry him and wants to pursue what she wants individually; Matthew is heavily affected by this, most likely because it’s his last string of hope he had. Nevertheless, I think that while the two of them are not “fully” Meursault, they both have characteristics that are very much similar to him.

I also think that Hartley’s writing up of the characters were fantastic. In my class, I found that many people found the characters weird if not just boring; I think that the lack of emotion and the grittiness of the camera work added to this aesthetic that was very much Stranger-esque(?)…

Honestly, I missed a day of viewing so to say the least, I was pretty confused watching the ending. Other than that, I thought the movie itself was pretty interesting. What are your thoughts on Trust? Do you think that both of the main characters represented Meursault? Or only one?