Meursault and Matthew: An Examination of how Existentialism Varies Between The Stranger and Trust

Meursault seems to care about no one but himself and nothing but his physical needs. I will argue that Matthew is a direct foil for Meursault. 

Matthew loves Marie and fixing radios. He is also passionate in the inverse: he hates his dad and fixing televisions. Yet Matthew is still an existentialist. He makes rash decisions like inviting Marie into his home, and has a blase attitude about death by carrying around a hand grenade “just in case”. As we’ve seen in The Stranger, Meursault holds little value to marriage, expressing to Marie that he would marry any other woman who asked. Matthew, on the other hand, outright proposes to Marie several times, even conceding that he loves her by agreeing that respect, admiration, and trust equal love. 

Had Meursault been at the kitchen table with Trust-Marie’s mother, he would have agreed that he probably would’ve gone for Peg since she’s prettier. I’m a bit worried about Meursault having access to a hand grenade though, so let’s journey away from this plot-crossing. 

I would say that Meursault’s existentialism is “every man for himself” whereas Matthew’s is based more on living how he wants to live by picking and choosing which parts of society he wants to live by. 

Is Meursault a Sociopath or an Existentialist?

The definition of a sociopath is “a person with a personality disorder manifesting itself in extreme antisocial attitudes and behavior and a lack of conscience”. In the story The Stranger, the main character Meursault can be seen as a person with very sociopathic tendencies, such as having a lack of emotion, and lack of remorse, shame, and guilt after the death of his mother and his murder of the Arab. But is he actually a sociopath? Or has he just realized that there is no true meaning or purpose to life and that we are the ones who create our own happiness by accepting that?

As we discussed in class, existentialism is the theory that “existence precedes essence”, basically, we exist the moment we are born, without any purpose or meaning, and we define ourselves later in life through our experiences.

Meursault perfectly fits this description throughout the story as he constantly addresses the absurdity of life with his relationship with Marie, and the lives of the Arab and his mother.

Does Existentialism Suit Me?

As someone who had never previously been introduced to the idea of existentialism, the novel The Stranger and our in class conversations about existentialism have been my only exposure to the topic. Upon learning about this new way of viewing the world around us and all the things that society tells us have meaning, I wondered if this is a belief system that one must adopt or be born into, and if this is something that would either enhance or detract from my life if I applied it to myself. Aside from the grim ending of the novel and Meursault’s existence, the idea of existentialism was not showcased as something completley negative.

While the reader and those around Meursault are taken often back by his lack of emotion, for example the way he does not cry at his mothers funeral, his lack of a desire to find a lifelong partner, and when he turns down a new job opportunity, Meursault himself does not suffer from making these choices. If anything, the way that Meursault looks at the face value of things instead of holding them up as pillars of humanity that hold immense value helps him see the true importance of things in his life and prioritize what makes him happy.

This is not to say that things like friends, family, and religion are not useful and fulfilling parts of many peoples lives, but it does make the point that we must value aspects of our life based on the real benefits they bring us instead of trying to live by what most of society views as “success”. I personally believe that I can take many lessons out of this novel and existentialism as a whole. While I would not call myself an existentialist, I very often find myself not valuing things that society deems important, but after careful examination I have realized are either not for me, or do not bring me happiness in the long run.

Why the Idea of Existentialism is so Absurd

After hearing Mr. Heidkamp’s lecture about existentialism, I didn’t know how to feel. Everything I had ever known to be true in my life was suddenly being questioned. It was hard for me to believe that the things I considered meaningful were simply just lies that humans created to avoid confronting the harsh realities of life.

Having English 1st period, this conversation about existentialism stuck with me for the rest of the day. I was constantly trying to wrap my head around the idea. After thinking long and hard about it, I decided that in no way do I agree with the concepts of existentialism. And here is why: Existentialists believe that the loving relationships people form are not what give meaning to life. In fact, they believe that these relationships prevent people from living at their fullest potential. I find this hard to believe because from the moment we are born, we develop these types of relationships with our mothers and fathers, and with the people we meet as we grow up. No one teaches us to love or to care for others. It is a natural human phenomenon.

Rather, I think that the concept of Existentialism was created as a coping mechanism for people who are unsatisfied with their lives. It is an excuse to not feel and not care about things that are not going as well as one would have hoped. This seems to be the case for Meursault in The Stranger. Instead of mourning the death of his mother, he acted indifferent about it. Similarly, during his trial, he didn’t seem to care whether or not he was charged as guilty. Throughout the book, we see many instances in which Meursault avoids confronting the emotions he should be feeling. Then, when he is sentenced to death, Meursault explodes and all his emotions come out all at once in the form of anger and hatred.

To me, the ending of The Stranger seems to reveal the inevitable result of existentialism. Although Meursault stuck with his existentialist mindset through the book, his behavior in the last few moments proves that no good will ultimately come out of existentialism.

Is Existentialism Really The Right Way To Live?

 In the story “The Stranger” by Albert Camus throughout the entire story Camus shows Meursault as a nonchalant and non connected emotion based person towards everyone he is around. Meursault does not seem to think too hard about his mother’s death since he feels that he should not have to be so dramatic like every other person in society. This type of ideology is an okay way to feel but when Meursault is asked if he wanted to get married or loves Marie he does not seem to care or even interested in the conversation. This type of reaction from Meursault is almost manipulative since throughout the story he would say he wanted her but when she would want more he would say he didn’t care. In society a person would be looked at as manipulative towards people even if the other person like meursault was just being brutally honest.

Throughout the story, Meursault does not show that he is sad nor does he show the desire to better his own life at work he just feels that life without desire is more meaningful than following social norms. The idea that achieving things in life is pointless kind of makes living uneventful if you can not achieve things in life you really won’t be able to find a true happy version of yourself. If a person lives life as an existentialist they won’t ever truly be happy they would just be breathing with no direction it would only leave you lonely with no peace.

Is Society Hypocritical?

Society today is all for individualism and expression although there are restrictions hidden within that we fail to recognize. It’s almost as if it is an illusion. Over the years we have made boundaries for what you can and cannot feel. If you don’t feel something similar to what you’re “supposed” to, then you are labeled in a negative way. Yes, as the human race we are similar in numerous ways but no one’s background and experiences are exactly the same, so why do we limit our emotions? We isolate people who feel something real and the worst part is no one even recognizes it.

From the first few paragraphs it is extremely clear that Meursault is not your typical guy. This was based on his attitude and actions towards his mother’s death. Right there the reader plays into society’s stereotypes of what is and isn’t emotionally acceptable. Readers lack that realization that there are various layers to this natural stereotype such as gender roles, age and race. Author Albert Camus confirms this distant pattern with Meursault throughout, as he is emotionally detached from not only his relationships with other characters but life itself. As I was reading, I found myself constantly criticizing his decisions and thoughts. Even in class the next day my fellow classmates were making statements along the lines of “I would have done” and “he makes no sense”. I also felt this way, until part two, when gained consciousness that there is absolutely nothing wrong with how he is feeling. The way he lives isn’t ideal but he makes it work. With the lack of knowledge we have about his past, we as reader can’t assess why he’s so detached. Overall, we need to learn how to accept that sometimes our emotions are just out of our control.

Existentialism in the Trial

I think that one of the most interesting parts of The Stranger, is the trial. The main focus of Meursault’s trial is how he reacted to his mothers death, not that he killed a man. Meursault is being convicted since he is an existentialist, he is living how he wants to instead of following societies constraints. Killing a man is unimportant to his trial even though that is the only crime that he committed.

I think that this is a very interesting point because it shows how society views those who do not fit into its norms. If you do not follow the societal norms then you will be punished which is why Mersault is executed. He did not cry at his mother’s funeral and after it he went to watch a movie with Marie. When someone who is supposed to be important to you dies, such as your mom, society expects that you mourn for a long period of time. Everyone is supposed to be sad when an immediate family member dies and while I agree that this is a very sad time I think that everyone has different relationships with their family. I believe that family, friends, and happiness are some things that do give a meaning to life however existentialism does have a point in that everyone has an individual way of living life. I think that a valid question could be whether Meursault was wrongfully convicted since his trial was primarily based off of his feelings towards his mother. I think that this is also something to be considered in our justice system. Do societal norms have an impact on how people are tried? I am unsure on the answer to this questions but I do find it interesting that Meursault’s entire trial was about his mother instead of the fact that he killed a man.

Evil Heidkamp is Scary

I did not enjoy Evil Heidkamp’s existentialism lecture. The main reason being that I do not agree with the concept of existentialism. Although the lecture made me look at the book a little differently (and that was the point of it), I was annoyed with Evil Heidkamp because I did not agree with most of the points he was making and I kept thinking that he actually supported existentialism. I’ve found myself disliking Camus and The Stranger because of the support of existentialism. I get the fact that there are social constructs that someone just made up at one point in time but it doesn’t matter that they’re made up. These social constructs like family, friends, money, and religion make humans happy because of how we are taught to enjoy life. It’s hard to go through life valuing these constructs and one day hear Evil Heidkamp’s lecture telling you that these constructs are pointless and that life is absurd. I think there’s so much meaning in life and these social constructs because of the happiness and determination it gives people. I understand the concept of existentialism but it’s a hard topic to wrap your head around and it would be a depressing thing to believe in.

Existentialism Within The Joker

Within Todd Phillips newest film, Joker, Joaquin Phoenix plays the infamous Joker and displays a different take to the Character. Overtime, the fictional super villain’s image has been twisted and shaped by many people. Traditionally, the joker has been viewed as a funny yet evil character. Phillips portrays his version of the Joker, through darker, intense depictions, and representative values of a existentialist.

Throughout the movie, there are themes of moral living, flouting aesthetic, and radical movements. As Joker develops, his mind becomes more free and mirrors Meursault. Although the Joker is narcissist and violent, the views of murder also relate to Meursaults. In the end of both Joker and The Stranger, their final feelings of liberation are the same, accepting.

Overall there are many ways Joker can be tied to ideas of existentialism. In conclusion, Meursault and the Joker view life on a similar level, people, and death.

How Existentialism Appears in the Song, “Boredom” by Tyler the Creator.

The fun, hip hop song: “Boredom” by Tyler the Creator, may have lyrics that aren’t as happy-sounding as the beat in the background. Obviously, the word “boredom” comes up a lot in the song, as well as the phrase “find some time to do something.” So how bored really is Tyler?

Yes, Tyler is bored, but really he could be questioning if he is an existentialist…. Due to the amount of times the phrase “find some time to do something” is said, it seems that Tyler the Creator is not satisfied with his life. He feels as though he has nothing to look forward to in the future with all the time he has in the world. This can be interpreted as a form of Extensitailsim. Existentialism’s main idea is that people exist for their own free will. Humans define themselves throughout their lives and make their own meaning of life. In this song, Tyler is emphasizing that people need to use all their time on Earth to the best of their ability and especially “find some time to do something.” The understanding of the song is really up to the listener, but if you listen closely you might hear a snippet of Existentialism.

Existentialism and its Relation to Isolation

Existentialists value the rejection of standard social constructs as a pillar of humanity, but this conviction can be extremely ostracizing. Unfortunately, while leading an existentialist life may be personally liberating, it is extremely unpopular. Outside of those who share in the existentialist ideology, an existentialist would have quite a difficult time fitting into society. In The Stranger, Mersault keeps everyone at an arm’s distance. He has some friends (Marie, Raymond), but it is very clear to the reader that Mersault isn’t particularly close to these people. The reason behind this is because Mersault’s outlook on life holds him from coexistence. He can no longer understand conventional societal norms.

Existentialism isn’t an ideology for the social. Its lonely, and besides the perceived personal freedom, it could ultimately be unrewarding. It is difficult to judge whether or not existentialism is truly worth the effort. Sure, you may have a new outlook on life, but said outlook immediately puts you on the outside looking in to society. The norms that existentialists reject are pillars of mainstream society. Existentialism imprisons one in their own mind, as they can no longer willingly be apart of a society that contradicts their beliefs. By choosing a path of existentialism, one creates a cycle of rejection. By rejecting societal constructs and norms, society will reject the existentialist right back.

“Groundhog Day” as an Existentialist Film

The movie “Groundhog Day” is about a man, Phil Connors, who has a bad outlook on life. But by some fluke of nature, Phil ends up repeating the same Groundhog Day over and over. At first, Phil is confused, and keeps repeating his actions every day so that they are the same, in case the next day is not a repeat of the last. But then, Phil begins to realize that he can act however he wants and there will be no consequences because there will be “no tomorrow.” He begins to break many social and societal constructs, basically doing whatever he wants because he knows there will be no repercussions. He ends up becoming happier and having a better outlook on life once he begins doing this. He has a new level of freedom that he did not have before.

Image result for groundhog day

One particularly interesting thing about “Groundhog Day” is that it portrays a positive view of existentialism. I think it’s easy for many people to say existentialists are simply pessimistic and refuse to see any good in life. “Groundhog Day” refutes all these statements. Phil begins the movie tied to societal constructs meant to give life meaning. After repeating the same day over and over again, Phil is set free from these constructs. He no longer fears society’s judgement of his actions. And only when he gets this freedom is he truly happy in the movie. Although existentialism is, on one level, about trying to shy away from things we traditionally think gives value to our lives, it’s also about the freedom we can acquire from living without these social constructs.

One other connection that I think must be made here is the connection of “Groundhog Day” and Camus’ “Myth of Sisyphus.” Much like Sisyphus, Phil must repeat the same day, pushing his “boulder” up the hill, just for the day to repeat or the boulder to fall back down the hill. But Phil begins to recognize the absurdity of life as he repeats his days, just as Camus says Sisyphus must accept the absurdity of life as he pushes his boulder. Camus says that once you realize how absurd life is, you can find amusement and even happiness in its absurdity. This is why he proposes that Sisyphus is happy, and this is why Camus would also consider Phil to be happy as well.

Existentialism and The Individual

While discussing existentialism for the first time I was very confused and frustrated. Lots of the things that I thought brought meaning to life were illusions in the eyes of existentialism.

While discussing existentialism for the first time, I was very confused and frustrated. Lots of the things that I thought brought meaning to life were illusions in the eyes of existentialism.

Existentialism defines life as absurd, and I do believe life can be wild and unpredictable, but not that friends and family don’t bring meaning to it. Existentialism overall is about living a life as an individual and for oneself.

In The Stranger, we can witness the philosophy of existentialism through the narrator’s perspective. Meursault, the narrator, lives his life as an individual and does things his way and when he wants too. The book focuses on Meursault’s outlook on life, and he realizes that it is about living, not for others, but yourself. Meursault finds meaning while sitting alone in his jail cell, which isn’t an exciting place to be, but he gets used to it.

As the book comes to an end, we see Meursault contemplating in his head about life. He is not thinking about others, but himself and the fate that was to become a reality. He was learning to exist, which brought happiness to him.

Overall after reflecting on the ideas of existentialism and The Stranger, I can grasp their purpose better. But I don’t think I can give up on the “illusions” that I believe brings meaning to my life. Everyone has a different way of seeing themselves in the world, but I think I can say my isn’t through existentialism, but others might so keep living on as an individual.

Albert Camus’s existentialism is not as depressing as you think.

Existentialism is a complex philosophy. Due to the very nature of existentialism, to question one’s purpose and reject the conventional meanings people give to life, most would be led to believe that existentialism is simply a synonym for pessimism. Other existentialist philosophers such as Kierkegaard and Nietzsche, strengthen this stereotype that existentialism parallels nihilism. However, a common misunderstanding is that all existentialists believe in a life without meaning. While Albert Camus accepts that life is absurd, unlike other existentialists, he rejects complete hopelessness. Camus argues that one must accept that their life will not mean anything in the long run, that one’s actions will be ultimately futile and human life will always be absurd, but one must live on nonetheless. Even with this knowledge that the universe was not made for us, Camus still believed that life is worth enduring. The fact that you as an individual exists at all is meaningful on its own. We must acknowledge the absurdities of human existence, but to strive to be as happy and content as we possibly can anyway. As Camus writes in The Myth of Sisyphus, “one must imagine Sisyphus happy”. After Sisyphus accepts the hopelessness of his situation, he embraces his burden and thus, it is no longer a punishment for him. Once you realize that there is no inherent meaning to life and that we do not truly have any particular purpose, only then can you become truly free to create your own meaning. When you really look deeper into the message behind Camus’s ideology, you’ll realize that it’s actually about being happy.

Existentialism in “Dead Poets Society”

When reading “The Stranger,” by Albert Camus, the vivid exemplification of existentialism in the novel, and its embodiment in the protagonist, Meursault, reminded me of a recent movie I had seen. Meursault’s complete detachment from social norms and societal constructions was reminiscent of the movie “Dead Poet’s Society” by Peter Weir.

In the movie, Robin William’s character, John Keating, plays an English teacher at a rigirous and strict private school. However unlike the other teacher’s at the school, Keating does not believe in textbooks and rating literature on a graph. He tells the students to take the pages of their textbook and rip them out because they are meaningless. He even disregards the societal rules by telling everyone to stand on their desks.

Just like Meursault, Keating’s unorthodox manner does not go over well with the rest of society. The schoolmaster is offended and upset with Keating for not teaching correctly, or in other words, following the social construct of what a teacher should be. As as result he is fired and the kids are assigned a new teacher. The kids of course were engaged and actually cared about the subject when Keating was teacher, so they were devastated when he was fired.

In both works, existentialism is rejected by society, and they are both worse off for it. If only society could understand and adopt the construct-free way of life then everyone would be better of because of it.

A Step Above the Brink: Existentialism

In truth, we don’t have a way to measure the ‘goodness’ of our morals, especially without being biased by those same morals that have been fostered in us since birth. This excuse has often been made to defend passive ideologies like cultural relativism, and actions such as female circumcision in parts of Africa.

Existentialism is often confused with Nihilism for obvious reasons, both philosophies famously discredit all of our assumed virtues, by confronting them with hard logic and realism.

However slight, the difference be Existentialism and Nihilism is distinct. When faced with the void, Nihilism offers nothing to replace the meaning it subtracts from life, where Existentialism simply allows you to lower your standards of happiness to level that simply existing satisfies, ensuring a content life.

In our human quest to prove ourselves, to add meaning through competition and comparison, we are slowly poisoning the only source of known life in the Universe in the Earth. Because of our arrogance we have broken the natural order of how creatures should act in accordance to their ‘special purpose’.

A common philosophical theme, ‘special purpose’ is loosely, our reason for being in existence, and I would contend our purpose is to appreciate the ability to appreciate or existence.

The end goal was never something to accomplish in our lives, the end goal was to make it to a state of existence where you understand you exist.

Existentialism Has Changed How I Think About the World (Or Maybe Just College)

This week in class we were slapped in the face with the extreme nature of Existentialism. Both the philosophy, added to the jarring progression of Meursault’s character throughout The Stranger, gives a very intense image of the worldview. But, as I’ve been giving it some thought this week, some aspects of Existentialism could perhaps add a new perspective to our lives as we know it.

Personally, especially as we are moving into senior year, I think that many of us are acting far too concerned with the minor details. This may be a reflection of my own mindset but as I’ve been moving into the college application process (& related events) I’ve been extremely concerned with the tiny things. My mind has been packed with every single email I need to send and every single word I need to write instead of looking at the bigger picture. As we’ve continued through our week, this perspective I’ve been taking has moved to the forefront of my mind. And, maybe as a result of these past weeks lessons, I’ve started to question if this mindset is helping anyone? Although I don’t believe I’m going to become a full on existentialist, being able to internalize the concept that the little things, and evens some larger aspects of our lives, don’t actually hold as much worth or meaning as we think is calming. Yes, I could stress about the wording for a sentence in my common app essay, but how much does that really matter? Out of everything I’ve learned this week about existentialism, I think the thing that I’ve become more aware of is that how much something matters isn’t a fixed point but a scale. And, being aware of this scale has helped me prioritize what I let take up my mental energy, and therefore my life.

Is Finding Happiness in Punishment an Inevitability?

In “the Myth of Sisyphus”, Camus forms the argument that Sisyphus has found happiness within his eternity of pushing a rock up a hill. After finally letting go of his memories of life, he accepts his current situation and finds joy in completing the hard task of pushing the rock up the hill (even though it falls down again).

In the Stranger, Merseaux states that after he lets go of the pleasures of the past and adapts to prison, it is actually quite enjoyable. It takes a bit of time to adjust, but eventually he does.

The question I that I pose is: is finding this happiness an inevitability for everyone? If so, is finding that joy in punishment then just a matter of time?

I would argue that it is not an inevitability for everyone. Some people will never let go of the memories and pleasures that they used to enjoy. They will always reap in their belief that they should be somewhere else.

The Dark Side of the Moon: The Greatest Existential Album of All Time

Pink Floyd’s 1973 album, “The Dark Side of the Moon.”

“Breathe, breathe in the air. Don’t be afraid to care. Leave, but don’t leave me. Look around and choose your own ground. For long you live and high you fly, and smiles you’ll give and tears you’ll cry, and all you touch and all you see is all your life will ever be.” These are the first stanzas of ‘Breathe (In the Air),’ the first song on Pink Floyd’s existential masterpiece, “The Dark Side of the Moon.”

A concept album is any album, particularly a rock album, featuring a cycle of songs expressing a theme or idea. “The Dark Side of the Moon,” often cited as one of the most important concept albums ever released, highlights the pressures of society which can ultimately drive someone mad.

While natural actions such as living and dying or simply breathing can have an effect on someones life, socially constructed “values” such as time and money are often falsely idolized and lack of these “values” can lead to even more pain and suffering.

In ‘Time,’ Pink Floyd provides a full explanation of what time is and the effects it can have on ordinary people. Like Meursault in Albert Camus’s “The Stranger,” sometimes people try to kill time whether out of boredom, depression, or hysteria. However, time moves in a way that it seems to get faster every day. So by killing time, Pink Floyd argues, you are essentially only killing yourself.

“Every year is getting shorter never seem to find the time. Plans that either come to naught or half a page of scribbled lines. Hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way. The time is gone, the song is over, thought I’d something more to say.”

Although completely instrumental, ‘The Great Gig in the Sky’ is an exact compilation of a lifetime. Starting softly and slowly, a piano begins to play and eventually a woman joins with an unforgettable shrieking. The shrieking and piano playing start to ramp up, getting louder, representing hope in young life. Eventually the shrieking and piano slow down again, but more and more overtime, reflecting adulthood and eventually old age. With 12 seconds left in the song, the music completely stops. Death.

While arguably the most popular song on the album, ‘Money’ analyzes the greatest false idol to man, one which can either leave you in a strong state of power or leave you rotting in a back alley somewhere, money. Songwriter Roger Waters writes that people believe money can lead to happiness, maybe by buying a new car, a Lear jet, or a football team. Though he quickly refutes that assumption calling money a gas, a crime, and the root of all evil today.

Those who have money are seen as selfish and those who don’t are seen as greedy. People will do anything to acquire more money if they are in need and if unsuccessful, one’s life could be ruined, making one feel like a failure. And eventually, as Pink Floyd argues, that failure can turn into madness.

In ‘Brain Damage’ Pink Floyd illustrates the total downfall of man. After running out of time, money, and breathe, one is driven insane, shortly leading to them to the after life, or as Pink Floyd puts it, the dark side of the moon.

Life and Death in Existentialism

I do not understand why life gives life purpose. As soon as Mr. Heidkamp said that in class, I questioned it. How can life give life purpose?

We as humans value our lives because we know that one day they will end. In some cases, people who know they are dying soon adopt and Existentialist point of view. In an episode of Grey’s Anatomy, a patient is diagnosed with lung cancer. After she is diagnosed, she realizes that she never really enjoyed life. She never smoked, drank, and always watched what she ate. Once she comes to this realization, she orders a dozen cakes to eat, shoplifts chocolate from the hospital gift shop, and gets drunk at a bar. She was motivated by death.

In the Percy Jackson book series, Percy is offered immortality by the gods at the end of the last book. To everyone’s surprise, he turns it down. He doesn’t want immortality because it would take away the value of life.

I think that death gives life meaning. Death motivates us to make the best use of our lives. If we never died, we would never value our life experiences because we would always be able to repeat them, and that does not seem like a life worth living to me.