As I’ve been reading The Stranger by Albert Camus this last week or so, I have constantly been reflecting and comparing it to a previous book I´d read this summer, No Longer Human by Osamu Dazai.
Through further inspectional and revisiting of No Longer Human, I’ve found that the two books, especially the characters, are both opposites and somewhat parallel.
The main character in No Longer Human, Oba Yozo, is a more sensitive and emotional person but feels no joy, only an overwhelming feeling of estrangement. While Meursault the narrator of The Stranger is very nonchalant and emotionally dull. However, both of these characters bring about a feeling of unease and emptiness to the reader. An aspect of these two characters that binds them together is their indifference to other people and life itself.
To grasp this better, the following are both books opening lines:
“Maman died today. Or yesterday maybe, I don’t know.”The Stranger
¨Mine has been a life of much shame. I can’t even guess myself what it must be to live the life of a human being. ¨No Longer Human
Both these lines pull the reader in through uncomfortability, from the get-go they leave the impression of being an outsider and mentally peculiar, not being normal.
The two books have the same destination, or rather these two characters have the same outlook on life but have different ways of getting there. I think this line from No Longer Human Shows their similar mental state well, “Now I have neither happiness nor unhappiness. Everything passes. That is the one and only thing that I have thought resembled a truth in the society of human beings where I have dwelled up to now as in a burning hell. Everything passes.”(169) Oba is a reflective person, Meursault just accepts his belief, “I opened myself to the gentle indifference of the world.”(122) Meursault feels too little and finds life meaningless and on the flip side, Oba Yozo feels too much, too inferior, that he finds life meaningless.
The approach to this mindset though is a stark difference, Meursault does not show or feel emotions. Oba cannot feel happiness, he is stuck in a deep depression to the point that nothing matters. By this same principle, Meursault sees nothing wrong with his nature, Oba understands that he is not normal, thinking of himself as other or not human, he’s a “clown”, acting in a way acceptable by society (laughing and joking around).
Both the Stranger and No Longer Human illustrate that life isn’t full but futile, by following abnormal figures through a span of time and observing the experience and insight they gain as rejects from society.