Colette’s Take on Female Sexuality vs Social Order

Initially published in 1924, Colette’s story The Secret Woman was a mechanism for exhibiting the complicated concept of female sexuality despite it being a taboo subject in society. The Secret Woman took place during an era when women were expected to be subservient, pure housewives who were dependent on their male counterparts. However, Colette challenged this view by exposing the true nature of woman- the woman in her natural habitat, liberated by her control over her own sexuality. Irene, the wife of a wealthy doctor, is portrayed as a flustered, subservient woman while at home in the beginning of the story. Though when Irene is hidden behind a disguise at the Opera Ball, she is portrayed as being confident and empowered, in control of her sexuality. Irene has seemed to master the societal expectations of women while still holding onto her “native state” of self- sufficiency and control over her sense of self.

Colette’s critique on the crippling gender norms in society, though expressed just under 100 years earlier, are still applicable to this day. Harmful stereotypes have developed at the expense of women who take control of their own identities, especially publicly. The “ball-buster” is an example of a stereotype labeling independent women, especially in the business field- a woman who climbs the executive ladder by being irritatingly assertive; a woman who is self-absorbed and ruthless, unafraid to bring down those around her to make it to the top of the ladder.

Furthermore, modern feminism is a mechanism for women to fight against the grain of gender binaries, by promoting women taking control of their sexuality. However, the “feminist agenda” is highly unpopular by many people in society. Politician Pat Robertson claimed that feminism “encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians”. While quotes like this may seem ridiculous to some, it truly does reflect the opinion of many people who view female control over sexuality as a threat to the social order.

Through her short story The Secret Woman, Colette does a fantastic job not only portraying a woman who is in control of her own sexuality and sense of self, but also the effect of the male gaze. While Irene seems fully in control of her own identity at the opera ball, she continues to live a double life as a subservient housewife. While it is admirable that she is able to feel liberated for even a night, the perspective of her husband and the male gaze connote the unyielding criticism that she will be met with for doing so. While freeing, removing oneself from the constraints of public opinion and socialized gender norms is extremely difficult. Colette understands this disappointing reality, conceding that as free as Irene is, she will return to her husband and cookie-cutter life of a housewife the next day.

The Shift of Power in “The Secret Woman”

Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette’s short story “The Secret Woman” tells the story of how dishonesty between a husband and wife can lead to a shift in power because of a shift in perception. In the opening of this story we see the husband lying to his wife explaining that he is unable to go to the green and purple ball because of a patient he has to take care of. In response the wife tells her lie, telling him that she is too shy to be able to go to the ball and put herself in front of a group of people. This promotes the idea that she lacks courage and depends on him, seeing this in the way she made her husband think that she was against the idea of the party.

“As for me.. Can you see me in a crowd, at the mercy of all those hands..” (Pg. 328).

Despite their lies they end up at the ball, just not together. When he first sees his wife he doesn’t think that it’s her, under the impression that she wouldn’t be there. Once he realizes that it is in fact his wife he follows her and notices the way she is projecting herself, surprised, rolling her hips and dragging her feet. Once following his wife, we see that he looks at her more of an object that her own person.

Once seeing his wife for who she truly was, flirtatious, secretive or promiscuous, the way he described her shifted.

“She laughed, and he admired her narrow face, pink, matt and long, like a delicate sugared almond…” (Pg. 327).

This quote shows the way the man viewed his wife in the beginning but once he saw that she was actively choosing this for herself the way he saw her shifted, shown by the stark contrast in how she was described in the end.

“[T]he monstrous pleasure of being alone, free, honest in her crude, native state, of being the unknown woman, eternally solitary and shameless, restored to her irremediable solitude and immodest innocence by a little mask and a concealing costume” (Pg. 331).

Her freedom was shocking to him because of who he thought he had known her to be, once he saw that she was in power of her own situation, her own person, he didn’t really know how to deal with it. In the end I think he may have felt unsure of himself in the end, now seeing her at this party he wasn’t sure of his role in their relationship anymore, because he realized his role was always fake and apart of her lies.

The White Gaze

The white gaze is a concept describing the way the general white population views something. While it is not a concern for every person of color, it is not uncommon to worry about it. In world that gives white people power over others, many people are socialized to believe they need to appeal to them as a means of survival.

In “A Conversation About Bread”, the white gaze affects Brian and Eldwin very differently. Eldwin doesn’t put much thought into how white people perceive him but it is a constant thought for Brian. While in the library, Brian remains acutely aware of the white woman observing them, yet Eldwin pays her no mind.

Eldwin wants to illustrate the truth about a specific experience but Brian is worried about how it will be interpreted by his majority white audience. He is afraid that the story will negatively impact the white opinion.

Brian gives the white gaze power over him because he grew up in a world that gives white people power over him.

The Betrayal of Gender Roles in The Secret Woman

Throughout the story, gender roles are reversed. In this case, Irene is leading the way (literally and figuratively) while her husband cautiously follows behind. She is asserting herself into conversations, dancing with random men, kissing men besides her husband, and overall being independent. Normally, or at least in this assumed time period, men lead the way and women follow suit. Men are very independent while women are brought up to depend on men.

Furthermore, Irene is making fun of her husband, belittling him nonchalantly. Almost as if she is putting him in his place, just as he would to her. Silently, he observed her every behavior making silent comments and having opinions. However, he remained silent and hid his personality, just like a woman is expected.

In general, one would assume her husband would step in, intervene, and stop her from essentially cheating on him. However, instead, he stays quiet and walks away. In this case, they were at a masquerade ball, hidden by masks. Maybe this gave her the confidence to be independent and break away from her stereotypical role, or maybe it was an excuse to fill the role she has longed.

Manipulation of Power Dynamics in Good Country People

Mrs. Freeman's gaze drove forward and just touched him before he disappeared under the hill. The she returned her attention to the evil-smelling onion shoot she was lifting from the ground. 'Some can't be that simple,' she said. 'I know I never could.' (9)

We talk about power dynamics a lot in class, how they form, why they exist, and especially the effects they have on our society. But one thing we haven’t yet talked about is manipulation of these dynamics for personal gain. Manley Pointer in “Good Country People” fools both the simple, religious Ms. Hopewell, and the atheistic, educated Hulga through manipulation of power dynamics which the characters held, and both of their individual value systems.

Ms. Hopewell represents the stereotypical “good country people,” lacking higher education, being religious, hard-working, and disapproving of the modern, atheistic philosophy of Hulga. Pointer represents her idea of “good country people.” She says, “He was so simple…I guess the world would be better off if we were all that simple.” (9) Ms. Hopewell follows the Christian idea that simplicity and humility bring wisdom and holiness, and Pointer fully encapsulates the idea of simple, well-intentioned country people. It seems like she believes in a power dynamic of FAITHFUL/sinning (or something like that), with Pointer’s simple persona placing him on the faithful side along with Ms. Hopewell, and against the atheistic Hulga. This persona turns out to be completely fake, but it fooled Ms. Hopewell easily enough.

Hulga represents the well-educated, atheistic, modern person (generally). She acted very much superior towards Ms. Hopewell and her outlook on life. Hulga very much underestimated Pointer due to this haughty superiority over the “country people” around her. She believed her entire relationship with Pointer was governed by the SMART/dumb power dynamic, on which she was smart, while Pointer was simple. She thought she had all the control, even fantasizing about seducing him. But in the end, he flipped this dynamic on its head, she was the dumb one. He says towards the end “And I’ll tell you another thing, Hulga…you ain’t so smart. I been believing in nothing ever since I was born.” (9) By completely reversing the power dynamic, he completely surprises Hulga (and probably all of the readers, too) and takes away all the control Hulga thought she had.

There is of course more going on in this story than what I’ve pointed out, I didn’t mention Hulga’s leg, or Ms. Freeman, or the contents of Pointer’s bag, or Pointer’s motivations, but this interaction is what I found most striking about this story.

Benjamin’s Theory and Abortion Rights

In Jessica Benjamin’s Bonds of Love, she describes domination as a “two-way process” which involves one person submitting to power and the other exercising the power. Establishing this kind of structure in relationships causes polarity and a struggle for authority. Whether it’s a personal relationship between a man and a woman or a father and son, Benjamin makes it clear that love will prevail in domination and submission.

Outside of personal relationships, the struggle for power and domination is also visible in public relations and politics. On June 24th the supreme court voted to overturn Roe v Wade therefore allowing federal governments to regulate abortion laws within their state. Soon after states like Texas, Tennessee, and Oklahoma began enforcing abortion bans. Scrolling through the articles about abortion laws I read something about how in Georgia abortion is illegal after 6 weeks of pregnancy. I was curious why it had to be 6 weeks, and what difference did it make if the pregnancy might have been 10 weeks? Then I realized it really had nothing to do with pregnancy . This whole argument about being pro choice and pro life had no correlation to states banning abortions. It was derived by a desire for power. In reality lawmakers are not worried about the well being of the mother or the unborn child, it’s about having control over women’s bodies and reproductive rights. In a patriarchal society men can assert their dominance by oppressing the rights of women and that is exactly what happens when you take aways abortion rights. Behind it is a cycle of trauma and poverty that young mothers face continually and just like Jessica Benjamin states in her writing, if we don’t challenge the structure of dominance we may never break the cycle. I am hopeful that if we continue to protest gender polarity and valorize feminism we can reach the level of equality we desire, therefore protecting women’s power and rights over their bodies.

The ideas of Benjamin and her ways of Power

Jessica Benjamin argues that the key to freedom is through intersubjectivity and those who seek powerful figures early on. She believes that the people who submit power as well as exercise the usage of power are more dominant. The struggle for power in most cases is between the father and the son and it resonates from that into real life situations. There are steps to show the structure of how power forms and the domination of power as well. Jessica firmly believes that opposite sexs have different sorts of power but that one always has less than the other in certain situations. In order to understand the split between femininity and masculinity there must be critics of the masculine side but also the feminine side. But then to also to be focused on the power and dualistic structure between the two major factors. The Binary usage between many ideas that she has is very important to look at comparing two different types of people and seeing what they can and what they cant do to show which one of them has more power over the other. Because there will always be leaders and there will always be followers.

Benjamin’s Gender and Power Theory

Jessica Benjamin argues that subjectivity and power come from individuality separated from the mother and father traits. Benjamin puts to light recent shifts in psychoanalytic theory and their relevance relating to individuality. As Freud’s theory on individuality suggests, boys growing up will recognize their anatomical differences from their mothers and identify with the father, while girls will never understand their own subjectivity in terms of difference from the mother.

As Jessica suggests, individuality is a balance of separation and connectedness rather than solely being decided by class, gender, etc. The primary focus of Benjamin’s writing is not about love but about power; she focuses on love to an extent as its perversion leads to domination and submission. She mainly argues that women seek ideal love more than men, in turn, making them more vulnerable to deception. The male is the subject, and the female is the object at the root of domination.

Abused or Acknowledged: A Benjamin Application

I love movies, and recently, someone very close to me recommended that I watch the movie Whiplash. The film had been lingering on my mind for quite some time as it is critically acclaimed and has been mentioned by many friends and family as of late.

Upon watching, I couldn’t help but draw the similarities of the relationships of characters in the movie to the theories of Jessica Benjamin regarding power dynamics that involve a person subjecting another.

The movie follows Andrew Neiman, played by Miles Teller, a student of the most prestigious music university in the country, who’s obsessed with reaching a level of greatness through becoming a outstanding figure in the Shaffer Conservatory Jazz Band. Throughout the movie, Neiman endures forms of psychological and physical abuse from maestro Terence Fletcher, played by J.K Simmons in his goals to find and create the next great Jazz Musician.

Fletcher is seen practically torturing Andrew by throwing objects at him whilst playing, slapping him for missing tempo, and verbally insulting him time and time again for mistakes whilst playing. But this harm only reinforces Andrews obedience to Fletcher and motivation towards achieving his goal of greatness. Conversely, it allows Fletcher more opportunity to enforce his cruelty in hopes of achieving the goal of his own.

This relationship between the two creates an compelling power dynamic or teacher/student or conducter/musician that’s followed throughout the movie, and ends up resulting in an unforeseen conclusion to the twos relationship that begs the question on whether or not either Fletcher or Neiman achieved a level of Mutual Recognition.

In the end, Andrew plays a final time for Fletcher, disobeying his conducting and reversing the roles of the power dynamic in order to play the set on his own terms. At first, Fletcher doesn’t take kindly to this, mouthing silent threats to him in order not to provoke the audience, however, he eventually submits, and relishes in Andrews talent shining through. The conclusion seems lighthearted and displays the power dynamic fizzling into mutual recognition through Fletcher accepting Andrews rebelling, but it poses the question of the power dynamic being reinforced through Fletcher having his goal achieved of finding solace in Andrew being the next “great” so to speak and Andrew feeling as if he has achieved that status through the approval of his disobedience through Fletchers supposed smile in the final frame of the movie.

Mutual Recognition and Healthcare

Over the summer, I worked in a skilled memory care facility as a caregiver. In my life so far, that is where I have felt most prominently the power struggles mentioned by Benjamin in Bonds of Love. However, the experience was confusing to me in that I, as a caretaker, had power over the residents as my job was to take care of them and was tasked with controlling many parts of their lives, while they also had power over me as I was their caregiver. I’m still not quite sure if I was the subject or object in this situation, but I am certain that achieving mutual recognition in any place related to medicine would be extremely difficult.

Having a clear hierarchy of power is something that can be found in almost every medical workplace, and often helps facilitate effective and efficient patient care, which should be the ultimate goal of any medical institution. However, I feel this system also has many drawbacks in that the patients are stripped of their personhood and viewed solely as patients, which is a dehumanizing experience to anyone.

Personally, I believe that mutual recognition in a hospital setting would require recognition of patients as humans and not just a chart or list of ailments. In turn, patients would need to recognize their doctors’ humanity, which arguably is more difficult than the former, as hospitals are scary places to begin with, and acknowledging doctors not as doctors but as humans (who can sometimes make mistakes) would only add to that fear. Is a binary balance of power a necessary evil in the field of medicine, or would mutual recognition help alleviate the fear so often associated with hospitals?

Benjamin’s Theory and Saviorism in America

In Bonds of Love, Benjamin elaborates on the mutual aspect of power dynamics that involve a dominant and submissive side, explaining that in order to fully access their productive potential, equality must be achieved. This can be observed in the typical American “savior” attitude. The United States and the majority of European countries are generally considered to be a part of of the “developed” world. Even in elementary school, I can recall presenters flipping through slideshows of malnutritioned children. “Believe it or not, this child in Africa is a kid – just like you!” From a young age, my peers – no matter our varied statuses in our own society – have been instilled with the suggestion that as a developed nation (superior, powerful), the rest of the developing world (inferior, helpless) needs our help. While this dynamic may seem one sided, as Benjamin explains, such power dynamics of superiority and inferiority are mutual, although not mutually beneficial. Current projects and foreign aid – while accepted – usually only serve to corrupt nations and provide them with what we think they need. Instead, according to Benjamin, these nations should be recognized as equals. Their decisions and policies should be acknowledged and aid should be considered in accordance with their that. The mindset of superiority and separation in many Americans must be broken down in order to identify equally with others. 

To what extent is domination enabled by both parties?

To understand this obscured question one must understand Jessica Benjamin’s theory on Mutal Respect & Domination. In Bonds of Love, Benjamin proposes a seemingly normal question: Why don’t we have gender equality when society wants it? Benjamin goes on to explain how gender stereotypes, binary norms, and expectations feed into this unnatural dynamic of Domination/Submission. Elaborating that when looking at identity most people look at negotiation and conflict which creates the unnatural power struggle. This idea leads to a controversial take on domination and submission. While it’s noted that this power dynamic is not only unnatural but unhealthy it’s also emphasized how in certain regards it is allowed. Benjamin notates how domination is a two-way street and in some capacity, the one being oppressed is allowing for the dynamic whether it be consciously or unconsciously. However, a possible solution is proposed and that solution is the concept of mutual recognition which essentially moves out of the binaries and deconstructs unnatural power dynamics through connection, understanding, and respect.

Where do I stand?

I feel that Benjamin has a very different and interesting perspective in regard to the power dynamics of society. While I agree to some extent that domination/submission bias is allowed by both parties, I also believe that there are instances where the dynamic is not allowed and happens forcefully. Of the aspects I agree with I have gained an understanding of how certain power dynamics are allowed like teacher/student and parent/child. The respect given to an extent is out of societal expectations, however, part of it is also genuine respect that is constantly changing through experiences. Benjamin’s ideas have led me to contemplate the idea of mutual respect and really work to get rid of those biases I carry whether it is something simple or complex.

Jessica Benjamin’s Theory Surrounding Power

Jessica Benjamin’s book, Bonds of Love, introduces her theoretical argument around subjectivity and power combining the ideas of domination and social, gender, and family roles to bring light to the problem of the power structure. She uses the idea of binary thinking as leverage for domination and hierarchical thought processes. Benjamin ties individualism and the idea that you are you because you are not them into what creates a false sense of self hood and the roles or expectations given to certain people.

The main argument, evident throughout the examples she presents, is that there needs to be a mutual recognition of power and a connectedness to find a common ground on theory of identity. She also highlights the importance that the theory doesn’t deny anyone else’s sense of self as a means to achieve personal individuality and self.

Total domination is a result of unhealthy subjectivity, not being able to be humble enough to fathom the idea of being equally powerful. Mutual respect and recognition between others, being able to recognize an equally respectable sense of self, is what generates a healthy identification of individuality and balance of subjectivity.

The Old Blog is Dead! Long Live the Old Blog!

For many years, we used the Blogger platform for the AP Lit blog. Since it is owned by Google, it integrates pretty seamlessly with your Google accounts — which made it easy to use, in some respects — but it is a very limited and bug-ridden platform. So this year, we have decided to construct a new class blog from scratch using the most more powerful and stable WordPress platform.

If you are interested, though, in seeing what past AP Lit students have been thinking and writing about, feel free to wander over to the old blog.

old blog

King to Father

Throughout out readings of King Lear, it is evident that Lear no longer understands the world around him and no longer understands others advise to him. It is said in the very first chapter that Lear is growing older, and he realizes this and therefore he gives away his lands and money but most importantly, he doesn’t give up his title as king. He subconsciously was not ready to give up his claim because he knows no other identity than that as king. He does not realize that there are many things and relationships that make up a person’s identity and because of this, those people have the ability to mold each other’s characters.

Lear does not think of himself as a father. He will say that he is the father of his daughters and that is true but there is more to a father than just biology. A father should be caring, loving and accepting. If these things are believed to be true, then why would a father disown his daughter because she professes that she can love her father and her husband? By the end of the novel, Lear is stripped of his army, his daughters, and his sanity but through it all, he finally understands that he only ever needed one person to love him, not an entire army nor kingdom. His reconciliation with Cordelia was a turning point in Lear’s character because he understands that being king is temporary, but being a father is permanent.

The Power-Love Dichotomy

In line 289 of Act IV, Scene vi of King Lear, as Edgar reads the letter from Goneril to Edmund plotting to kill Albany, Edgar laments that “To know our enemies’ minds, we rip their hearts” — which is to say, in order to maintain power for himself and his father and prevent Edmund from gaining power, Edgar had to sacrifice his loyalty and love for Edmund. This is one of the most important topics of King Lear: when it is worth it to sacrifice love for power, and when it is worth it to sacrifice power for love. I’ve color-coded these two sides of the Power-Love Dichotomy to make it easier to keep track of the examples listed below:

  • In Act I, Lear appears to sacrifice his power in search of his daughters’ love as he splits his land between them; yet, later in Act II, Lear sacrifices the love of Regan and Goneril because he wished to maintain his own sense of power through the housing of his 100 supporters.
  • At the end of Act III, Regan sacrifices her husband (by refusing to save him from his stab wound, as portrayed in the film) in order to take over his power
  • …however, Regan and Goneril feud with each other — and ultimately kill each other, in Act V — for the love of Edmund, each willing to sacrifice their own power for his love; in fact, Regan even tells Edmund, “Take thou my soldiers, prisoners, patrimony. / Dispose of them, of me; the walls is thine” (V.iii.89-90), effectively pledging to surrender her entire land and power to Edmund in exchange for his love.
  • Cordelia, on the other hand, contrasts with her sisters’ initial prioritization of individual power over love for Lear — in Act IV, Scene vii, Cordelia tells Lear “you must not kneel” (IV.vii.67), showing how she is willing to sacrifice her power over Lear solely because of her love for her father. Lear appears to mirror this sacrifice of power for love as well as he rejects Cordelia’s submission to his own authority: “When thou dost ask me blessing, I’ll kneel down / And ask of thee forgiveness” (V.iii.11-12)
  • At the end of the play, Albany proposes that he and all others who still have power would give it all up and give Lear all of the power of the kingdom until his death, out of a combination of regret, guilt, and most relevantly to this analysis, love: “we will resign / During the life of this old Majesty, / To him our absolute power” (V.iii.362-364)

Out of curiosity — can you all think of any other examples of the Power-Love Dichotomy in King Lear?

King Lear and the Corruption that Comes with Status

King Lear, throughout the play, exhibits behaviors that correlate to his relationship to power and status as king. Lear first exhibits traits of narcissism and lack of empathy in the first scenes in the play, while his self-righteous personality subsides a little by the end, he continues to display crazed and erratic behavior.

It is from Chaya Bhuvaneswars, “The Madness of King Trump: On Being Unfit to Serve” That I noticed that the characteristics that make up an eighth-century BCE King and a modern-day political differ very slimly. Bhubaneswar introduces the reader to the comparison between Donald Trump, former U.S president, and Lear. In this article she highlights unfitness and self-serving, controlling behavior, she references the two impeachment trials of Trump which suggest his unfitness to be president, while Lear is continuously being pronounced as unfit by his daughters. I believe that in this way the two of them are similar, Trump is old and on multiple occasions was deemed inept to do his duties properly as president, he has had signs of decaying intellect and functionality for the duration of his term, as stated by observers in the white house. King Lear was similarly written off as too old to have any say as King, the royal court thought he was crazy and senseless. Both leaders display narcissism and almost cult-like behavior, working not for the people, but praise. We can see this through the former president’s incitement in the January 6th insurrection to possibly make a point and feel powerful despite his recent loss. The King does this by requesting to keep a posse of knights even though he has no use for them as he is no longer in power, he simply wants to keep his dignity and perceived status. He also demonstrates selfish actions when making his daughters use praise to gain his land even though he had already decided on how he would divvy it up at the beginning of the play.

I believe this connection between the President and the King is an interesting discussion, however, I find it obsolete. We the readers of King Lear can find a connection between the King and a large group of politicians and public officials/figures. I believe the correlation is not between two narcissistic politicians but rather should be a discussion of how holding power morphs one’s traits and morals. Power builds ego and a superiority complex, it taints the people who obtain it. This can be spotted in all areas of our society from a president’s demeanor and motives changing after their election or students with a new group of friends. I believe that having a newfound perception of importance alters a person and their awareness of others well being, they lose empathy. King Lear fits in this mold but in a different way than other examples, while most individuals climb the social/political ladder, he began at the top as King. After he fell from power he had a realization about his selfish and apathetic nature because he had a limited perspective of the citizens he was serving and the world he was ruling over, as seen when he is in the storm. Politicians on the other hand go into the race to the top fighting for power and authority, as much as they say they are for public sovereignty, they are at their core selfish no matter their demonstrated cause. If we look at Politicians in this way, Edmund or Goneril better reflect their behavior.

Who keeps who colonized?

One power dynamic that is present in The Stranger is the relationship between Europeans (colonizers) and Arabs (the colonized). Throughout the novel, Meursault depicts the Arab characters as distant, skulking people by calling them simply “the Arabs.” Furthermore, not one character calls an Arab character by name, not even that of the Arab who is murdered by Meursault. This decision by Camus could reveal how a colonizing relationship between two countries can strip the colonized people of their identity and group them in a single description such as “Arabs.”

One scene in the novel that is hard to overlook when examining the book’s commentary on colonialism is Meursault’s initial jail scene. As Meursault enters the jail, “they (the Arabs) ask me what I was in for. I said I’d killed an Arab and they were all silent.” Again, Meursault does not refer to any of the Arabs by name, and he continues to group the individual Arabs into just a single group. But more importantly, the Arabs do not retaliate against Meursault, even though they have the physical power in the situation. This phenomenon hints that although the Arabs are being oppressed by their colonizers, they are also supporting the very power dynamic that oppresses them, whether it be intentional or not.

Meursault: A Severe Case of Depression

The main character in The Stranger is a peculiar character for many reasons. The story is written in the perspective of Meursault which adds various facets to it because Meursault is unlike everyone else in the story. A crucial part of the human experience is emotional feeling and expression. Meursault defies this natural principle of life by showing indifference and apathy in almost every situation he is confronted with. Throughout the story, readers face the challenge of depicting what kind of person Meursault really is because he often fails to display any interest or preference for anything. This leads me to question Meursault’s reason for emotional detachment and the most logical answer I can come up with is a case of severe depression. A symptom of depression is loss of interest in hobbies or in daily life activities. My personal theory leads me to believe that Meursault’s emotional detachment serves as a defense mechanism, or at least is a symptom of mental anguish. Something as major as as his mother’s death barely provokes emotion. His immediate concern is his boss’s annoyance with him taking time off work (3). In addition, when his boss offers him an exciting job offer, Meursault has no reaction or yearn for the opportunity. His boss even gets frustrated with him because he feels Meursault has no ambition, which is true (41). I also think his choice of allegiance with Raymond is alarming. It’s clear in the story that Raymond isn’t a great person, yet Meursault chooses to entertain him when he asks him to write the letter (32). The end of Part I was really what convinced me that Meursault’s state of mind may be unstable. In any book or movie, when a character shoots or stabs someone excessively to murder them, it mainly always signifies a deep anger within the character. In the scene where Meursault shoots the Arab that attacked Raymond, he shoots him a total of five times (59). Besides the first shot, he fired 4 extra times that were very unnecessary, but I interpreted this instance as a turning point for the character. This scene showed a snap within Meursault that the reader had not yet been exposed to and I can’t help but think that there is way more to Meursault than the reader knows at this point.

What Does Life Mean to Meursault?

Meursault manages to go through his life without a care in the world, but not in a free spirited way. He doesn’t seem to feel any importance for anything or anyone. The simplest things he should immense emotions for don’t seem to phase him. Something as heart wrenching as losing a beloved parent only made him feel tired and annoyed with the people around him. Not once did Meursault show any kind of grief or even a small hint of sadness in losing his mother. The only thing Meursault seemed to care about was how good his coffee tasted as well as things such as the sun and lights bothering him. His mother was dead right in front of him and all he had to say was, “I like milk in my coffee” (8). He couldn’t even show empathy to his mother’s closest friend who came to her burial and fainted from exhaustion.

Secondly, something that was so blatantly wrong, such as abusing living things didn’t seem to affect Meursault one bit. The senseless beating of a dog and the way his friend bragged about beating his ex were like comments about the weather to Meursault. At least it appeared that way from his reaction. Not only did he completely ignore the savage beating of his neighbor’s innocent dog, but he greeted him with a good morning as he was doing it and kept on walking. His friend also mentioned how aggressive with his ex and the abuse that he was responsible for as well as intimate details of their relationship, to which all Meursault had to say was that he agreed. “He’d beaten her til she bled” (31), Meursault thought and he never gave his input, he just listened. The way Meursault almost subconsciously ignores all the important conversations and events that happen in his life, tells a lot about him. We don’t know much about his past but we know enough that his future is going to start getting rough if he doesn’t face things as they come.