The novels “The Stranger” by Albert Camus and “Drive Your Plow” by Olga Tokarczuk both feature unique and complex protagonists who are estranged from society. Meursault, the main character of “The Stranger,” is a detached and apathetic Algerian who kills an Arab man for seemingly no reason. Meanwhile, Janina Duszejko, the protagonist of “Drive Your Plow,” is an eccentric elderly woman living in a village on the Czech-Polish border who is convinced that animals are seeking revenge on humans for their mistreatment. Despite their different backgrounds and circumstances, both characters share a sense of detachment from society and a rejection of its norms. Meursault and Janina both struggle to fit in with their respective communities due to their unconventional beliefs and behaviors. Meursault’s indifference his mother’s death, his lack of remorse for killing the Arab man, and his refusal to conform to social expectations all contribute to his outsider status. Similarly, Janina’s quirks and spirituality, such as her belief in astrology and refusal to eat meat, isolate her from her neighbors and make her an object of ridicule. Both characters are viewed as strange and abnormal by those around them, and their refusal to conform to societal norms ultimately leads to their alienation.
Despite their differences, Meursault and Janina share a deep sense of isolation and detachment from the world around them. Meursault’s detachment is evident in his narration, which is devoid of emotion and focused solely on the physical sensations of his surroundings. He seems to exist in a state of numbness, unable to fully engage with the world or connect with other people. Janina, on the other hand, is deeply connected to nature and the animals around her, but she struggles to connect with her human neighbors, relying on the stars and zodiac signs to begin to understand them. She feels that human behavior and society only serve to invade and corrupt the authentic and balanced natural world. Similarly, she views the murder of animals as equal to the murder of humans, unable to comprehend the important societal differentiation between the two causing their differences in acceptance. This belief further contributes to her sense of isolation. Overall, these narrators’ disconnections allow them to view society from a god-like perspective, looking down upon and criticizing it without issue.
Additionally, both Meursault and Janina’s alienation leads to their downfall. Where Meursault’s refusal to conform to societal norms and his lack of remorse for his crime are prime reasons for his conviction and execution, Janina’s eccentricities and isolation both encourage her murders and make her a prime suspect for them, resulting in her arrest and imprisonment. Ultimately, both characters are punished for their refusal to fit in with society and for their rejection of its norms.
In conclusion, Meursault and Janina are both complex and intriguing protagonists who share a sense of detachment and alienation from society. While their backgrounds and circumstances are vastly different, their refusal to conform to societal norms ultimately leads to their downfall.