“Trust” vs. The Stranger

“Trust” is a movie revolving around absurdity and a dialogue that strays away from the norm. Although I gathered that The Stranger is a work of literature that also shows the theme of absurdity and randomness, “Trust” is different.

In The Stranger, Meursault says things and does things purely for the reason of it making sense in that particular situation. In “Trust”, Maria proves to be a very strong-headed, confrontational young woman who speaks her mind and goes for what she wants, exactly when she wants it. This characterization is hugely different than that of Meursault. Maria, although young, seems to be ahead of her time and very mature. Starting in the very beginning of the film, she is faced with a pregnancy and left to deal with this issue without much assistance. The fact that the movie begins this way helps to develop Maria’s characterization and the characterization of others in the film by contrasting them with Maria.

The absurdity found in “Trust” is partly due to the circumstances that the characters find themselves in. For example, in society today, I don’t think that the average person would invite a teenage girl whom they found in an abandoned area, and who just finished an entire 6 pack of beer, into their home to spend the night. Although this movie came out 30 years ago and times are slightly different now, this is absurd to me and many events before and after this show the absurdity portrayed in the film.

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?

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.

Meursault vs The Chaplain

Camus brings up the topic of religion throughout the story such as the moment with the religious investigator, and towards the end of the book when Meursault denies to meet the Chaplain. Camus uses the religious investigator and Chaplain to display religion compared to Existentialism and shows the battle between the two.

Throughout The Stranger, I feel as Camus sets up our character as an existentialist, which in my opinion, Meursault strongly portrays.Towards the end of the book (basically his death), Meursault’s existentialist beliefs weaken for some moments. This can be seen in his conversation with the chaplain which he denied to meet twice before. I will not talk of who brought up the stronger arguments and who technically “wins” this battle of wits but rather the moments of weakness that Meursault displays.

Camus sets up a battle of religion vs Existentialism in these final pages with our chaplain and Meursault. In this moment, Meursault for once shares atleast one emotion, fear. As the Chaplain enters the prison cell, Meursault describes a “little shudder” run through him. I took this as a foreshadowing of his battle with the priest. He tells the priest of his fear, which the priest offers to help with because he has dealt with situations like these before. Meursault replies with disinterest which I believe results from his strict belief of no higher being. He stands his ground well but I can’t help but get the image of Meursault basically just holding his ahnds up to his ears to block out the priests words. He uses language such as “annoying” and “disinteresting” to describe the priest and his words.

The priest brings up the idea of seeing the previous men condemned to this cell. Their faces, embedded within the stones of the walls with their suffering and grief. Meursault speaks of the face he searched for as Marie’s. I find this interesting because I interpreted this in two different ways. One way, Marie being the face of his sexual pleasure and desire of women which he speaks of earlier to the prison head. The other, that maybe, being close to death, he searched for a face that “loved” him, that could comfort him, down a path he knew for certain he would travel, that being his death. But we all know this is far-fetched for Meursault does not believe in love, much less feel it.

The passage continues, and Meursault releases his anger onto the chaplain. Cursing, insulting, yelling at the priest. He calls the priest a hypocrite, a man who believes he knows how to live but is truly dead within while Meursault makes himself as “right”. I believe this outburst by Meursault displays weakness being close to his final moments. Meursault is never pictured nor written as having an outburst during the entire book. Especially not during Mamans funeral, killing of the Arab, and within the courtroom. He also does not show this weakness when talking to the other religious figure within the story, that being the religious investigator. Meursault stays composed during this interrogation not failing his beliefs. But close to death, he suddenly explodes. Why? Did death truly scare him? Did he stay true to himself, what he stood for? What does he stand for?

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.

The Beginning of The Book

At the beginning of the book, it was interesting how Mersault reacted to his mothers death. Looking back on the first chapter in the story, Mersault described how he felt a lot in his surroundings. It was rather weird when Mersault also did not want his mothers casket to be opened. Even though this is something that not all people do, Mersault acts differently in this situation, and gets annoyed when the caretaker will not leave the room. When someone asked Mersault how old his mom was, he answers vaguely because he does not know her exact age. I find this interesting because it brings up questions on their relationship before her death. I think from all of this in the beginning of the story we can see that Mersault is indifferent ti his emotions. It does not seem like he is sad or happy about his mothers death, but that he is indifferent to the situation at hand.

This creates confusion to me about Mersault and the way he acts in the rest of the book. I almost see all of this as foreshadowing. When first reading the book, I knew we were in for a ride with Mersault, because of the way he acted and interpreted the situation.

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.