Meursault shows his indifference towards any sort of relationship he has in his life that goes beyond acquaintances. He seems to not care about anyone in life other than himself, which he rarely cares about. This makes him look like a monster to the reader. This view of Meursault isn’t far from the truth. The end of the book shows that he chose to not take the advice of his lawyer. Meursault does not show any kind of remorse or seem apologetic at all therefore he is a monster. He does not deserve anyone’s pity or sympathy. Not only does he show his carelessness when it comes to his own life but also to his own mother and girlfriend. He views them only as shallow memories and “misses” them based on the things that they would do for him if they were still with him. This is ultimately why he faces the indifference of the world itself when he is punished for the killing of the Arab.
After killing the Arab, Mersault is imprisoned while he awaits his trail. Before and during the trail Mersault is asked to recount the events that took place before the shooting including the funeral of his mother. While Mersault confessed to the crime, it seemed that his character was on trial and not the actual crime.
The prosecutor speaks in great lengths about Mersaults actions at the funeral of his mother. “It was then that he talked about my attitude toward Maman. He repeated what he had said earlier in the proceedings. But it went on for much longer than when he was talking about my crime-so long, in fact, that finally all I was aware of was how hot a morning it was” (101). The prosecution is more interested in his relationship with his mother than they are about the crime that Mersault confessed to committing.
This perception of Mersault being inhumane, a monster, and soulless is ultimately what sways the jury against him. The jury sentences Mersault to be beheaded in the town square. While Mersault did commit a crime, it is hard to believe that if Mersault had different beliefs and a different personality that he would have been judged as harshly.
There is a speech Benedict Cumberbatch performed that I often watch over when in need of inspiration. The speech he is performing is between pioneering American artists Sol LeWitt and Eva Hesse. In 1960, pioneering American artists Sol LeWitt and Eva Hesse met for the first time and became close friends. In 1965, Eva found herself facing a creative block during a period of self-doubt, and told Sol of her frustrating predicament. Sol replied with this letter. The main part of the speech I always focus on is the following,
“learn to say F*ck you to the world every once in a while, you have every right to just Just stop thinking, worrying, looking over your shoulder wondering, doubting, fearing, hurting, hoping for some easy way out, struggling, grasping,…Stop it and just DO!…”
As we recently read The Stranger by Albert Camus my mind kept coming back to this speech, especially toward the end of the novel.
Throughout the entire passage, Meursault in many ways lives his own world. Like I said above I often look to those words in the speech to think to do better in my own life. So why do we often judge how Meursault lives his life? Throughout the novel he undoubtedly, doesn’t overthink, he doesn’t worry and he doesn’t fear. He does what a lot of people in this society wish they could do, JUST DO IT. Whether it was taking care of the Arab man without hesitation, not judging his peers for their abusive lives, or being 100% honest in his romantic with Marie, he doesn’t overthink anything in life, whether good or bad. Speaking specifically to his relationship with Marie most when faced with the question “I love you” just give an unmeaningful response back, the easy way out. But not Meursault. He knew his feelings and is very self-aware. He told her straight up that he didn’t love her. He throughout the novel is entirely self-aware with his decisions and feelings, which is something I respect. I will never understand why most readers’ first thoughts of Meursault is to judge his lifestyle rather than respect it. The average person does not feel the emotions he feels and is nowhere near as self-aware as he is, which is why Meursault’s mindset is one to be respected not judged.
During Meursault’s trial, the death of his mom is brought up many times, and his reaction to his mother’s death is used against him. Witnesses are called to question how Meursault acted at his mother’s funeral and was described by many as being cold and disinterested.
People noticed that he did not cry at the funeral and did not want to see his mother’s body. It is also held against him that he went on a date and saw a funny movie with a woman the day after the wedding. Meursault expresses confusion as to why this is being used against him. He does not understand how this has any connection to his case. He also illustrated when his mother passed away that he was not too distressed as nothing had changed. Based on his reaction to his mother’s death and how it was being used against him at trial, it does seem to me that Meursault is not afraid of death or feels sad about anyone that dies.
Meursault seems to only care about a person’s death of it significantly changed his life and how he goes about things. For example, when Meursault shot the Arab man, he was not guilty or sad that he had done so. Meursault realized he had made a mistake as he was now going to go to prison but did not have remorse for the man.
By the way that Meursault reacted to his mother and the Arab man’s death, I believe Meursault does not care about the death of others, and only about the impact and undesirable effect it could have on him.
Throughout the first part of The Stranger Meursault plays the role of the detached observer. In my eyes, I feel many overlook the fact that Meursault is living a healthy lifestyle. When discussing The Stranger many feel the need to judge Meursault by giving him a diagnosis of a disorder because of the way he interacts. That is straight up the most wrong thing you can do to a character at the beginning of a novel. They try to judge him without giving him any empathy. Readers will judge him for not crying at his mother’s funeral without knowing the true relationship he and his mother shared. I feel there is an abstract point of view no one touches on and that is that the way Meursault lives his life in such organization and normalcy, that in his way is healthy.
Throughout the first part of the book, Meursault will go into this deep Rome of observation. Whether it is a character he meets or just how he feels the temperature in the room is too hot, he is very self-aware about how he feels the world around him is going. There are many points where his brain will go on random sprees of feeling the need to go into great detail about such a little event. Some examples being, when he was randomly observing the movie watchers he noticed things like “They look more serious. They were still laughing, but only now they seemed tired and dreamy.” Another time is when the “robot” lady sat with him at dinner and he was able to describe her every move from the exact tip to the way she was eating. When most analyze his observations they explain them as a way of weirdness and obsession but in my eyes, they are a great skill. I am amazed by the way he can keep in his brain one thing at a time so precisely that he can think and observe for as long as he can.
Another way readers judge Meursault is how lack of care for the world around him. While I agree yes the way he doesn’t seem to care about his mother’s death is very odd to me, I feel there is more than the reader does not know so I won’t be focusing on that piece of it. More of the way he interacts with his peers. Most readers think of it as anti-social ness but I think it is the very opposite. An anti-social wouldn’t follow a lady on a walk after he was interested in the way she ate, an anti-social wouldn’t listen to an abusive boyfriend and be able to not go off on him, and anti-social wouldn’t be able to have a clear structure to the way he feels in his sexual relationship. I feel rather than this showing he is anti-social it more shows how amazing Meursault is at controlling his feelings. I feel that isn’t talked about enough. Every decision he makes in the first 5 chapters he does so easily. He knows he doesn’t love the girl, he knows he is only going to listen to Raymond and not go too far for him, he knows how he feels the lack of need to worry about his mom’s death.
In many ways, while this may not be the popular viewpoint on how to take in the first part of the novel it is a viewpoint that had to be talked about. Just keep in the back of your mind as a reader that maybe he isn’t just weird and uncaring but instead so ahead of his thoughts and feelings that he does not feel the need to barge into anyone’s business but his own.
The first lines of The Stranger seem to be very well known in the literary world and rightfully so; “Maman died today. Or yesterday, I don’t know” (3). This is how the reader is introduced to Meursault and throughout the first half at least and even 3/4ths of the book this same indifferent and detached person is what we get. He through life with the understanding that whatever he does, doesn’t matter because it doesn’t really change his life. I think it’s important to note that before going to prison he really only thought about HIS life and how it really didn’t matter how it turned out to be. Because when he does go into prison he starts to have trouble accepting his inevitable death. All he cares about is “escaping the machinery of justice, seeing if there’s any way out of the inevitable” (108).
But soon into chapter 5, We see that Meursault in fact does realize deep deep down under all that hope and contradictory thoughts that “since we’re all going to die, it’s obvious that when and how don’t matter”(114). Only then can Meursault accept that there is no need for hope for his appeal. Yet I don’t think he fully understands and fully accepts his death.
I think it’s his outburst with the priest, when we finally get to see Meursault’s beliefs and thoughts come together. From this encounter he finally understands that the universe and world is also indifferent and that no one persons actions changes anything because the world keeps living without a worry about anyone. He is able to recognize that whatever happened to him, he would be in the exact same position as now. Meursault feels free at the end by his death. He likes that he lived his life his true authentic way without the standards of society influencing anything, as a stranger.
Throughout the book The Stranger by Albert Camus, Meursault is seen as a kind of strange and detached character. And only through further close reading do readers notice the existentialism connections between Meursalt and his surprising presentness and acceptance of the absurdity of life (including his willingness to give up on some illusions). However, towards the end of the book I think he finally lets go completely and reaches the peak of existentialism that we talk about in class. I think before that he was not fully there yet. When he brings up his Maman, I originally thought it was gonna be about him playing into his bond to her or a profound comment about them and their relationship. Camus instead steers along this questioning path and talks about how Meursault begins to understand his mom, “playing at the beginning again” and how Meursault, “opened myself (himself) to the gentle indifference of the world” (122). I think the realization of Meursault, after the aggressive confrontation earlier, confirms to readers that he truly/fully started to free himself of the burdens of illusions in the book only towards the end. Additionally, it prompts the discussion of how people like Merusault’s mom decide on how they want to live their lives and freely change their path if they desire something different.
Another part of the book I would like to comment on is the times where Meursault does not just come across as this existentialist being and instead more like a normal person living and thinking. When he is waiting for his sentence to be acted upon he describes that he must distract himself and tries to look at the sky and find something interesting about it (112). The stressful waiting situation Meursault is in has put his reactions to the forefront and I think they exemplify that he does not feel nothing about death and instead is trying to process his fate anxiously. As humans I think we all have been in extreme situations that get us on edge and I think it is important that we acknowledge Meursault as a human and not just the ideas of believing in nothing at all. The anxiety he has while waiting as he describes hearing himself breathing, “like a dog’s panting” illustrates the normal behaviors he has, like anyone else would while waiting for their looming fate (113). And other times throughout the book when he wants ways to waste time whether to distract himself from his emotions or use it as an excuse to feel nothing, I think most everyone has a part of themselves that feels this way at times. Although it might be a flying thought that people want to dismiss, it still occurs at times when we simply wish something would end quicker so maybe we stare at a clock to waste time. The normal tendencies in Meursault are interesting to note and I think do not diminish his other strange actions but combine as a whole to form this complex character. And I wonder if in existentialism death is another illusion to diminish or if it is to be accepted as an absurdity of life.
In the novel The Stranger we are introduced to the character named Meursault is someone who does not seem to make true emotional connections and is emotionless for most of the story. An example of this behavior can be noted after Marie, Meursault’s girlfriend, asks him if he wants to marry her, “I said it didn’t make any difference and that we could if she wanted to. Then she wanted to know if I loved her. I answered the same way I had last time, that it didn’t mean anything but that I probably didn’t love her” (41). Meursault’s behavior is interesting because he doesn’t seem to have or even want to have an emotional connection and makes that evident. His mannerisms are interesting as well because he consistently describes what he’s doing, whether that’s waking up in the morning after spending the night with Marie as he “rolled over, tried to find the salty smell Marie’s hair had left on the pillow”(21) or following a girl home whom he did not know.
It’s interesting that he does this because it allows us (the readers) to see how he views things and his thought processes behind some of his actions. From this we can conclude that he thinks in a more realistic but also beautiful way. In Chapter 2, while Meursault is at home watching the events taking place over the balcony, he describes, “…the passing clouds had left a hint of rain hanging over the street, which made it look darker…The sky changed again. Above the rooftops the sky had taken a reddish glow, and with an evening coming on the streets came to life”(23). Meursault is a very descriptive when he talks about a person or thing that he sees, and this allows the reader to see how beautifully he sees the world, which sparks the inference that his mindset (being more closed off from people and living in the moment) allows someone to see the beauty of the world and the beauty of life really. However, in Meursault’s case, though he sees the world with such beauty, he also does not refect any emotion towards anyone which seems confusing. Meursault is a complex character and his view of the world, for the most part is interesting, while he does not seem to be interested in emotional connections, to the point where he kills a man.
Throughout Albert Camus’, The Stranger, Mersault struggles deriving the true meaning of his life. He at first struggles with conforming to social expectation and what people say the meaning of life is. Throughout the novel we see Mersault’s attitude towards Marie as emotionless and disconnected, but towards the end of the novel we get a true insight into his feelings, “I had been looking at the stones in these walls for months. There wasn’t anything or anyone in the world I knew better. Maybe at one time, way back, I had searched for a face in them. But the face I was looking for was as bright as the sun and the flame f desire – and it belonged to Marie” (119). This seems to show that Mersault felt more that just a physical attraction to Marie and one could even say he loved her, but as we approach the end of the novel Mersault’s confrontation with the priest seems to shatter his attachment to any socially expected means of life and his attachment to the idea of love. After becoming annoyed with the priest Mersault says, “I..told him not to wast his prayers on me…. None of his certainties was worth one hair of a woman head. He wasn’t even sure he was alive because he was living like a dead man…we’re all elected by the same fate” (120-121). His confrontation with the priest caused him to realize the only meaning to life was living because everyone died in the end, regardless of what they did during their lives.
I personally agree with this outlook on life. The compliance to the falsified meanings of life such as success, money, power, religion, or love seem to cause more pain than they do happiness. People try to achieve these things before they die, often focused on the past or future. This disconnect from the present moment causes them to miss the experiences right in front of them, and in the end then only thing you really have before death is what you have done and experienced.
In “The Myth of Sisyphus”, Albert Camus argues that Sisyphus, the hero of the absurd, is happy in his supposed punishment to eternally push a boulder up a hill. He reasons that in order for the punishment to be real, Sisyphus must be conscious of his own condition. Since Sisyphus continues to press on regardless of the futility of his task, Camus reasons that Sisyphus must therefore be content with his fate. “[A]ll is well” (20) and Sisyphus can find fulfillment in the endless task of rolling the boulder up the hill and watching it fall back down. He is therefore happy.
According to Camus, “If there is a personal fate, there is no higher destiny, or at least there is, but one which [the absurd man] concludes is inevitable and despicable” (20). The crux of the existentialist viewpoint as endorsed by “The Myth of Sisyphus” is that life is full of random violence, the most brutal of which being the inevitability of death. We are therefore free from any obligation to any societal constraints or illusions imposed upon us, since the inevitability of death means that none of it matters. This seems to result in the conclusion that people freed by existentialism can now act out their own lives with a free will as radical subjects. As Camus writes in The Stranger from the perspective of Meursault, “I had lived my life one way and I could just as well have lived it another. I had done this and I hadn’t done that. I hadn’t done this thing but I had done another. And so?…Nothing, nothing mattered, and I knew why” (121). An absurd hero controls their own fate.
Determinism, or the idea that all things that have and will happen are inevitable consequences of the ‘initial event’, seems to be clearly incompatible with the concept of ‘radical subjectivism’. Free will is defined in this blogpost as the inverse of determinism, that each person is ultimately free to act outside of the influence of their environment. This idea is clearly expressed in Baron d’Holbach’s article “We Are Completely Determined”, in which he explains that if science is to be accepted as being fundamentally true, then free will can be concluded as an illusion made up by our minds to provide the veneer of control. According to d’Holbach, “Man’s life is a line that nature commands him to describe upon the surface of the earth, without his ever being able to swerve from it.” Free will is an illusion created by the complexity of the mind, where one is “unable to unravel all these motions…and supposes himself a free agent.”
The structure of this argument is curiously similar to those made by existentialists to destroy societal notions, but it would seem a lack of free will would contradict the idea that once one was free from societal notions, they could now be master of their own fate – under the doctrine of determinism, that person was always going to become an existentialist, and the actions they take now as a ‘radical subjectivist’ were already predetermined by the fundamental laws of the universe.
To resolve this seeming contradiction, there must be one of two conclusions made about determinism and free will:
- The world is deterministic and our belief in free will is an illusion. However, this illusion is acceptable as a substitute for real free will in our actions as individuals.
- The world is not completely deterministic.
The first conclusion would be unacceptable to any self-respecting illusion-breaker. If existentialism and its conclusions about the human condition are taken as a fact, in a deterministic world, we still do not really control our fates. The second conclusion is exceedingly difficult to prove, but its existence as the only other option means that if we are to understand Camus as being correct and Sisyphus to be happy, then d’Holbach must be wrong. Existence precedes essence and necessitates freedom of will.
I disagree with Camus’ argument about the constant pain in the human condition, mostly because of the extreme view he takes. To a certain extent, I do believe that life is full of suffering and the facade of hope and love is what keeps people going. However, Camus takes the stance that life is somewhat worthless, and when you die doesn’t matter.
This is seen in Camus’ novel, The Stranger, as he opens with the infamous line “Maman died today. Or yesterday maybe, I don’t know. I got a telegram from the home: ‘Mother deceased. Funeral tomorrow. Faithfully yours.’ That doesn’t mean anything. Maybe it was yesterday”(1). One interpretation of the quote is that it doesn’t matter what day Maman died, but on a more personal level it could mean it doesn’t matter that Maman died at all. This meaning would show that Camus doesn’t value life much, if at all, and he doesn’t value the experience of living simply because all life ends with death.
Not only is his point of view downright depressing, it also makes many aspects of life meaningless if it doesn’t matter when you die. Camus was an absurdist, and he believed that love is just a facade of life that keeps people living, but is truly worthless. But without love, there is no emotion in life, and with no emotion life would be meaningless.
This I strongly disagree with, because I think what you do with your life is what matters, not the end result. The feelings in life and what you do with the short time you have is what is most important. Therefore when you die would matter because being blessed with a long happy life is quite the opposite of dying early without enjoying life itself. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “It’s not the destination, it’s the journey”. Overall, it doesn’t matter that life will end with the pain of death, it matters that you live your life with emotion and love.
What does it mean to be real? According to the concept of existentialism, all our material objects and worldly attachments are all mere illusions that cloud the true meaning of life. All these social constructs have been created through struggles of power and wealth and have been maintained in our society to control people. In the absence of some of these constructs, perhaps the world would be a better place, but is there not value in some of these things that Camus and other existentialists call illusions?
Let’s say, for argument’s sake, that you were to take the leap of faith and believe fully in the values of existentialism. You would leave the world behind and say goodbye to your family, friends, and possessions, and live purely independently. If you lived free of outside perspective and societal pressures, you would probably be happy. However, I argue that we have been conditioned to live in our illusion of a society, and the existentialist lifestyle would not be very appealing. Would the happiness come from working hard and living an independent fulfilling life, or would it come from the fact that you are not living in an illusion anymore. In other words, is it better to be blissfully ignorant, or suffering in a life that is real? In the end, if life is really whatever you make it to be, as Camus says, then who is to say which is the real world and which is the illusion.
Camus’ argument states that there is no meaning to life, but life is worth living if one accepts that condition. I agree with the reading of the Myth of Sisyphus because Sisyphus had no option but to repeat the torturous cycle of pushing the rock up the mountain and having it roll back down. What would be the point in being unhappy or fighting it? It’s not going to change, so might as well find an acceptance in his position and allow himself to become happy with it. Also, in The Stranger, Mersault goes to prison after shooting the man. Does he have a choice whether he can stay or leave jail? No. Mersault recognizes this and finds ways to be content with his position in life, no matter the circumstance. The same goes for society as a whole.
The idea that the meaning of life is to live makes sense because the denotation of “life” is “the period between the birth and death of a living thing, especially a human being,” which literally means to live. There are things that contribute to the meaning of our lives, but they do not define the meaning of life as a whole.
I like the mantra, “Everything happens for a reason,”; not because it gives me a purpose, but because it helps me accept the faults and chaos around me. My value goes hand in hand with the idea that nothing really matters in the end, because we’re all going to die, and our future generations are going to die, and the world is going to die. I agree with Camus highly, because the meaning of life is to live, and along the way, happiness, sadness, anger, and other absurdities will contribute with that meaning. Everyone is going to live differently, and that’s their own meaning in life. It’s all subjective but also contributes to the full idea that the meaning of life is to live.
The main concern of The Myth of Sisyphus is what the author calls absurd. This claim stems from the idea that there is a conflict between what we want from the universe and what we’ll get from the universe. That we won’t find what we truly want in life. This argument is told through the story of Sisyphus who, after dying and going to the underworld, asks Pluto (part of the universe) to return to earth which Pluto allows. After realizing how beautiful earth Sisyphus does not want to return to the underworld, however, Mercury (also part of the universe) forced Sisyphus to return to the underworld. After returning to the underworld people created myths of Sisyphus and how he was being punished in the underworld (though “hopeless labor”), one being that he had to push a rock up a large slope and once he was able to make it to the top of the slope he had to return back to his rick to repeat the process. Camus utilizes this to further explain that having meaning and purpose on earth is only an escape from facing the absurd and struggling against it.
When reading the first 3 chapters of The Stranger, I had a nagging sensation of familiarity. I had never read this book before, nor any of Camus’s work, but there was something about the way it was written that seemed familiar to me. Well, I’ve finally figured it out: The Stranger reminds me of film noir. Mr. Heidkamp has said that this book heavily influenced a lot of Western pop culture, and since this book came out in the 1940s, which was around when film noir was rising to prominence, so I think this book may have influenced the popularity of the genre.
I think the main reason this story gave me the same feelings a noir story would is the futility of it all. So far, the entire story has just been descriptions of events and characters in the protagonist’s daily life, nothing that’s particularly exciting, and this feeling doesn’t ever change even if things that are out of the ordinary do start happening (like when Raymond plans to get revenge on his girlfriend). This is a very big staple of noir films–there is a large focus on how life always goes on, even if tragic or otherwise important events occur, and it can be seen in the way Meursault reflects on his mother’s death: “It occurred to me that anyway one more Sunday was over, that Maman was buried now, that I was going back to work, and that, really, nothing had changed” (24).
The character of Meursault represents this theme well. He doesn’t seems to have any severe opinions about anything, and prefers to spend his free time idling away, sleeping or people-watching. He has fully embraced the unchanging, unforgiving nature of time, and it manifests in an almost overwhelming sense of apathy, like when he says, “He told me that I’d have to act as a witness for him. It didn’t matter to me, but I didn’t know what I was supposed to say” (37). While most noir protagonists have to learn this way of thinking by the end of the story, he in introduced with it.
Another characteristic of noir is having the protagonist come face to face with extreme and tragic violence (sometimes they are just a witness to it, other times they’re committing the violent act themselves–Meurault is in this second category). I’ve only just finished chapter 6, but Meursault’s murder of the Arab man is definitely extreme. The entire passage is very intense, it feels unhinged and senseless, and that raw feeling is also present in a lot of film noir murder scenes. It will be interesting to see how Meursault’s apathetic nature might be affected by the aftermath of the murder, so I’m looking forward to reading more.
I think of life kind of like being in high school, but if you were signed up for every single club. You graduate 8th grade and get shoved into the door of OPRF, your name on every club, group, and sport’s sign up list. From 8 am to when you go to bed, no 3:11 break, it’s all club after club. The only chance to get any free time is if you quit the club. This requires an awkward conversation with the group leader. It’s uncomfortable. It takes a lot of guts to walk up in front of the class, in front of friends, people you respect, and tell your superior that the club they run just isn’t for you.
Here’s the catch: you get re-signed up every day. Every hour. Every second.
Some clubs are easier to quit, and some are harder. It depends on your friend group, which teachers you have and which you like, what you identify as, your skin color or gender, the way you were raised. Some clubs you don’t even know you’re in. Some of them can benefit you, and those are the hardest to leave. Some don’t benefit you or harm you, but they’re comfortable. They’re all you know. Freedom, radical subjectivity, finding the true meaning of life, comes when you quit all of the clubs. When you get to go home at 3:11, that is what Camus calls freedom and happiness. Unstructured and un-systemized life.
There’s a racism club, a sexism club, a homophobia club, a xenophobia club, a club for every system, every prejudice, every discrimination – no matter how small. It’s so, so easy to stay in the club, to continue thinking the way you have been since you were born. It’s so easy to hold your privilege in your hands and simply not acknowledge it. It benefits you, it makes your life easier, so why get rid of it? Why feel guilty for it? White privilege is like that. Every day we with white privilege have to consciously make the choice to acknowledge it. We have to see it in our hands and look it straight in its face. We have to be aware of it in every word, we have to quit the club with every sentence.
It’s also easy to stay in a club that harms you. As a woman, I have never once stopped believing that all genders are equal in value, ability, and validity. Yet, as a woman, I have fallen victim to self-image issues enforced by society. I have been influenced by gender stereotypes. Quitting these clubs, the ones that target you, might seem easy. And for many, maybe it is. But the truth is that the work is grueling. Picking apart your identity and seeing what weeds have taken root there, what elements exist that you did not approve, is hard. Quitting these clubs is saying goodbye to something toxic, breaking away from a poison, yet in order to do so, you must be confident enough in yourself to know that you are different from what all of society tells you you are. That is no small task.
Opt out every day. Take your name off the sign up list every second. Maybe one day, some clubs will dissolve. It’ll get easier to opt out until it’s a subconscious process. Not all of the clubs will disappear, we’ll never be free from systems. But some of them don’t harm anyone. And the ones that do, we can burn down.
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.
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.
The Stranger is a book that stays true to its name. The reader follows a man who goes by the name Meursault and throughout the book we see Meursault respond to certain events in a peculiar manner that we wouldn’t deem as “normal.” Meursault is shown to have close to zero emotions on anything. It’s the way he acts and responds towards people that make him such a frustrating character.
Story begins with the death of Meursault’s mother. He explains to the reader that he never felt a deep connection with his mother. Of course he didn’t want her to die but he quickly accepted the fact that there was nothing he could do about it. He also didn’t seem to care all too much about her death. He never cried nor felt any pain compared to the other residents at the mother’s home. His interactions with the workers there were also quite unusual. He never wanted to see his mother corpse to see her one last time and his attention was toward the sunlight a lot of the time.
After his return from his mother’s funeral, he meets Marie again and begins to “date her” one could say. However, their conversations are quite strange to say the least and in my honest opinion, I don’t view relationships in that sense. Meursault goes out with Marie but doesn’t love her. You can see this throughout several of their conversations. On page 41-42, Marie questions Meursault asking him “do you love me?” Meursault showing no emotion says that he “didn’t mean anything but that I didn’t love her.” It’s this conversation where he reinforces his commitment to not showing any emotion towards anything.
So the questions still rises: What’s so interesting about The Stranger? The only thing I could comprehend is that we follow a man who doesn’t act normal in any sense that we can imagine. He’s the stranger in his society and people don’t know how to deal with him. That’s why the reader gets so frustrated with his actions throughout the book. We don’t understand why Meursault does the things he does and that’s why this book is so interesting. We don’t know what his next move is gonna be because he doesn’t act “human.”
This book forces us to think in a different way about human interaction and the way of thinking of a single person. This book is so interesting because it frustrates us, it shows us different ways of interactions, and it forces us to question society and how weird we are to others.