ALBERT CAMUS PDF
The Stranger demanded of Camus the creation of a style at once literary and profoundly popular, an artistic sleight of hand that would make the complexities of a. Published as the introduction to Albert Camus, Selected Fiction and Essays. London: Everyman's Press, Millennium Library. ISBN More than the others, therefore, it has need of the indulgence and understanding of its readers. —Albert Camus, Paris, March for PASCAL PIA. O my soul.
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Albert Camus () gives a quite different account of philosophy and politics of In The Myth of Sisyphus Camus elucidates this concept of the absurd . Up until that time Albert Camus's greatest pleasures were wandering the streets of the working-class district of Algiers (the capital of Algeria, then a French. PDF | Jacques Derrida, the French philosopher, proposes the Deconstruction Theory that deals with the relationship between text and meaning.
Let me only tell you, in a spirit of gratitude and friendship, as simply as I can, what this idea is. For myself, I cannot live without my art. But I have never placed it above everything. If, on the other hand, I need it, it is because it cannot be separated from my fellow men, and it allows me to live, such as I am, on one level with them.
It is a means of stirring the greatest number of people by offering them a privileged picture of common joys and sufferings. It obliges the artist not to keep himself apart; it subjects him to the most humble and the most universal truth. And often he who has chosen the fate of the artist because he felt himself to be different soon realizes that he can maintain neither his art nor his difference unless he admits that he is like the others.
The artist forges himself to the others, midway between the beauty he cannot do without and the community he cannot tear himself away from. That is why true artists scorn nothing: they are obliged to understand rather than to judge.
By definition he cannot put himself today in the service of those who make history; he is at the service of those who suffer it. Otherwise, he will be alone and deprived of his art.
Not all the armies of tyranny with their millions of men will free him from his isolation, even and particularly if he falls into step with them. But the silence of an unknown prisoner, abandoned to humiliations at the other end of the world, is enough to draw the writer out of his exile, at least whenever, in the midst of the privileges of freedom, he manages not to forget that silence, and to transmit it in order to make it resound by means of his art.
None of us is great enough for such a task.
But in all circumstances of life, in obscurity or temporary fame, cast in the irons of tyranny or for a time free to express himself, the writer can win the heart of a living community that will justify him, on the one condition that he will accept to the limit of his abilities the two tasks that constitute the greatness of his craft: the service of truth and the service of liberty. Because his task is to unite the greatest possible number of people, his art must not compromise with lies and servitude which, wherever they rule, breed solitude.
Whatever our personal weaknesses may be, the nobility of our craft will always be rooted in two commitments, difficult to maintain: the refusal to lie about what one knows and the resistance to oppression.
For more than twenty years of an insane history, hopelessly lost like all the men of my generation in the convulsions of time, I have been supported by one thing: by the hidden feeling that to write today was an honour because this activity was a commitment — and a commitment not only to write. Specifically, in view of my powers and my state of being, it was a commitment to bear, together with all those who were living through the same history, the misery and the hope we shared.
These men, who were born at the beginning of the First World War, who were twenty when Hitler came to power and the first revolutionary trials were beginning, who were then confronted as a completion of their education with the Spanish Civil War, the Second World War, the world of concentration camps, a Europe of torture and prisons — these men must today rear their sons and create their works in a world threatened by nuclear destruction.
Nobody, I think, can ask them to be optimists. And I even think that we should understand — without ceasing to fight it — the error of those who in an excess of despair have asserted their right to dishonour and have rushed into the nihilism of the era. But the fact remains that most of us, in my country and in Europe, have refused this nihilism and have engaged upon a quest for legitimacy.
They have had to forge for themselves an art of living in times of catastrophe in order to be born a second time and to fight openly against the instinct of death at work in our history. Each generation doubtless feels called upon to reform the world. Mine knows that it will not reform it, but its task is perhaps even greater.
It consists in preventing the world from destroying itself. Heir to a corrupt history, in which are mingled fallen revolutions, technology gone mad, dead gods, and worn-out ideologies, where mediocre powers can destroy all yet no longer know how to convince, where intelligence has debased itself to become the servant of hatred and oppression, this generation starting from its own negations has had to re-establish, both within and without, a little of that which constitutes the dignity of life and death.
In a world threatened by disintegration, in which our grand inquisitors run the risk of establishing forever the kingdom of death, it knows that it should, in an insane race against the clock, restore among the nations a peace that is not servitude, reconcile anew labour and culture, and remake with all men the Ark of the Covenant.
Then Meursault, Raymond, and Masson go for a walk and meet the Arabs, who apparently have followed them from Algiers. After a brief fight, one of the Arabs pulls a knife and slashes Raymond.
The Arabs flee.
Raymond is not seriously hurt, and after being treated by a doctor, he insists on returning to the beach. He wants to go alone, but Meursault follows him. They encounter the Arabs again, and Raymond searches for an excuse to shoot the man who had stabbed him. Meursault talks him out of shooting and takes the gun. As they discuss how to handle the Arabs, the Arabs vanish. It is hot and muggy, and, sensitive to the weather, he feels strange and dizzy. He goes down to the beach alone, trying to cool off, and meets one of the Arabs.
The two men confront each other once more, and when Meursault advances on him, the Arab pulls a knife. The sun blazes, blinding Meursault. He fires the gun once, killing the Arab. Then he fires four more times into the body.
Meursault recognizes that his action will have consequences. During the next eleven months he is interviewed repeatedly by the magistrate and by his court-appointed lawyer. The prosecutor paints a picture of a man incapable of the most basic human feeling, one who is a danger to society. Back in his cell, Meursault thinks about death and about escape. He does not want to see the prison chaplain, but the chaplain visits him anyway and attempts to have him acknowledge his guilt and also the possibility of an afterlife.
Meursault flies into a rage and attacks the chaplain in the only outburst of feeling he displays in the book. His last wish is that a large, hostile crowd attend his execution. Physical sensations of sun and wind and physical activities such as swimming or running mean a great deal to him. Larger experiences in his life- the death of his mother, a chance for marriage, and a change in job- mean relatively little.
We learn almost nothing about his past, though he is a curiously candid person, speaking of experiences in the present that most of us, if we felt them, might keep silent about. He has a detached attitude toward other people. This annoys most people, but some are attracted to him because of his silence and his habit of not offering judgments. The central event in his life, at least as far as it influences others, is killing an Arab. His most intense experience, however, is his attack on a chaplain while in prison.
Many readers see Meursault as a hero and as a martyr for the truth. He refuses to disguise his feelings and by doing so threatens society. For instance, when Raymond is beating an Arab girl, Meursault refuses to send for the police because he dislikes them. His feelings take precedence over the immediate danger to the girl.
Meursault is a complex- in some ways contradictory- character, and one of the most rewarding challenges of reading The Stranger is trying to figure out his personality.
At the trial, he tries to defend Meursault. He is more sympathetic toward Meursault than the warden and sits with Meursault during the all-night vigil by the coffin. He offers Meursault coffee in what seems a kind act.
He generally expresses ordinary sentiments and tries to make Meursault feel guilty for leaving his mother in a home. She, like Meursault, is devoted to sensual pleasures. But her values are rooted in traditional standards, and she wants what most people are said to want: Salamano loses the dog during the course of the story and turns to Meursault for advice and comfort.
But his code of honor is as important to him as religion is to the chaplain or the magistrate. Conversely, if someone does him a favor- as Meursault does, by writing a letter to his girlfriend- that person will be his pal.
He takes part in the first scuffle with the Arabs but essentially has a minor role in the story. At the trial, he attempts to create a favorable picture of Meursault.
The magistrate is an authority figure who believes in God and wants criminals to believe and to repent their crimes. During their first interview, Meursault views the magistrate as an amiable and kindly person. At a later interview, however, the magistrate becomes perturbed and excited when Meursault refuses to answer his questions about the murder.
Meursault is fascinated by the skill with which the prosecutor twists information to create his case. For Meursault, the chaplain is just the last in a long line of people who have tried to foist their ideas on him.
His insistence that Meursault express some belief in God leads to an attack by Meursault. The city is described as bathed in sunlight so intense at times that it makes Meursault feel dizzy; it is surrounded by white-hot beaches and endless expanses of sky and water.
The street where Meursault lived was modeled after the Rue de Lyon- the main artery of Belcourt, the Algerian suburb where Camus grew up.
Algiers is a city of crowded apartment buildings, where the neighbors and shopkeepers all know one another. The streets are lined with bars and restaurants. Arabs, Europeans, and pieds-noirs- people of European descent born, as Camus himself was, in Algeria- live side by side, but not without tensions and conflicts.
The story should be seen against this background of racial mix and unrest. More than the city, even, the natural climate of North Africa forms a powerful backdrop to events and shifts of mood- the sun, the heat, the vastness of space and sky have much influence.
Most people, Camus is saying, accept the day-today events that make up existence without asking themselves: Why am I doing this? The only answer, he says, is that nothing we do has any long-lasting meaning. We die, the universe goes on. Nothing fundamental has changed. Later in his life Camus changed his thinking to add that within this framework, our actions can still be important because we can affect the lives of other persons. We must behave as if life has meaning. Images of sun, water, earth, and sky give pleasure to fleeting moments of our lives.
But they can turn dangerous and destructive. The natural forces do not have empathy for us or care. They are neither good nor evil; they are simply there, and they go on being there long after we are gone.
To accept this philosophy is to live in a world without God. Meursault can accept this and lives with the sensations, both pleasurable and painful, of sun and wind, of caresses, of smells and sights.
Yet his incapacity to look beyond the sensation of the moment leads him into a pattern of action that changes his relationship to all these sensations, and in prison he is deprived of all that has made his life enjoyable. Society has developed patterns of behavior for given moments in our lives, whether or not we have the requisite feelings.
Meursault could have lied about his feelings at any time and made his ordeal easier. This attitude leaves him open to the charge that he has no basis to deter him from wrong action; it also leaves him without conventional hope.
He loved her the way people love their mothers. He says to Marie that he does not really love her but will marry her if she wants. Love, Camus is saying, and its institutionalized symbol, marriage, have been created by society and have nothing to do with how people really feel. Some readers argue that Meursault is incapable of loving anyone, while others claim that Camus is attempting to define love as the physical pleasure one experiences with another person.
There are several kinds of love in this book. Are these relationships involved with negative as well as positive feelings?
Some readers feel that Meursault refuses to accept the possibility of feeling love because he recognizes the pain involved in such a relationship. Camus poses the question whether or not a relationship that involves pain as well as pleasure is worth the trouble. Do you feel that this is an accurate interpretation of love? During the trial scene in Part Two, everyone participates in some sort of game, except Meursault. He is just a spectator at his trial.
We first meet the idea of justice in Part One, as Raymond seeks revenge on his girlfriend for being unfaithful to him. And again, when the Arabs attack Raymond, it is to punish him for beating her up. But during the trial, no one makes any real effort to discover why Meursault has acted the way he did. The fact is that Meursault has killed a man with apparent ease and without remorse.
Is the prosecutor right? Is Meursault a dangerous man and is justice served in this trial? He drifts without thought into minor activities- his affair with Marie, his friendship with Raymond, his comforting of Salamano. He finds it easier to say yes than no.
Yet, when pushed, he will not lie about his motives, even though to say what is expected of him would clearly make people more sympathetic to his ordeal. As you read, keep in mind these questions: What is the purpose of acting when you know you will die?
How committed are you to your own ideals and to what extent would you defend your feelings and beliefs?
In order to do this, he has created recognizable characters and placed them in realistic situations. The clarity of style is the perfect instrument to convey the thoughts of the narrator Meursault , who is attempting to find order and understanding in a confused and confusing world.
Others compare his vocabulary to that of a child. Notice, also, the brevity of most of the sentences- which are also childlike- and the absence of complicated grammatical constructions. Camus describes objects and people but makes no attempt to analyze them. His attention is always fixed on the concrete nature of things. He uses words cautiously as if he were somehow suspicious of abstract terms.
Note the conversations between Meursault and Marie about marriage and the exchange between Meursault and the chaplain about God. Notice the scene where Meursault kills the Arab. Natural images- the sun, sea, and wind- appear in different guises at different times.
As you read, pick out other words and phrases that appear regularly and try to figure out their significance. The Stranger was originally written in French. The widely read American edition, translated by Stuart Gilbert, is faithful for the most part to the tone of the first-person narrator. Be aware, however, that the translator makes many changes in the original text. For example, in the nursing home scene in the opening chap- ter, Meursault asks the doorkeeper if he would turn off one of the lamps in the mortuary.
His mind wanders in the middle of conversations. Only rarely does he make value judgments or express opinions about what he or the other characters are doing. At the trial, in Part Two, you learn what the other characters think of Meursault. Some readers think the book would have been more successful if it had been told in the third person by an omniscient narrator.
He begins an affair with Marie and drifts into a relationship with his neighbor, Raymond Sintes. Then he commits the murder that will result in a sentence of death.
Part Two picks up directly following the murder and ends eleven months later. We see Meursault in his prison cell and during his trial, and are introduced to the various functionaries of the state: Meursault compares his life in prison with his former life, and we watch how his attitudes evolve. Does he change? Or does he simply become crystalized in his old pattern? Are there other possibilities?
The two parts of The Stranger can be seen as forming a kind of duality. In Part One, Meursault walks through the world largely unaware of the effect of his actions on others; in Part Two he is conscious of every aspect of his experience, both past and present. Camus was, however, very concerned with some of the same questions as philosophers. Since he did not state his ideas systematically and unambiguously, it is difficult to summarize them, and there have been conflicting interpretations of his outlook.
People want, and need, a basis for their lives and values, but the world offers them none, Camus believed. Nonreligious in a traditional sense, Camus, like many others, was cast adrift, feeling that life had no significance as well as no meaning.
Life for him has little meaning on a deeper level, and he is not concerned about making value judgments or assessing right and wrong. Yet at the end of The Stranger, Meursault draws some order out of life.
Through this feeling of solidarity, Meursault seems to gain strength, and seems to come to terms, at least partially, with the absurdity of life. The Stranger is written in the first person. All the events in the story are seen or experienced from the point of view of one person, Meursault, What we know about the events in the novel and about the other characters is based on his interpretation. In the opening scenes, notice how Meursault emphasizes the external aspects of his environment, and how little you learn about his inner feelings and thoughts.
Eventually, he dozes off. Meursault has the feeling, in the course of their conversation, that the warden blames him for sending his mother to the home. The doorkeeper appears and begins to unscrew the lid of the coffin so that Meursault can view his mother one last time. Meursault stops him. At first Meursault feels uneasy in the presence of the doorkeeper. To ease the tension, he strikes up a conversation.
His conversation with the doorkeeper could be taking place anywhere- they might be two strangers meeting in an elevator or on a train. As night falls, the doorkeeper offers to bring Meursault a mug of cafe au lait- coffee with milk. Meursault accepts the offer, and the two men continue their vigil beside the coffin. What reasons could you attribute to such an attitude? In preparation for the customary all-night vigil, the doorkeeper arranges a number of chairs around the coffin.
Pay close attention to the way Camus interweaves and emphasizes certain details, most notably the image of light- both natural sunlight and electric light. You will find many more references to light throughout the story. Do you have the impression they are trying to make him feel guilty? They nod their heads and suck their toothless gums.
One of the old women at the vigil weeps, and the doorkeeper tells Meursault that his mother had been her closest friend.
As the night progresses, Meursault grows tired and becomes aware of a pain in his legs. At dawn, all the old people shake hands with Meursault and leave. Yet he has a hard time staying interested in anything for very long. His mind seems to work like an instant camera; after he takes the picture, however, he throws it away.
To him, no one picture is much more important or carries much more weight than any other. Meursault experiences the funeral as a series of physical sensations. He smells the hot leather and the horse dung from the hearse and feels exhausted as a result of staying awake most of the night. He has a bad headache and can barely drag himself along to the cemetery.
As you read the novel, see how Camus conveys his philosophy in terms of human testimony, experience, and description- not analysis. But he was true to his own feelings. Why do you think he did?
At the pool near the harbor he meets Marie Cardona, a former typist in his office. Meursault and Marie swim together, frolicking happily in the water like children. Meursault and Marie doze off on a raft, his head upon her lap. As you read, note all the ways in which Camus uses the image of water. You might compare the water imagery to the images of sunlight which also occur frequently throughout the book.
Ask yourself how you would have reacted if you were Marie. Many people in Western cultures observe a period of mourning after a close relative has passed away or wear black as a sign that someone close to them has died. Perhaps that is why Marie is not deeply affected by the news of the death.
That evening, Marie and Meursault go to the movies to see a comedy starring the French actor Fernandel. On Sunday morning, Meursault awakens to find Marie gone. Is it because he prefers the regimented life of the work week to the freedom of the weekend, when he must make his own choices about what to do?
After lunch, he wanders restlessly around his apartment. You get the feeling that Meursault is just killing time, waiting for Monday and the routine of going to work. His meeting with Marie at the pool was purely accidental.
Whatever encounters he has with people take place by chance. As you read, ask yourself what makes Meursault different or stand out from other people. He spends most of the day on the balcony of his apartment. From that vantage point, he observes a family going for their Sunday walk, the local teenagers on their way to the movies, the tobacconist across the street sitting outside his shop.
Most people would probably be bored with this routine, but Meursault seems content just to exist. Sunday or Monday, life or death- it seems to be all the same. He believed that the weariness that resulted from the acts of a mechanical life- a life that continued, unchanging, from week to week- was the condition necessary to give birth to the feeling of absurdity in an individual.
But you are told that the simple physical act of washing his hands during the day gives him pleasure. Then he returns to his apartment for a nap and later goes back to the office. This is his daily routine. Why do you think Camus spends so little time describing what Meursault does at work? Others feel that the ritual of going to work is more important to Camus than the work itself. After work Meursault walks home along the harbor, feeling the coolness of the evening air on his face. On the steps of his apartment he meets an elderly man, Salamano, who lives with his dog on the same floor as Meursault.
The man and the dog have lived together for eight years. But Salamano regularly beats the dog, and the dog, in turn, irritates his master, by pulling on the leash when they walk down the street. Before reaching his apartment, Meursault greets another neighbor, Raymond Sintes, who invites him into his room for dinner. Though he tells people he works in a warehouse, he is reputed to be a pimp.
Camus named several characters in The Stranger after members of his own family. Some readers think that the similarities in the names seem to indicate that Camus wanted to call attention to the autobiographical elements in the novel and to indicate that much of the book was inspired by his childhood experiences. But why Salamano beats his dog or Raymond beats his girlfriend is a mystery to him. Does this interpretation contradict his antisocial behavior at the nursing home?
Others feel that Meursault is just drifting, as always, from one chance encounter to another. As you read, ask yourself why Meursault feels and acts the way he does. Do you think of him as an honest person? Or is he just acting selfishly? He has done this, disregarding the possible consequences, especially to the girl. Meursault and his coworker, Emmanuel, have seen two movies, but we are not told the names of the movies.
Why do you think Meursault tells you about the roller towel at work, yet neglects to give details about other aspects of his life? On Saturday, Marie and Meursault go to the beach.
Her physical presence stirs him out of his normal lethargy. He takes pleasure in just being with her, staring at her, enjoying her beauty and sensuality. At the beach they swim together on their backs. The next morning Marie asks Meursault whether he loves her. Or maybe his spontaneity and impulsiveness, and his unwillingness to conform, are what appeal to her most. A moment of tenderness between Meursault and Marie is shattered by the sounds of a violent quarrel between Raymond and his girlfriend.
This is another of the rare instances in which Meursault expresses an opinion. Some readers feel his dislike of the police indicates a dislike of authority in general. Others think that the reference to the police is a way of foreshadowing events in the second part of the novel.
Another tenant in the building arrives with a policeman. Raymond, a cigarette dangling between his lips, finally opens the door. The policeman orders Raymond to take the cigarette out of his mouth.
After a glance at Meursault for approval? Raymond defiantly continues smoking, and the policeman smacks him in the face. In his essay The Myth of Sisyphus, written about the same time as The Stranger, Camus posed the question whether to commit suicide when one is faced with the utter indifference of the universe. To the anti-hero, suicide is not a solution. Instead, the anti-hero accepts his state of being, concentrating on experiencing the pleasures of the moment.
After she goes, Meursault takes a nap. You should note other places in the novel when Meursault sleeps after upsetting scenes or circumstances. Had Meursault, Raymond wants to know, expected him to defend himself against the policeman?
The two men go drinking in a cafe. Raymond proposes that they visit a brothel, but Meursault declines. On their way home they meet Salamano, who is frantically looking for his dog.
Raymond tries to reassure Salamano by telling anecdotes about dogs that have returned to their masters, but Salamano is afraid that the police will find and destroy the dog. Meursault says that Salamano should inquire at the pound where stray dogs are taken: At the idea of paying money in exchange for his dog, Salamano flies into a rage and begins cursing the lost animal.
Salamano with his dog, Raymond with his girlfriend. Both men are controlled by their emotions. His self-control impresses people like Raymond and Salamano. Why do you think the visit from Salamano makes Meursault think of his mother? Does Meursault, at this moment, want to be like everyone else? He assures Meursault that Marie can come along as well. Raymond also says that he thinks some Arabs, including the brother of his girlfriend, are following him.
He asks Meursault to be on the lookout for any Arabs hanging around the house. If he were to move to Paris, they argue, he would truly be a stranger, out of place, forced to focus on the minute details of merely surviving. The irony of this interpretation lies in the fact that Meursault already acts as if he were a foreigner, unaware of the customs of the world in which he presently exists, a world where a display of emotion at the death of your mother is expected of you, and where lack of ambition- turning down a bet- ter job- is frowned upon.
When Meursault returns to his desk, he gives us a brief glimpse of his past. For example, when he was 17, he suffered a bout of tuberculosis. Just as Meursault had to give up his studies, so Camus was forced to abandon his dreams of becoming a teacher. Marie visits Meursault that evening and asks him to marry her.
But his answer does hurt her and makes her wonder whether she really loves Meursault. Yet nothing Meursault says bothers Marie for very long. Sensing that marriage is important to her, Meursault agrees to marry her whenever she wants.
He tells her about the possibility of moving to Paris, and we learn that he once lived there. In a book such as The Stranger, where the language a character uses is important in order to understand motivation, one must take into consideration such changes in the text. As you may have noticed, Meursault observes the people around him with great clarity and with an almost photographic precision, as if each person were a specimen under a lens.
Once this woman joins Meursault, she takes no notice of him; but he watches her intently.
The way she moves reminds Meursault of a robot. Readers have interpreted the function of the robot-woman in the novel in a number of ways. Some feel that she epitomizes a machinelike, antihuman aspect of the world- rigid, inflexible, out of touch with the rhythms of the universe. At the door of his house Meursault meets Salamano, who tells him that the dog is definitely lost. Meursault invites Salamano into his apartment and suggests that he find another dog to replace the lost one.
Uncertainty surrounds virtually all the relationships in The Stranger. A friend offered him a puppy, whom Salamano treated like a baby, feeding it first from a bottle. Before leaving, Salamano informs Meursault that some neighbors had been critical of him for sending his mother to the nursing home. Salamano assures Meursault that he knew how much the latter was devoted to his mother, but, nevertheless, the criticism surprises Meursault.
Going to the home, where she could make friends, was the best thing for her, he feels. His bad mood on waking seems to foreshadow the events to come. Perhaps his mood is a warning that he should stay home. Marie, on the other hand, is excited about the excursion.
Some people think that Marie is being thoughtless when she tells Meursault that he resembles a mourner. Some readers think that by becoming so involved with Marie and Raymond, Meursault is compromising his sense of freedom. Others feel that his headache, on the day of the outing, is a signal that his involvement with other people is becoming too much for him to handle.
Still others claim that his involvement with Marie and Raymond has changed his attitude toward himself. He is no longer free to concern himself solely with his own physical comforts. Marie and Meursault wait outside for Raymond. The previous evening, Meursault tells us, he went to the police station, where he told the police that Raymond had been justified in beating his girlfriend. Is there a connection between this hypocrisy on his part and his bad mood?
One of the men, according to Raymond, is the brother of his girlfriend. On the bus ride Meursault notices that Raymond is attracted to Marie.
Occasionally Marie gives Meursault reassuring looks, as if worried that he might be feeling jealous. The beach is on the outskirts of Algiers. As they walk to the water, Marie innocently swings her bag against the petals of the flowers. Raymond introduces Meursault and Marie to Masson and his wife, who live in a small bungalow near the beach. Some readers feel that Meursault knows instinctively that his life is about to change.
Like Masson, Meursault would like to have a house at the beach where he could go with Marie on weekends. Can you imagine Meursault working overtime to save money to buy a house? As usual, Meursault begins to feel better with the combination of warm sunlight and cold, refreshing water. He and Marie take a long swim together.
Why do you think time is important here? Some readers feel that the element of time- of knowing the exact time is one way of creating order in an unstable universe. After lunch, Meursault, Masson, and Raymond head back to the beach. Many readers feel that in this scene Meursault becomes a victim of the natural elements.
His ability to appreciate the pleasures of the physical world- lying in the sun, bathing- backfires. The sun, once a symbol of peace and pleasure, becomes a demonic force from which Meursault, as if hypnotized, is unable to escape.
The three men walk along the shore. Once again, he feels groggy, paralyzed, half-asleep. Meursault notices two Arabs coming toward them from the other end of the beach. Raymond lashes out at the man and calls to Masson for help. Masson attacks the second Arab and knocks him into the water. The Arabs back away, one holding the knife in front of him, then race off down the beach. Masson and Meursault help Raymond, who appears to be badly wounded, back to the bungalow.
Meursault stays behind with Marie and Madame Masson, both of whom are upset by the incident.
Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus
Instead, he stares Meditatively at the sea. Raymond returns from the doctor in a bad mood and insists on going for a walk by himself on the beach. Despite his insistence that he wants to go can you think why he might want to? Meursault follows him. The two men walk to the end of the beach and come upon the two Arabs lying on the sand. One of them is playing the same three notes over and over again on a reed flute.
The other Arab stares at them without saying anything. Raymond reaches into his pocket as if to pull out a revolver and unexpectedly asks Meursault if he should shoot one of the Arabs.
Then he advises Raymond not to do anything unless the Arab threatens or insults him. Others think that he wants the gun so that he can be more fully involved in the episode. Still others hold that Meursault subconsciously wants to do something that will alter his life and that possessing the gun is a way of taking control of his destiny.
As the men continue to eye one another, Meursault thinks that it makes no difference whether one fires the gun or not. What do you think he means by this?
Then, suddenly, the two Arabs leave, and Meursault and Raymond return to the bungalow.
Albert Camus - The Fall
Do you remember the incident between Raymond and the policeman earlier in the novel? Meursault returns to the beach. He walks now like a shell-shocked veteran returning to the scene of battle. Instead, his conflict is with the red, glaring sun, which presses itself on him from all sides. His temples are throbbing. His goal is to return to the cool stream and the shade of the rock where he and Raymond encountered the Arabs on their last walk. He thought that the incident between Raymond and the Arab was closed.
Not once on his walk from the bungalow to the rock did he think of meeting the Arabs. He takes some more steps toward the stream. Is it possible he is still thinking only of the cool water, rather than of a confrontation with the Arab?
As Meursault confronts the Arab, the language he uses to describe the scene becomes more intense than in any previous section of the novel: At that, the Arab takes out his knife. He seems- as he presses down on the trigger of the gun in his pocket- like a man possessed. It is not even certain, as he fires a shot at the Arab, that he has done so deliberately: Then he fires four more times at the body of the Arab but he does not tell us why he does this. Is it the action of someone temporarily insane?
The death of one person, these readers say, is as important as the hundreds of thousands of deaths that occur during a war. For Camus, all forms of violence are equally meaningless; nothing can justify the killing of another person.
Other readers interpret the murder of the Arab as an indication of the violent impulse inherent in all people. These readers feel that his act is a reflection of the violence brewing beneath the surface; it exposes the naked violence in the most apparently harmless of people. The acts of violence in the book so far- Salamano beating his dog and Raymond beating his girlfriend and fighting her brother- have arisen out of passion.
The recognition of the absurd occurs when the routine that characterizes each life has been destroyed. Yet in the first chapter of Part Two the tone he uses to describe his experiences is similar to the tone in Part One. During his first interviews with the police, Meursault has the feeling that no one is particularly interested in him or his case. The police, and later the magistrate, all ask him the same questions: Meursault answers that he has no lawyer and that it has never occurred to him to get one.
The magistrate explains that, in keeping with the law, the court will appoint a lawyer to defend him. The magistrate seems intelligent, almost likeable, and Meursault is even tempted to shake his hand on leaving. Is he wise to have answered so bluntly? He makes Meursault promise not to express any negative sentiments about his mother to the magistrate or at the trial.
Recall how earlier in the book Meursault agrees to marry Marie to satisfy her and how he writes the letter for Raymond to satisfy him. Meursault explains to the lawyer that his feelings are influenced by his physical state at any given moment. Meursault refuses to lie and explain his actions at the funeral by saying, as the lawyer suggests, that he had kept his emotions under control. In his eyes, Meursault is being naive. Until his period of imprisonment, Meursault has not felt particularly alienated from society.
Only when he is confronted by the religious and judicial branches of society does he feel like an outsider. In these initial interviews with the lawyer, you see a man who will not compromise his notion of the truth to save his own life. Later that day, Meursault has another interview with the magistrate. You know by now how sensitive he is to light and heat, and how frequently his present physical state determines the things he says and does.
But first Meursault has to answer a few more questions. Did he love her? Why, the magistrate continues, did Meursault fire five consecutive shots into the body of the Arab? Meursault waits for a moment, then corrects the magistrate. After his first shot he paused.
But why, the magistrate asks, did he pause? Meursault returns in his mind to the scene of that hot afternoon on the beach. The magistrate again asks why: Many readers have pointed out how difficult it is for Meursault to respond to a question with more than a few words.
Recall how the Arab displayed his knife to Meursault when they were alone on the beach. What does all this talk about religion have to do with the case?
Albert Camus’s The Stranger
Meursault, without thinking twice, answers no, but the magistrate refuses to accept this. If he ever came to doubt the existence of God, the magistrate tells Meursault, his life would have no meaning.Raymond tells Meursault that his Arab girlfriend has been unfaithful and that he wants revenge. In your writings we find manifested to a high degree the clarity and the lucidity, the penetration and the subtlety, the inimitable art inherent in your literary language, all of which we admire and warmly love.
The Stranger is written in the first person. Back in his cell, Meursault thinks about death and about escape. He takes pleasure in just being with her, staring at her, enjoying her beauty and sensuality.
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