In will never save a human being from
In Albert Camus’ The Stranger, the author’s absurdist views of life are reflected through the main character Meursault. The reader follows Meursault from his mother’s funeral to his own death, as he exerts his indifference to the world around him. Camus’s employment of motifs represent Meursault’s consciousness of absurdity in a world where everything fails to retain meaning. Nevertheless, humans still seek value in their lives from surrealalities; absurdities that are incapable of immortalising humans. Camus integrates motifs-ideas that repeat themselves-to spotlight absurdity. The motifs of religion, judgement, and death inspire Meursault’s heroism through his sincerity and rejection of these absurd social norms. Camus’ use of religion as a motif emphasises the absurdity of seeking solace in it- as it will never save a human being from death-triggering Meursault’s heroism through his disbelief in God. Meursault refuses to fall under the influence of religion. The magistrate “took out a silver crucifix which he brandished” in front of Meursault in hopes of sparking a religious birth in him (68). But Meursault understands that he “is the criminal” and no amount of repenting to God for forgiveness will free him from his death sentence; a sentence given from both the prosecutor and from being alive (68). The magistrates views differ, however. For him, life revolves around God and “if he were ever to doubt it, his life would become meaningless” (69). Meursault argues that no amount of repenting and praying will save “the most wretched” individual from their ultimate fate: death (119). Meursault therefore deems it unrealistic and even absurd to turn to religion for anything at all. When the magistrate asks Meursault “if he believed in God,” Meursault’s response is a resounding “no.” He does not hide his atheism from a religious society; a bravery that could potentially end in his execution. Claiming that existence depends on God, the chaplain’s devotion to faith is seemingly absurd, too. This desperate search for a “divine face” is absolutely meaningless for Meursault; he disregards this societal belief and seeks guidance from nothing but his own impending death (119). Meursault therefore comes to realise that “the chaplain’s God or the lives people choose or the fate they think elect” do not matter at all (121). Humans are “elected by the same fate”; we are all equals in the end through death (121). His atheism imposes a threat to a society where “all men believed in God, even those who turn their backs on him” (69). Yet, Meursault knows that even God cannot free him from mortality; a sincere attitude towards death. Meursault is an anomaly in his refusal to repent to God for forgiveness and facing death with such certainty stresses Meursault’s courage. This courage in admitting he finds no meaning in God spotlights him as an absurd hero; honesty and authenticity matter more than his own life. The use of judgement as a motif represents the absurdity of justice systems altogether, and Meursault’s refusal of justice deems him heroic. After his arrest, the prosecutors-those who maintain justice- dismiss Meursault’s sincerity to the crime he committed. Instead of focusing on Meursault’s concrete crime the prosecutor dubs him “a monster, a man without morals” and calls to light Meursault’s ‘monstrous’ indifference to societal norms (96). His sentence is entirely based on the fact that “Meursault did not show emotion over his heinous offence” (100). Meursault judges their certainty that “human justice would mete out punishment unflinchingly” as absurd and “the utter pointlessness of whatever he was doing there seized him by the throat” as Meursault loses hope in any chance of his survival, unlike any other human on trial (101,105). The harsh judgement Meursault endures for refusing to believe in justice also results in his death; he remains unrepentant when the prosecutor faces him with the severity of the murder. The absurdity of justice becomes apparent. Meursault decides that death is inevitable whether he argues his case or not and thus “accepts the rejection of his appeal” (114). The justice system may be perfect in anyone else’s eyes, but Camus proves its absurdity: it is unmeasurable and is unforgiving. Meursault realises that escape is hopeless as “he would be caught up in the machinery again” (108). Justice as a machine only forgives those who are not strangers to society. Meursault’s indifference and ‘abnormalities’ merely outcast him. So for him, just his personality alone will deem him a villain. Any chance of survival has already been revoked. Meursault’s certainty in the hopelessness of justice is unacceptable for most, who would grab at any chance to keep themselves out of prison. He is clearly different; Meursault refuses to repent and rejects his appeal. However, death is inescapable, and for Meursault, it is meaningless to live on. His sincerity and bravery in declining what others would accept to prolong life identifies Meursault as an absurd hero. Death, as a motif in the first part of the novel signifies the uncertainty of it for those who bystand death. When faced with the concept of death, most people seem to overlook its sureness, like in Meursault’s case. His mother’s death has little impact on Meursault’s life: “it’s almost as if she weren’t dead” (3). Unlike the people at his mother’s funeral, who were “crying softly” and “sat there hunched up, gloomy and silent,” Meursault remains indifferent (10). The “brown sores and scabs” on Salamano’s dog and Salamano’s “reddish scabs” and “wispy yellow hair” are merely symptoms of mortality (26-27). Meursault is disturbed by “the toothless mouths” and the “nests of wrinkles” that greet him at his mother’s funeral (10). Even these hints are not enough for Meursault to develop his consciousness of mortality and the absurdity of any endeavour in life. When confronting the Arabs on the beach, Meursault realises that “he could either shoot or not shoot” (56). Someone else’s life and death has no implication on his own life at all. Any action in life is therefore obsolete. Meursault deviates from societal norms; experiencing death does not shake him but for a ‘normal’ human being, all activities are important. Meursault, like any other human being, is unaware of the fate that awaits him. However, fragments of heroism are visible. Any death in his life never breaks his indifference and knowledge of the absurdity of life. Camus underscores Meursault’s heroism through death’s certainty in the second part of the novel; it is the ultimate motif of the absurd and signifies the certainty of the end of consciousness and life. Meursault, when faced with the certainty of his own death understood why “at the end of his mother’s life she had taken a “fiancee,” why she had played at beginning again” because in his mind, for the first time he is certain about his own death (122). Meursault, too, notices that “he felt that he had been happy and that he was happy again” (123). Meursault, in realising his own certainty of death, notices that Maman, too, experience this consciousness; life is absurd, only because it is taken away so easily by something that is also absurd. Therefore, any attempt to find “a way out of the inevitable” is meaningless because “nothing is going to allow Meursault such luxury” (108-109). It is impossible to escape death, and so Meursault surrenders to his ultimate fate. Facing his death with such honesty and courage is unique. No other human can possess this bravery; they would instead cower even at the mention of their mortality. Meursault is forced to await the drop of the guillotine blade in a prison cell. Society expects him to repent, but instead he openly welcomes death. Meursault becomes the hero through his utter bravery and consciousness of the end. Albert Camus addresses absurdity and Meursault as a hero through the motifs of religion, justice, and death. The reader fears death as though it is a painful experience to suffer through, therefore clinging to religion, and justice to seek peace and even prolong life. But Camus argues that death is inevitable; there is no point in seeking meaning in anything. Meursault’s heroism is truly unconventional. The word ‘hero’ evokes images of a bold, daring, saver-of-lives. Yet, Meursault is, in a different way, courageous as well. Meursault greets his own absurd death with an open heart. He does not believe in religion or justice and is not afraid to admit it. Facing death and society with a seemingly brave, content attitude, Meursault has become our absurd hero.