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Albert Camus' The Stranger

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Albert Camus' The Stranger

What if the past has no meaning and the only point in time of our life that really matters is that point which is happening at present. To make matters worse, when life is over, the existence is also over; the hope of some sort of salvation from a God is pointless. Albert Camus illustrates this exact view in The Stranger. Camus feels that one exists only in the world physically and therefore the presence or absence of meaning in one's life is alone revealed through that event which he or she is experiencing at a particular moment. These thoughts are presented through Meursault, a man devoid of concern for social conventions found in the world in which he lives, and who finds his life deprived of physical pleasure--which he deems quite important--when unexpectedly put in prison. 

The opening line of the novel sets the tone for Meursault's dispassion towards most things. The novel is introduced with the words: "Maman died today. Or yesterday maybe, I don't know" (3). Although the uncertainty originates with an ambiguous telegram, it seems that the tone alone could justify changing the meaning of the words 'I don't know' to 'I don't care.' In a sense, in the days following, he only goes through the motions of the vigil and then the funeral; the only emotion he expresses is joy when his bus takes him home and he is able to sleep. At one point, he looks back at the events of the past few days, realizes that he has to go to work, and notes: "that, really, nothing had changed" (24). Despite these reactions, there is evidence that Meursault did indeed love his mother, observed both in his defensive argument at the 'old people's' home as to why she was put there in the first place and in his recollections...

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...has no comprehension of the objects in its existence--as he is unconcerned with the objects in his own life and finds meaning only within himself.

Meursault does not care for objects in his world. He does not see the importance of certain words whose definitions attempt to explain human relationships either amongst themselves or their emotions in general. He does not follow 'conventional' social beliefs nor does he believe in God, nor salvation. Meursault however loves his life. It is a pure love derived from enjoying his existence on a day-to-day basis, rarely looking back and never looking forward. His love is not dependent on doing what society or some religion has deemed correct, but on what he feels he wants to do despite what most would consider common.

Work Cited

Camus, Albert. The Stranger. Trans. Matthew Ward. New York: Vintage International, 1989.

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