Essay Comparing Solzhenitsyn's Gulag and Camus' The Stranger (The Outsider)

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Camus' Stranger and Solzhenitsyn's Gulag

We must tell them what we have learned here. We must tell them that there is no pit so deep that He is not deeper still. They will listen to us, Corrie, because we have been here. 1

The dying words of Betsie ten Boom to her sister Corrie in the Ravensbruck concentration camp reveal a strength and victory even in great oppression. Historically, Christianity is full of voices crying victory in the midst of the terror. Elijah and David hiding in caves, the prophets of the Babylonian captivity, St. John's Apocalypse during the Domitian persecutions, the confessions of Foxe's martyrs all testify to God's power and truth even in the most severe circumstances. However, much twentieth-century writing sides with a view of God similar to that of Albert Camus--God either does not exist or is evil. The oppressive evil of our age is often used to prove divine indifference. Nevertheless, literature coming out of severe oppression often says the opposite. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn shares that for many the experience of injustice and oppression makes a person appreciate truth much more. And with truth comes a more orthodox Christian view of life.

Life's Suffering Proves God Does Not Care

Camus wrote, "An injustice remains inextricably bound to all suffering, even the most deserved in the eyes of man."2 Suffering and injustice should demonstrate divine indifference to any "thinking person."

Knowing whether or not man is free involves knowing whether he can have a master ... For in the presence of God there is less a problem of freedom than a problem of evil." You know the alternative: either we are not free and God the all-powerful is responsible for evil. Or we are free and responsible but God is not all-powerful.3

Seeing the promises of both Christianity and Socialism as offering hollow hopes, Camus opts for the "happy" state of "no hope." At least, then, the problem of suffering and injustice is understood when the thinker partakes of "the wine of the absurd and the bread of indifference."

Meursault's Indifference

Camus illustrates this well in The Stranger. Meursault is a prisoner. He killed a man in cold blood.

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