Essay on Camus’ The Stranger (The Outsider): Meursault as Metaphysical Rebel
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Meursault as Metaphysical Rebel in The Stranger (The Outsider)
The Stranger by Albert Camus was published in 1942. The setting of the novel is Algiers where Camus spent his youth in poverty. In many ways the main character, Meursault, is a typical Algerian youth. Like them, and like Camus himself, Meursault was in love with the sun and the sea. His life is devoted to appreciating physical sensations. He seems so devoid of emotion. Something in Meursault's character has appealed primarily to readers since the book's publication. Is he an absurd anti-hero? Is he a moral monster? Is he a rebel against a conventional morality? Critics and readers alike have disputed a variety of approaches to Meursault. I believe he is the embryo of Camus' metaphysical rebel as articulated in the philosophical essay, The Rebel. He is the man who says by his actions, "I will go this far, but no farther."
In order to understand Meursault's rebellion we must first understand the nature of his personality as portrayed by Camus. The novel begins with the laconic assertion "Mother died today. Or, maybe, yesterday; I can't be sure." His mother's death briefly interrupts the pleasant flow of Meursault's life, a life devoted to appreciating sensation. He loves the feel of a crisp towel in the washroom. He enjoys eating, drinking, and smoking cigarettes. He loves to watch the sea and the sky. Swimming and making love to pretty girls like Marie are his favorite pastimes, so much so that an offer of a job promotion in Paris does not in the least appeal to him. When something bores him or distresses him he simply goes to sleep, as he does on the bus to his mother's funeral and even in jail. He is a detached observer of life. Symbolic of this quality...
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... noble act. Even we might be able to do that.
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