Existentialism In The Stranger, By Albert Camus

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Existentialism is just one of the many philosophies that attempt to determine the meaning of life. This idea that the world is meaningless developed in Europe around the time of World War II. Many writers and authors in the forties and fifties were affected by the horrors of war and this new philosophy, namely, Albert Camus. Existentialism is greatly reflected in Camus’ time period, culture, and works such as The Stranger. To truly understand how existentialism is reflected in Camus’ time and works, it must first be defined. This philosophy aims to capture what makes someone themselves through the major ideas of existence preceding essence, authenticity, and nothingness. First, the expression “existence precedes essence” is a defining point…show more content…
To begin with, Meursault follows the phrase “existence precedes essence.” Meursault does not follow cultural norms and is defined through his actions. He does not determine himself through a title like his job and believes that “none of it really [matters]” (Camus 41). He does not believe in God and thinks that questions about deities and the universe “[seem] unimportant” (Camus 41). Meursault’s experiences also align themselves with this existential idea. Not only does he not cry at his mother’s funeral, which is important in society, but he kills the Arab for no particular reason. Morality, which many people consider to be a core of what it means to be human, goes hand in hand with the subject of murder. This concern was of no consequence to Meursault. He creates himself and defines the rest of his life with that one action, “knocking four quick times on the door of unhappiness” (Camus 59). Next, Meursault is authentic to himself. Through not “crying once” on the day of Maman’s funeral, Meursault does what he wants rather than sticking to the role of the loyal and loving son. He does not act for the sake of duty or what society tells him to do, he is true to the life he has created for himself. Finally, in The Stranger, Meursault encounters anxiety and nothingness which lead him to an existential realization. In the final scene of the novel, he angrily tells the priest that “none of his certainties was worth one hair on a woman’s head” (Camus 120). Here, he realizes that defining one’s life through facts like religion is not enough and that without it, the priest is nothing. The only path to meaning is through simple, real existence. In this moment, facing his death and nothingness, Meursault truly realizes that “nothing, nothing [matters]” (Camus 121). So, in true existentialist fashion, Meursault accepts the way he has lived
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