It Takes a Hero to Die for a Cause: Responsibility for One’s Choices in The Stranger

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It is a lesson that we all must learn at some point in life, one stated perhaps most eloquently by Spider-Man shortly after gaining his powers: “With great power there must also come—great responsibility!” Although he may have appeared to be a normal human without any great power to speak of, Meursault held a great power in Albert Camus’ The Stranger: the power of choice. As the comic book axiom states, this great power could not come without an equally great responsibility; Meursault had to have a strong individual moral code and be willing to deal with the consequences of his choices. By characterizing Meursault as a heroic figure who tells the truth even when it will bring certain death, Albert Camus demonstrates the importance of having strong individual morals and atoning for the consequences of one’s actions. From the moment Meursault is introduced, it is clear that something about him is not normal. When his mother dies, Meursault shows no emotion. When Meursault kills a man is a way that has the potential to be seen as justified by the courts, he admits the killing as a murder in cold blood and accepts the punishment of death without major protest. When he is first questioned regarding the murder of the Arab, Meursault tells the complete truth, even going so far as to explain “that at first [he] had fired a single shot and then, a few seconds later, the other four” (Camus 67; pt. 2). Any normal person wishing to avoid punishment for murder could have—and almost certainly would have—lied about small details and claimed that all five shots were fired without pause, but Meursault chooses to take the honest route. Instead, Meursault does the honest thing, motivated by his personal moral values. Meursault knows that he has co... ... middle of paper ... ...leaving him a free man in his twilight hour as he accepts his position in life. Meursault holds the ultimate power of choice over his actions, and with the power of choice comes a responsibility to atone for the consequences resulting from said choice. Meursault’s responsibility is motivated by the morals that he develops as an individual, which leads to a conflict with the morally void society. Meursault is shown to be heroic through his acceptance of his responsibilities in spite of the conflicts with society, and using Meursault as an example, Camus demonstrates that it is a heroic action to live up to one’s responsibility in the face of conflict from external sources. Meursault is not a hero because of what he does; he is a hero because of what he does not do: Meursault refuses to compromise on his moral values and responsibilities despite conflict from society.

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