The Anti-Christ in Camus’ The Stranger (The Outsider)

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The Anti-Christ in The Outsider

“Meursault is punished, not for his crime of killing another human being but for refusing to play the game.” This statement is of great relevance to the novel The Outsider, by Albert Camus. Society as a whole enforces its ideas and values, upon all individuals, but particularly on those who differ from the “norm”. Through Meursault’s view of the world, contrasted with that of both the religious and judicial system this notion is foregrounded.

Meursault’s outlook on death and dying is very different to that of the majority of people at the time. He was unemotional and indifferent to the death of his mother, something that was unfathomable and by no means acceptable. “…I didn’t know if I could smoke in front of mother. I thought it over and decided it didn’t really matter.” This is a classic train of thought for Meursault, he believes that when you are dead, then you really are dead, so smoking or not smoking will make no difference to the deceased. “I probably loved my mother my mother quite a lot, but that didn’t mean anything.” He accepts his mother is dead, and that his love means nothing to her, in fact, nothing means anything to her. These ideas were deplorable according to his societies standards and Euro-centric value system. “He said that I hadn’t wanted to see mother; that I’d smoked, I’d slept and I’d had some white coffee. And I felt something stirring up the whole room; for the first time I realised I was guilty.” This quote is a key aspect of the foundation philosophy in the novel. Meursault realises, at that moment, that he is on trial for killing a man, but he will be found culpable of the charge not for killing a human being but for the simple reason that he did not play ...

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... hearts when I knew nothing of the most basic human reactions.” This is a quote by the Public Prosecutor, both a religious and lawful man. Through Meursault’s expression of ideas and feelings, he is clearly capable of emotion and human instinct, yet because he does not abide by the rules he is condemned by a society, which fears him, for his difference. Meursault refuses to believe in God, he refuses to succumb to the dominant ideology of his time, he refuses to play the game and for this he is punished.

Meursault was brought to trial for killing another human being, yet he was convicted and punished for refusing to “play the game.” He did not adhere to the rules nor did he try to change himself to better fit the world in which he lived. As the magistrate said, and essentially, in societies eyes he was “Mr. Antichrist” and for this he was condemned to death.
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