One of the most noted proponents of early French existentialism, Albert Camus, composed nearly a dozen superb literary works dealing with this philosophy. His first novel, The Stranger, and a later book, The Fall, are recognized as two masterpieces of philosophical literature, not only in the context of Camus’ own work, but in the broad scope of philosophy as well.
Both novels deal with the struggle of an individual to identify himself in a world of absurdities; published more than a decade apart, however, they draw startlingly different conclusions on the subject. Therefore, an examination of the main characters of each novel and a contrast of their individual thoughts and actions will reveal the transformation that overtook Albert Camus as a result of his experiences over the course of this ten years.
Begun in 1942, while Camus was working as an editor for Le Combat, the underground resistance paper, The Stranger is the story of one Monsieur Meursault, a resident of French Algeria cursed with a brutal and unabashed honesty. This trait, being the only truth that he can accept, is therefore the basis of his life. Holding no belief in speaking of the “benign indifference” of the world around him, Meursault is caught in a plethora of social absurdities for which no understanding nor need. For instance, in speaking of the his mother, whose death opens the novel, he states: “I loved her as much as anyone loves their mother,” and, when criticized for his decision to place her in the Home for Aging Persons, notes that “for years she had nothing to say to me.. .she was moping around with no one to talk to.” It is this sort of behavior, honest, ultimately pragm...
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...ury’s most unconventional philosophers.
Camus, Albert. The Stranger. New York: Random House, Inc., 1988.
-- The Fall Translated by Justin O'Brien New York: A Vintage Book, 1986.
Akeroyd, Richard H. The Spiritual Quest of Albert Camus. Alabama: Portals Press, 1976.
Cruickshank, John. “Albert Camus: Sainthood Without God.” In Mansions of the Spirit. Ed. George A. Panichas. New York: Hawthorn Books, Inc. Publishers, 1967. 313-324.
Hanna, Thomas L. “The Philosophy of Albert Camus.” In Camus: A Collection of Critical Essays. edited by Germaine Bree. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1962. 48-64.
Peyre, Henri. “Camus the Pagan.” In Camus: A Collection of Critical Essays. edited by Germaine Bree. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1962. 65-70.
Sprintzen, David. Camus: A Critical Examination. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1988.
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