The Hero in The Stranger by Albert Camus Essay

The Hero in The Stranger by Albert Camus Essay

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The Hero in Camus’s The Stranger (The Outsider) 

Certain novels include a character who, based solely on his actions, would appear to be evil, but in an in-depth examination, can be seen in a different, more sympathetic light. The character Meursault, in Albert Camus’s The Stranger, is notable for this description. While his murderous crime and indifference to emotions make him seem to be cretinous, his dramatic transformation at the end of the story make us feel for him. When he finally grasps the theme of the book, embracing the “gentle indifference” of the universe, he also grabs our hearts, in becoming an “absurd” hero.

To begin, the outside observer of Meursault would find him a distressingly hardened criminal. Most notable, of course, is his cold-blooded murder of the Arab. When he declares that it was “because of the sun,” he is labeled “a monster,” by the prosecutor, and our minds. His other so-called crime is being found guilty of indifference. All throughout the book, Meursault refuses to open any part of his self to the emotional world. “Maman died today. Or maybe yesterday,” symbolizes his lack of regard for the people in his life. Later, when he sheds no tears at the funeral and answers nonchalantly to Marie’s talk of marraige, we come to realize that he is without the vital passion that fuels human existence.

So, it would appear that the cards are stacked against Meursault in his initial description to the audience. Yet, Camus manages to add subtle details to the story, which give us a reverse impression. For one thing, Meursault is surrounded by a cast of strangely eccentric characters. When contrasted to him, their violence and odd habits make us pity his situation. There is Raymond, who beats his girl...

... middle of paper ...

...rasp the meaning of his existence.

Unfortunately, in the final and most indifferent act of his unemotional life, he kills the Arab. When his chaotic nature comes into conflict with the structure of society, he is locked away. Thus, banned from the physical pleasures which had previously sustained his existence, he begins to develop the inner rage and emotional state which define us as humans.

At last, these feelings are freed from the cell of self-imprisonment, but alas, it is too late. He has followed the absurd path all the way down to existentialist enlightenment, but ironically, his reward is death. This just does not seem fair, and we feel for him despite his past acts. Now he is a changed man and we feel he deserves another chance at life. Yet, constrained by society’s justice, his now-meaningful life is dealt the cruelest blow - death - and we weep.


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