Essay on Camus’ The Stranger (The Outsider): Conformity

Essay on Camus’ The Stranger (The Outsider): Conformity

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Conformity in Camus' The Stranger (The Outsider) 

Camus' novel The Stranger presents the character of Meursault who, after killing an Arab, is sentenced to death. This conflict portrays the stark contrast between the morals of society and Meursault's evident lack of them; he is condemned to death, less for the Arab's murder, than for refusing to conform to society's standards.

Meursault is an anomaly in society; he cannot relate directly to others because he does not live as they do. Meursault is simplistic, even detached; he speaks of his mother's death without regret for her loss, merely stating: "Maman died today." He goes on to mention that perhaps it was yesterday - he is not sure which. He cannot abide by the same moral confines as the rest of the world because he does not grasp them; he is largely indifferent to events occurring around him. Meursault's entire being is sensuous, yet unemotional. He derives a certain level of pleasure from eating and drinking, smoking cigarettes, sitting on his balcony to watch passersby. He likes to wash his hands, especially at work in the morning, when the roller towel is dry. He likes sex. When Marie leaves, he lies in bed and tries to get the salty smell of her hair from the pillow. Yet all these things are tactile; Meursault derives physical satisfaction from them, but there is no emotion attached.

This is in direct contrast to society, whose strict guidelines focusing on right and wrong depend on the individual's sense of these concepts. Meursault is perfectly capable of analyzing the situation, but not of responding to it as society wishes him to. Life or death, and anything in between, makes no difference to him. The nurse at his mother's funeral had warned him that if h...


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...re is no inherent meaning in life - its entire value lies in living itself. Meursault feels he has been happy, and longs to live. When he must die, he wants a crowd to greet him "with cries of hate"; they are screaming because they want life and the world to have meaning; they need this because that is what their entire existence is built upon. As the magistrate asked of Meursault, "Do you want my life to be meaningless?" Meursault understands how estranged the individual truly is from society. Until the conclusion, he was a stranger to himself as well as to the rest of the world. In the end, he opens himself "to the gentle indifference of the world," and "finding it so much like myself, - like a brother really," feels he has been happy, and is again. Society finds this unacceptable, and by refusing to conform to its face-value standards, Meursault must die.

 

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