Existentialism in The Stranger (The Outsider)

Existentialism in The Stranger (The Outsider)

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Existentialism in The Stranger

 

        Existentialism is a philosophy that emphasizes a few main points,

such as the freedom to choose and the choices you make should be made

without the assistance of another person or standard.  From the

existentialist point of view you must accept the risk and responsibility of

your choices and follow the commitment to wherever it leads.  Someone that

is put in a particular situation understands it far more than someone

looking in on that same situation, one commonly used situation that appears

often in existentialist writing is that of death.  The existentialist

should learn to accept death when the time has to come and should know that

the most important questions in life are not accessible to reason or

science.  Acting on your own experiences is essential in arriving at the

truth and "man is condemned to be free. (Sartre)"

 

      There were two parts in The Stranger that helped me better

understand existentialism the most.  One part of the novel that helped me

to understand existentialism better was when Meursault shot the Arab on the

beach and how he handled the situation afterwards.  The Arab had drawn his

knife and held it up to Meursault, but this wasn't what bothered him, it

was the light from the sun that shot off the Arabs knife, and the intense

heat along with the salt from his sweat in his eyes that was bothering him.

Meursault shot the Arab mainly because he was uncomfortable and not because

he felt threatened, but in any case he made the decision to shoot him.  In

the next chapter Meursault can't understand why he would need an attorney

for his case because it's simple to him, he had murdered a man and was now

ready to pay the consequences.  He had made a choice that might not have

been the right one but he accepted it and was ready to go through with his

decision to wherever it would lead.

 

      The other part in The Stranger that helped me to understand

existentialism better was at the end of the novel when Meursault is

sentenced to death.  I don't think Meursault was an existentialist but I do

think that he faced death the way an existentialist would have.

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  When the

time came for Meursault to go he was well prepared.  On the last page

Meursault said, "I felt that I had been happy and that I was happy again."

For him there was no difference between life and death, everything was the

same to him such as when Marie asked if he would marry her and he said it

didn't matter and that it was up to her.  For the first time in the whole

book he realizes what his mother felt before she died, only because he was

put in the same situation.  This point really helps me to understand

existentialism because throughout the whole book his mother's death had

absolutely no meaning to him at all but now when he is put in the same

situation, facing death, he finally realizes what it must have been like

for her and for the first time in the whole story thinks about her feelings.

 He is ready to die, and is looking forward to being less alone.
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