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Optimism in Camus' The Stranger (The Outsider)
The novel The Stranger by Albert Camus can be viewed from several different perspectives. Some people see this book as a "slap to the face" or an insult. Others, however, find the views expressed in this novel to be comforting and optimistic. Just as there are many different people in the world, there are many different interpretations and opinions surrounding this novel. I have found The Stranger to be a novel that is uplifting and reassuring and, therefore, wonderful .
This novel is important, not because I subscribe to the views expressed in it, and not because many people do not, but — in my opinion — simply because every person should be exposed to the existentialist idea of living. Most people do not realize that their religion and, thus, many of their beliefs have been laid out for them by circumstance. They were born to Christian or Jewish or Buddhist parents and that is what they became. Simple. Far too simple for my liking. I often wonder how people can accept what they have not been able to discover for themselves. Religion has all the answers for people. If you are sad, look on the pages that deal with sadness. You will feel better. I would not feel better. I would feel like a mindless person, a slave to a way of perceiving life that I had no part in creating. I feel at home with the existentialists as they ask: “Why?".
My question is, why must people refuse to come to their own conclusions? Why is it taboo to not embrace a "God" but embrace your mind instead? Why can we all not realize that we are alone, that we must find meaning in our lives because we are alive, not because someone or something wants us to live a certain way? As Camus puts it: “I opened myself to the gentle indifference of the world."
Some people would find themselves naked in the kind of atmosphere that Camus writes about: a life where there is no set guideline and moreover, no reward for following a set guideline. Those are the people who need God in order to get out of bed each morning. Those are the people who might like to burn Camus' The Stranger. I can fully understand why people would hate this book if they were honest, God-fearing men and women.
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I take the view of Camus on the subject of the meaning of life. To me, life becomes meaningful only when I am reinventing it on my own terms. I feel at peace after a good conversation with one of my peers, although I have never in my entire existence felt peace while participating in my religious practices. I scoff at the hypocrisy of all religions and I refuse it, as did Camus.
I find The Stranger to be a novel that is optimistic and reassuring. What greater freedom could a man possibly have than to be placed in a situation where he is able to define himself on his own terms?