The Stranger: Themes - Humble Independent School District
A R T S 02 E 3 1 H h s T ngli E G N M E H T :
R E ES THE IRRATIONALITY OF THE UNIVERSE Though a work of fiction, the novel contains Camuss philosophical notion of absurdity. Camus asserts that individual lives and human existence in general have no rational meaning or order. However, because people have difficulty accepting this notion, they constantly attempt to identify or create rational structure and meaning in their lives. The term absurdity describes humanitys futile attempt to find rational order where none exists. What can we make of Mersaults acceptance of the gentle indifference of the world? (see the last two pages of the novel) What does Mersault come to understand about his mothers taking a fianc? How does society function in this novel? How does it contribute to the irrationality or absurdity of the novel? What are we to make of Mersaults happiness at the end of the novel? Kierkegaard: Fate or God leads us to despair; the only option is to take a leap of faith and find ultimate good. But this is an act of faith, not reason. . . .
THE MEANINGLESSNESS OF HUMAN LIFE A second major component of Camuss absurdist philosophy is the idea that human life has no redeeming meaning or purpose. Camus argues that the only certain thing in life is the inevitability of death, and because all humans will eventually meet death, all lives are all equally meaningless. Meursault gradually moves toward this realization throughout the novel, but he does not fully grasp it until after his argument with the chaplain in the final chapter. Mersault realizes that indifference is a two-way street. His indifference mirrors that which he sees in the world around him. How far can you go in accepting this theory? Is human life meaningless? Is our best defense against the world a persona of indifference? Sartre: There are no eternal truths because there is no eternal mind to think them. How does one function in this truth? God does not exist, and as a result everything is permissible. Sarte also claims we
are all condemned to be freewhy is freedom so painful? What are the repercussions of such freedom? THE IMPORTANCE OF THE PHYSICAL WORLD Throughout the novel, Meursaults attention centers on his own body, on his physical relationship with Marie, on the weather, and on other physical elements of his surroundings. (Note the things he misses upon first being incarcerated) The heat during the funeral procession causes Meursault far more pain than the thought of burying his mother. The sun on the beach torments Meursault, and during his trial Meursault even identifies his suffering under the sun as the reason he killed the Arab. How does the sun/heat work as a motif within the novel? The style of Meursaults narration also reflects his interest in the physical. Though he offers terse, plain descriptions when glossing over emotional or social situations, his descriptions become vivid and ornate when he discusses topics such as nature and the weather. PERFECT EXAMPLE OR CAUTIONARY TALE?
How are we to read Mersault? If he is the embodiment of Camus theory of the absurd, then what choice do we have but to read him as the goal to which we should aspire? What warning does the novel offer from both a social and personal standpoint? SartreI-it relationships/ everyone/everything are objects used for personal advancement Martin BuberI-thou relationships/everyone and everything has purpose and meaning. When you define someone, you make of them an object.dismiss the agenda! Where does this novel fall? Which view appeals to your personally? What type of existentialist are you? How much of Mersualts issues might have been solved with a bit of
empathy? Or is that oversimplifying a far more serious issue? Ayn Rands Theory of Objectivism: man is a heroic being, his own happiness is the moral purpose of his life. FRANKL AND MANS SEARCH FOR MEANING We find meaning through A. creating or doing a work B. experiencing something or encountering someone C. the attitude we take toward unavoidable suffering Despair is suffering without meaning. Ultimately, man should not ask what the meaning of his life is, but rather he must recognize that it is he who is asked. . . .each man is questioned by life; and he can only answer to life by answering for his own life; to life he can only respond by being responsible. Frankl
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