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A Comparison Between the Coping Mechanisms and Realisations Made While in Prison by Alba in House of the Spirits and Meursault in The Outsider

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Barbara Schmidt IB1 Supervisor: Dr. Kerry Vincent Developed Piece A Comparison Between the Coping Mechanisms and Realisations Made While in Prison by Alba in House of the Spirits and Meursault in The Outsider Alba in The House of the Spirits and Meursault in The Outsider display several survival strategies that are contrasting, yet there are some undeniable similarities worth noting. They come to contrasting realisations on the ultimate meaning of life, as Alba takes the decision to fight at all costs to preserve her life, while Meursault makes the opposite choice in taking a despondent attitude towards life and a fatalistic one towards death. Another contrast is that Alba's life has a definite cyclical nature, whereas Meursault's follows a typically existentialist linear form. Also, Meursault's acceptance of his guilt and his inability to form emotional bonds with people contributes to his resignation towards life, whereas Alba's knowledge of her innocence and her compassion towards others fuels her fight for life and her optimism. But both characters experience, to some extent, an alteration in personality as a result of their incarceration. As well, both characters occupy their minds with listing things and writing on imaginary paper in order to escape the horror of their ordeals. ...read more.


Allende writes "this allowed her to venture slowly out of the private circle of her terror"(467). She succeeds in converting negative emotions of despair and hopelessness into compassion and caring for others: "her fear began to ebb and she was able to feel compassion for the others" (467). Meursault, on the other hand, remains isolated throughout his ordeal, alone in his last hour as in every other hour of his life. He answers to no one, therefore he is made to face his demons alone, and through his acceptance of his situation and his survival, he is alone. After all, he faces no "divine justice" (113), only he reflects on his own life and actions and finds peace through his final judgement of himself: "I was guilty and I was paying for it and there was nothing more that could be asked of me" (113). The existentialist nature of Meursault's character and his detachment from other human beings does not allow him to connect with others during his struggle, nor does he need to in order to achieve final peace within himself before his death. ...read more.


The relative simplicity of the exercises she employs her mind in are the reason for maintaining her sanity in the face of hopelessness and desperation. The two characters' personal realisations on the meaning of life are opposing, and this determines their attitude towards their imprisonment. While it is true that the two characters' personalities were the deciding factors in their ultimate outlook on life, Meursault's indisputable guilt dashes any hope he may have had, and Alba's innocence drives her in her fight for freedom. Equally importantly, Alba's ability to relate to those around her through mutual compassion and support is a key motivator for her fight to live, whereas Meursault's solitary nature contributes to his fatalistic attitude. Alba succeeds in surviving her ordeal and through her strength defeats Esteban Garcia. This is her victory, her legacy. Meursault goes to his death with the realisation that the world is indifferent to his existence, and leaves no legacy behind. Nevertheless, I feel that his death isn't pointless. There is some victory in that he stays true to himself right until the end and I am sure that he leaves a lasting impression through his refusal to succumb to any social pressure, most notably his refusal to fake emotions that he doesn't feel. 1500 words ...read more.

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