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EXISTENTIALISM IN THE OUTSIDER

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Introduction

Camus' exploration of existentialism through Mersault's views and thoughts on life and death, throughout 'The Outsider' The Outsider, written by Albert Camus, revolves around a protagonist - Mersault. The major theme the book explores is existentialism. 'Existentialism is a philosophical movement that views human existence as having a set of underlying themes and characteristics, such as anxiety, dread, freedom, and awareness of death. It is also an outlook, or a perspective, on life that pursues the question of the meaning of life or the meaning of existence.' There are a lot of references to death in the book - Mersault's mother dies in the beginning, later on, Mersault commits murder killing an Arab man, and near the end he is sentenced to death. Mersault is Camus' symbol for portraying the Absurdity in life, and telling the readers that death is an inevitable part of the life that we are all living. Mersault acts completely irrationally in the book, according to rationality as we know it, at least. He is emotionless and numb. He shows no remorse to his mothers death, nor to the murder he has committed, Camus says, he feels more an annoyance rather than regret, after the Jury asks him to justify his murder. ...read more.

Middle

They exclude him from society for his sincere demeanor, and for his manifestation of an inexpressive character. As the trial continues, it becomes evident that he is not being questioned about the murder but over his mother's death. "'Come now, is my client on trial for burying his mother or for killing a man?" This is a crucial point of the novel, as the real reason for Mersault being put on trial is revealed. The prosecutor responds to his lawyer, "'Indeed (...) I accuse this man of burying his mother with crime in his heart!' The fact that he was so straightforward and honest was disruptive and threatening to their society as they were not accustomed to it, and therefore, they saw no meaning, which would consequently create chaos in their orderly lives. Mersault's behaviour recreates exactly that of a man who believes his life is absurd - he doesn't see any other form of life other than physically being present in the world. Society has rejected him by distorting the truth in the case and trying him for that single event, which is his mother's death, and his stoic behaviour towards it. In making Meursault a stranger from society and the legal system, Camus reveals his philosophy of existentialism. ...read more.

Conclusion

Within the novel, those of us like the Magistrate and the Priest that are depicted to have structure and purpose in life, largely from their belief in God, are shown as spiteful and somewhat erratic in their logic. Camus has the Magistrate saying "'do you want my life to be meaningless?'" in reply to Mersault's disbelief in God, this shows readers the true absurdity of life and how foolish some of our most respected citizens can be towards different situations. In contrast to the Magistrate there is Meursault - in societies view a totally erratic and absurd man, who is actually portrayed as quite logical, as we can see into his thoughts and reasoning. Camus' portrayal of the absurd comes mainly in the form of strong characterisation of his main character throughout the novel, and symbolism, such as the Sun symbolizing society, as we have seen. Underlying every action that the protagonist takes, every subject explored is to some extent linked with the philosophy of existentialism. Camus, through his utilization of Meursault, has thoroughly explained the absurdities of life and how they, along with the actions of Meursault, thoroughly portray his existentialist beliefs as they were meant to be. By supplying Meursault with the nature to rebel against preconceived misconceptions, Camus has managed to provide the reader with the ability to easily decipher and gain insight in to the ideals of an existentialist. ...read more.

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