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The Absurd Morality of Death

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The Absurd Morality of Death Introduction In The Outsider by Albert Camus, death can clearly be seen as a significant image - there being six deaths mentioned in total. In Part One we are shown the natural death of Meursault's mother and Meursault's murder of the Arab, and in Part Two we are presented with the parricide of a brother/son and the subsequent suicide of the perpetrators, another parricide that is to be tried after Meursault's case and the death penalty pronounced on Meursault. Through these depictions of various deaths, Camus shows clearly the conflicting and often arbitrary treatment of death within society, a treatment that reveals a confusion between the motives behind acts and the subsequent response to the completed acts, which ultimately reflects the nature of the absurd prevalent in the novel. Section One: deaths directly linked to Meursault Mrs Meursault's Funeral Death, as an important image, is established in the very first sentence of the book, "Mother died today."1 The simplicity and directness of this statement is shocking for the reader, and leads us to try to understand what sort of man Meursault is - a task that we discover later has been laid as a trap for us. However, even though this first sentence is simple and direct, it is confused in the very next sentence, "Or maybe yesterday, I don't know."2 This confusion over the time of the death can be generalised to the circumstances of the death, which are in this case unclear, and indeed we are never told what the cause of Mrs Meursault's death was. All we have are the allusions to her age, "About sixty,"3 and her 'friend', who was "an old man"4 that could not prevent himself from "fainting (like a dislocated dummy)"5 at the end of the funeral. We, as the reader, assume that she died of natural causes and we do not concern our selves with any reason to explain the cause of the event, neither for that matter does Meursault nor his boss, who "seemed to be relieved",6 that Mrs Meursault had been about sixty. ...read more.


Nevertheless, society, represented by the jury and the judge, find these connections meaningful, and Meursault is told that he "would be decapitated in a public square in the name of the French people."27 Meursault's Death Penalty The third death is one that is not depicted, but is not doubt inevitable, and it is that of Meursault's execution. The events leading up to the death are narrated above and shown to be absurd. Therefore it can quite easily be seen that the nature of this death is also absurd. This death is a punishment, but a punishment for what: the murder of an Arab, parricide or not crying at a mother's funeral? However, Meursault's execution does gain meaning from its very nature of being a punishment, and for this reason Camus embarks on "trying to escape from the mechanism, trying to find if there's any way out of the inevitable."28 The 'inevitable' seems to signify death, but the 'mechanism' suggests the system imposed by society, 'the French people', that of punishment. The first step towards the absurdity of this death sentence - and so an escape from the mechanism - is Meursault's realisation that, "life wasn't worth living," and, " it doesn't matter very much whether you die at thirty or at seventy...it was still me who was dying."29 However, this almost noble sense of worthlessness is interrupted by the "terrifying leap at the thought of having another twenty years to live,"30 and soon after by the Chaplin promising "another life"31 after death if he "turned towards Him."32However, this second interruption fires Meursault into an exposition of his own ideals, which have possibly not been clear to himself until now. "But I was sure of myself, sure of everything, surer than he was, sure of my life and sure of the death that was coming to me. Yes that was all I had. But at least it was a truth which I had hold of just as it had hold of me."33 This is the crux of the outpouring that Meursault delivers to the Chaplin. ...read more.


In addition to the deaths immediately associated with Meursault, we are presented with three other deaths. The way the death of the Czechoslovakian traveller is dealt with is absurd. When he was a stranger murdered, everything was fine; when he was the relative murdered, it was unforgivable. The morality of the suicides also shows absurd logic: the taking of two more lives makes no difference to the life that has already gone. Finally, the parricide that is to be tried after Meursault's case has been given much more importance than Meursault's case. As the murder of someone is the murder of a person, regardless of relationship, this apportioning of importance is meaningless and absurd. As Meursault concludes in the final chapter, "There were only privileged people"43 and so from this we can deduce that to treat one death differently to any other lacks reason, so lack meaning and is ultimately absurd. Words: 2905 1 Camus, Albert, The Outsider (Penguin Classics, 2000), p9. 2 Ibid. P9. 3 Ibid. P29 4 Ibid. P19. 5 Ibid. P22. 6 Camus, Albert, The Outsider (Penguin Classics, 2000), p29. 7 Ibid. P9. 8 Ibid. P28. 9 Ibid. P10. 10 Ibid. P25. 11 Ibid. P48. 12 Camus, Albert, The Outsider (Penguin Classics), p60. 13 Ibid. P69. 14 Ibid. P63. 15 Ibid. P64. 16 Ibid. P85. 17 Ibid. P85. 18 Ibid. P57. 19 Ibid. P58. 20 Ibid. P58. 21 Ibid. P60 22 Camus, Albert, The Outsider (Penguin Classics, 2000), p64 23 Ibid. P68. 24 Ibid. P98. 25 Ibid. P99. 26 Ibid. P116 27 Ibid. P103. 28 Camus, Albert, The Outsider (Penguin Classics, 2000), p104. 29 Ibid. P109. 30 Ibid. P109. 31 Ibid. P114. 32 Ibid. P112. 33 Ibid. P115. 34 Ibid. P117. 35 Ibid. P117. 36 Camus, Albert, The Outsider (Penguin Classics, 2000), p77. 37 Ibid. P78. 38 Camus, Albert, The Outsider (Penguin Classics, 2000), p 78. 39 Ibid. P78 40 Ibid. P82. 41 Ibid. P82. 42 Ibid. P102. 43 Camus, Albert, The Outsider (Penguin Classics, 2000), p116. ?? ?? ?? ?? - 1 - ...read more.

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