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The Language of Prosecution in Albert Camus's 'The Outsider'

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Introduction

World Literature Essay 2 The Language of Prosecution in Albert Camus's 'The Outsider' Meursault is brought to the Algerian court a murderer. The public prosecutor and his own defense lawyer, who has been appointed to him by the state of Algeria, are brought in front of a public jury and three judges to determine whether Meursault shall be convicted of this crime with or without mitigating circumstances. When the prosecution is able to convince the jury that the murder was premeditated, Meursault is sentenced to a public decapitation. This sentence is largely due to the incompetence of Meursault's own defense lawyer as well as the cunning use of language and subtle comprehension of public sentiment which faces Meursault in the form of the court's public prosecutor. This essay will attempt to examine the prosecution's effective use and understanding of the language of the Algerian courtroom. This essay will also explore the impact of this use of language on Camus's message and protagonist. The defense and prosecution attempt to use an intricacy of courtroom babble in the cross-examination of their witnesses. The first witnesses subject to this are Thomas Perez, the warden and the caretaker from Meursault's mother's home for seniors. These men can only base their accounts on the one day they encountered Meursault, the day of his mother's funeral. These witnesses, called by the prosecution, are the first to underline the irony of the prosecutor's case. ...read more.

Middle

As evidence of the jury's severe conviction demonstrates, the prosecutor has successfully dehumanized Meursault in the eyes of the jury and judges. Meursault is, in effect, doomed before the trial even begins when his lawyer declares that "he was confident of success" (64). What success can there be for a man who has already been proved guilty? Though the lawyer may only be assuring Meursault that he feels confident of his ability to disprove the possible declaration of the premeditation of the crime, the statement already suggests that there is a distinct lack of clarity in the defense lawyer's communicative skills. Meursault's case is one of interest to the public of Algiers because Meursault has denied the social codes and human faculties which 'normal' society, represented by the audience in the courtroom, feels bound by. The prosecutor uses the gasps of shock and the astonished silences of the public in the courtroom to sway the jury's opinion. The prosecutor demonstrates a more dynamic and subtle control over the sentiments of the courtroom than the defense lawyer with the exercise of dramatic changes in his tone of voice and expression. The lawyer convinces the courtroom, and even Meursault, of his confidence in his assertions and his disgust with an act that he wishes them to consider condemnable with his tone of voice. As Meursault himself records, "the prosecutor remarked in a malicious tone, 'That will be all for the present'" (85). ...read more.

Conclusion

Following the prosecutor's logic in condemning Mersault, the more socially criminal his behavior (such as an involvement in physical abuse), the more likely it is that the Arab's murder was premeditated. In the prosecutor's final summation of Meursault's guilt of the premeditation of this murder, he includes a discussion of Meursault's actions at his mother's funeral, with Marie and then with Raymond, highlighting Camus's true purpose of this trial. The prosecutor even states that the trial has superseded in nature and significance the parricide trial to follow, because the moral killing of his mother is more odious than the physical killing of a father or an Arab. In an intentionally loquacious and redundant speech, the prosecutor even goes to the extent of saying of Meursault, "a man whose heart is so empty that it forms which threatens to engulf society." This rash but comprehensive speech concluding the prosecutor's case convinces its audience of Meursault's threat to society. This is the defense lawyer's last chance to question this lawyer's line of prosecution, but he does not do so. The prosecution can, in truth, face little objection because there is no possible reason with which to justify Mersault's five bullets. Camus has set up a murder without any justification and forces our society to deal with the murderer who feels no remorse, only indifference. The absurdity of the irrelevance of the prosecution's line of questioning becomes immaterial when it is accepted that Meursault is not on trial for murder but for his moral character to which his defense can offer no redeeming testimony- society could not accept Meursault's existentialist survival. ...read more.

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