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Camus' Outsider and Solzhenitsyn's One Day

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Introduction

World Literature Assignment #1: ATROCITIES ATTRIBUTED TO UNJUST PUNISHMENT IN CAMUS' OUTSIDER AND SOLZHENITSYN'S ONE DAY By Sharon Pao Word Count: 1,345 K. Lorenz Friday, February 01, 2008 IB English 12 HL The two principle questions revolving around punishment are, "What gives us the moral right to punish anyone when we are imperfect ourselves?" and "What do we hope to accomplish when we punish someone?" Punishment is a penalty imposed for wrongdoing. Injustice is the violation of another's rights or of what is right; lack of justice. Together, unjust punishment can be defined as the imposition of a penalty that greatly exceeds the crime that was committed. This act of punishing unjustly and immorally is prominent in both literatures that were examined. Atrocities attributed to unjust punishment in the short novels, The Outsider by existentialist author, Albert Camus, and One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by early 20th century author, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, critically challenges human dignity. The purpose of this paper is to analyze the display of unjustified punishment manifested throughout the two novels and how the characters, especially Meursault and Shukhov, adapt to the punishments while retaining a sense of self dignity. Instances of unjust punishment are peppered throughout history during times of war and captivity. It was mainly a method of maintaining power and fear. ...read more.

Middle

Not only does Shukhov have to concentrate on avoiding punishment at the hands of the enforcers of the camp's often absurd regulations, but he also has to protect himself from the cold. Solzhenitsyn's constant emphasis and repetition on the biting cold reminds us that Shukhov is not only a political prisoner but a prisoner of nature as well. No one ever considers trying to escape from the camp, for the obvious reason that the intense weather would cause a quick death. "Prisoners had gotten over the wire across these snowdrifts and made a run for it. But it's true they didn't get far" (Solzhenitsyn 58). The combination of the hard camp life and forbidding weather creates the sense that the whole universe is against Shukhov and his fellow inmates - their lives are hindered by both humans and nature. This sense of oppression highlights the anguish of the human condition. The world is inhospitable, and yet it is the fate of humans to carry on, one day at a time. In the Outsider however, it is not the biting cold but the harrowing heat that torments Meursault. He is relentlessly struggling with the calidity nature has bestowed upon him and feels as if "there was no way out". The heat prevents him from acting sensibly which might also contribute to his outward image of seeming indifferent. ...read more.

Conclusion

Shukhov invariably insists on removing his hat, however cold it might be, before eating, to give himself a sense that he is behaving in a civilized manner. He refuses to passively allow anyone to dehumanize him and take his dignity away from him. Meursault as well, preserves his self dignity by collectedly accepting his fate without outward rebellion. Even when committed for something as absurd as being indifferent to the happenings around him, he retains his posture and achieves a level of human dignity that did not seem possible in his undeserved situation. So, "What gives us the moral right to punish anyone when we are imperfect ourselves?" and "What do we hope to accomplish when we punish someone?" We do not have the moral right to punish anyone. Society only does so because they have no alternative choice. Law and order must be established to ensure the peace and harmony of citizens within a precinct. However, it is still possible to discipline criminals without enforcing unjust punishments. Marcus Tullius Cicera, a great roman philosopher said, "Care should be taken that the punishment does not exceed the guilt; and also that some men do not suffer offenses for which others are not even indicted." Punishments should only be implemented when the offender has been proven guilty and when the punishment has been put into perspective with the crime committed. Therefore, punishments should be cautiously enacted and human dignity deeply reflected upon because "an unjust punishment is never forgotten" (Penelope Fitzgerald). ...read more.

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