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World Literature 2 (c)-Commentary on an extract

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Introduction

English HL World Literature 2 (c)-Commentary on an extract IB Roll Number-############## The number of words-1588 (This commentary is based on an extract as follows: Camus A. 1983 (translated by Laredo, J). The Outsider. Penguin Books, pp 115-116. The extract begins "Then, for some reason,..." and ends "...I was choking with all this shouting".) "The 'absurd' for Camus, is a complex notion of man's relation to the world. By 'absurd' Camus means primarily the whole scandalous paradox of human condition.1" Meursault, the protagonist of 'The Outsider' epitomizes this absurd human condition. A man ostensibly punished for the murder of an Arab, Meursault was actually being punished for not conforming to the accepted norms of society or as Camus rightly puts it "Meursault doesn't play the game"2 , the 'game' laying down the foundations of society. The sequences of events I have chosen to analyse occur towards the end of the novel. Meursault had been sentenced to death for shooting the Arab. Before the execution, the chaplain made a final attempt to make Meursault embrace religion. However, Meursault lost his temper and poured out his absurdist philosophy. His thoughts reflect his strong absurdist belief. Throughout the course of the novel, the reader fails to understand the principles guiding Meursault's actions. ...read more.

Middle

emphasises the meaninglessness of a societal life. Contrary to the chaplain's life, Meursault felt that at least he had led a truthful life, and that was paramount. To the reader, the entire situation was ironical. It was Meursault who was sentenced to death, not the chaplain, yet, it was Meursault who knew the truth, not the chaplain. This realization made Meursault think "..., I was always right."10 He seemed to be justifying his own existence while discarding the chaplain's. Camus use of a series of repetitions (particularly the words 'sure' and right') reiterates the validity of the absurdist truth and Meursault's convictions in it. Armed with the knowledge of leading a 'truthful' life, Meursault felt that "Nothing, nothing mattered..."11 Since nothing mattered in his absurd life, Meursault understood the futility of all the years he had lived and could be living (if not for the sentence of the jury). The repetition of the word 'nothing', emphasises the same; reflecting a pure absurdist outlook. The 'vague breath' symbolizes the absurdist force pervading all the years of his life and all the years promised to him. The feeling of this absurdist force apparently nullified all his experiences. Having had his own experiences annulled, Meursault turned his attention to mankind in general. ...read more.

Conclusion

All events were presented as an "interminable succession of voids without connection".22 Thus, since no events were related, there were no value scales to measure them thereby rendering them all equivalent and absurd. The writing style also confirms that Meursault lived neither in the future nor in the past but only in the present which itself was an eternal void.23 Moreover, Sartre feels that the novel is not a "roman � these", which proves nothing at all, and only sets to put forth Camus's 'novel of the absurd'.24 Thus, both the novel and the writing style justify his absurd character. The chosen passage ultimately embodies Meursault's absurdist philosophy and justifies his seemingly asocial character. The futility of life in a meaningless natural world is aptly voiced by him. He realised that all his experiences were eternally void and "nothing mattered". Death was the only guaranteed privilege in this meaningless world. The outburst released all his pent up frustrations and made him realize that society was killing him for the threat he posed to 'the game'. Hence, he calmly wished to die with crowds jeering at him. He realised that he was dying for the sake of his own belief and Camus pays him the final tribute by calling him a 'Christ Figure'25, a martyr for holding dear his absurdist philosophy. He was, like Christ, being sacrificed since Society could not allow him to upset its 'game'. ...read more.

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