Existentialism in The Stranger by Albert Camus Essay
Although not strictly an existentialist novel, "The Stranger" delves into the philosophies of life and meaning, concluding that there is no rhyme or reason or higher plan for human life. Indeed, the chilling realization that life serves no higher purpose directly contradicts the most precious of human ideals - that one's life serves a higher purpose.
Camus tells the story of Meursault , a French colonial living in Algeria. An otherwise unremarkable individual, Meursault lives life for the moment, and does not dwell on the past for future. His mother's death is a non-event, as he views it as an irksome distraction. However, he is not cold-hearted or immoral, but he is merely an indifferent, apathetic man who sees no purpose to life. Thus, if there is no purpose to life, then his mother's passing has no greater meaning than the daily routine of one's job. It is just an event to partake of.
Throughout the novel, Meursault espouses Camus's "absurdist" philosophy. That is, that human existence is absurd in that there is no higher meaning or moral value to it. It is this lack of morality and meaning that makes Meursault alienated from the society he lives in. Without any moral compass, Meursault is gloriously indifferent to his fellow beings. Friendship, marriage, and even murder have no higher meaning for Meursault .
Although his murder of an Arab has no meaning for himself, his adversaries and friends attempt to assign meaning to his actions at his trial. Meursault loses when the Prosecutor attempts to assign a rational meaning to his actions, subject to the accepted rules of society. Indeed, it would appear that Meursault is a cold-blooded criminal, one who didn't even shed a tear for his departed mother. Yet, if one were to understand Meursault , he is no cold-blooded killer, although that certainly doesn't justify his actions. His final self-realization is that society loathes him and his actions. Although he cannot change society's views, he becomes comfortable in his own views and looks forward to the day that onlookers will applaud his execution.