advertisement
advertisement

Our society has a weird setup, which is something that i realized a few years ago. It's one that has morale, values and belief systems that practically everyone accepts in one way or another, but often contradicts. although the fact that moral is a belief is something that we should all get credit for. so what happens if you have a disaffected, amoral non-believer present in the society? that's the question that camus examines in "the stranger" and gives its readers an answer i don't think many were prepared for.

the novel has a pretty simple plot. it's about a young man named mersualt who has a job, lives in a flat, has a girlfriend, and commits murder by accident. he's sent to trial and the jury decides to execute him by guillotine.

that's the book on a shallow front but it really folds into a character study of a young man who has been abandoned by morals, values and traditional views by standard society. mersualt is concerned mostly with the present and not thoughtful about the future. he gets excited over jumping on a car, but turns an opportunity to get married, change jobs and move. his concern is mostly over physical sensation and morals take a backseat. he is observant and at times self centered. he doesn't reflect on his views and values until he's forced to and his physical desires are left empty.


advertisement

camus does a great job in "the stranger" because it examines part of our value system and demonstrates that some people may be closer to being amoral than they want to think. when i first read the novel i was about 15 and i thought it was cool odyseey into a character who reveals thoughts and does things that i don't think many people have the gal to do. i read it a second time in my English class and a lot of people had adverse reactions to it. most people were stuck on the murder, his language, and how dare he hang out with pimps and talk about his girlfriend so carelessly! where are his morals! so during a discussion i happened to say that the character just didn't have a concrete view on what's good or bad, nor were his values determined by society's standards. for example, he doesn't cry during his mother's funeral. well, i didn't cry during my father's and i was 10. does that mean that i am an example of evil? no. mersualt (and i) both see death a natural act, although it's standard convention for someone to be extremely mournful at a funeral. in other words, common morals are sort of a way to bond people and add value to life. if people at least have the belief then they are still people, right? mesualts views are determined by his own standards, and he didn't really have a reason to be concerned about other people and their current state until his life depends on it.

the reason why the stranger was such a profound book is because of the reaction that it got out of people. i can say this, because most of my classmates were disgusted with mersualt and i had to say that people treat others like this all the time. and it's also an examination of the concious that a lot of people are unwilling to admit to. mersualt is not sugarcoated by society's standards, although he is broght to trial for that.

the other characters are central to the story as well. marie is devoted to sensual pleasures as much as mersualt, and the pimp (sorry, i forgot his name) sees mersualt as a good person. other characters saw him as weird. their interpretation of mersualt, who demonstrates Camus' rule of absurdity is a representation on society's interpretation of the rule itself.

the stranger is all too familiar in our society and presents an alternative in the rule of absurdity which could be accepted with a few changes. the stranger provokes, assaults and challenges the belief systems of current society, which is a question that will always remain contemporary although the book is about 80 years old. i tip my hat off to camus. this book is not a must read that can easily be discarded. it should be required of everyone in order to gain insight into our world, the validity of our beliefs and understanding of ourselves.