Existentialism in The Stranger

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Existentialism is a concept that is often explored in works of literature as a way of displaying a character's interaction with society. One underlying idea of this concept is that one must accept the risks and responsibilities associated with the choices that he or she makes. Once a decision is made, there is no going back. Existentialism tries to illustrate one's "desire to make rational decisions despite existing in an apparently irrational universe  (Wyatt 1). In the existentialist point of view, many things are absurd or irrational without explanation. Often, one feels a "suffocating sense of being enclosed by events which are irrational or absurd but also inexorable  (Bigelow 175). In The Stranger, Albert Camus uses Mersault and his experiences to convey the philosophy that man is full of anxiety and despair with no meaning in his life except for simple existence. The concept of existentialism is reflected through Mersault's experiences with his mother's death, his relationship with Marie, his murder of the Arab, and his own trial and execution.

Camus uses the death of Mersault's mother to convey his existentialistic philosophy. When his mother dies, Mersault receives a telegram that notifies him of her death. However, he seems more concerned about the time of death, and not the fact that he has just lost a loved one.

In fact, he says, "Maman died today. Or maybe yesterday, I don't know  (3). Mersault also shocks the caretaker when he declines to see his mother's corpse, since a son would normally want to say a proper goodbye to his mother. This shows that Mersault feels no reason to mourn

for his mother's death. It also conveys the existentialist idea that reason is powerless to the idea with the depths of human life. Furthermore, Mersault shows no compassion at his mother's funeral either. He does not c... Continue Reading