Friday, July 22, 2011

Le Monde 100: The Stranger - The Rest of the Story

A wise friend of mine recently signaled the immense task that potentially lay before me in blogging the Le Monde 100, which, while obvious in its scope, is seductive in its appeal to the perfectionist in me- a list to be "knife and forked" as Katie puts it.

But, The Stranger is a little more than an 100 pages long. One can potentially read this in an evening. With Remembrance of Things Past, one of the longest. Books in history, looming on the horizon, it has been determined that my current pace is far too slow.

So, without further ado, my thoughts on the rest of The Stranger by Albert Camus.

This book is called The Stranger because of the indifference of the protagonist, Meursault, to the rest of the world. His attitude toward his entire life and those he likes or even loves is the same as one would have toward an unknown person walking down the street.

The second half of the book deals with the ramifications of the final scene of the first half of the book where Meursault commits murder without an actual motive in an action that was more or less a reaction to an assault on his senses by the Sun.

This scene of the murder is, like the funeral of Meursault's mother, awash with the description of his sensory experiences. He does not comment at all about the morality of the moment or any feelings toward his victim.

His victim pulled out a knife but it was the reflection in it's blade that actually assaulted him. He describes his enemy not as the man with the knife but the sun's rays as a "scorching blade" that "slashed at his eyelashes" and "stabbed at his stinging eyes." His actions have no meaning outside of his body. The consequences of his actions mean nothing compared with his sensory intake.

The ensuing trial and jail sentence highlight and force him to verbalize his innate philosophy. He rails against religion and God, decrying the meaning of life since all men die. Only at the end of the book, as he heads to the guillotine, does he have some closure in reconciling the state of his existence with his impending non-existence. By forsaking hope, he becomes the embodiment of the indifferent universe that he had formerly raged at. He sees it now as "like a brother."

Camus is an atheist and this book reflects his lack of faith in higher being to give purpose to the universe. But, these sentiments actually mirror Soren Kierkegaard's philosophies as well as to the inherent absurdity of being human albeit in the context of faith and belief in God.

I can't help but think that one's belief or construction of personal meaning comes down to personality type. Every few years, I get caught up in the Myers-Briggs personality tests, which has a strange predictable nature as to extracting the forces inside the mind. The difference between being an external and and an internal person may have a great bearing on whether someone is a so-called "Stranger" in society or not. Internal people live in their own heads and contemplate purpose individually. They expend energy in interaction with people as opposed to external people, who are energized in their interaction with people.

For many, purpose is what comes after the equal sign in the equation of their life, whereas purpose may actually be what comes before.

1 comment:

  1. well i just got swanns way, and i'm a little nervous. I think I'm on page 24 and it feels like 2,444. I pray it gets more lively lest I'll have to abandon you.