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Mersault the Stranger: Brother of the Benignly Indifferent Universe - Essay Example

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Mersault, the protagonist of Camus's The Stranger is different from other people, individual and unique, from the very beginning of the novel. Others see this more clearly than he does, but Mersault realizes the full extent of his alienation from his fellow men at the end of the novel and towards the end of his life…
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Mersault the Stranger: Brother of the Benignly Indifferent Universe
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Download file to see previous pages To reinforce this feeling, to underscore his existence as the sole human brother of the universe, he yearns for final and total alienation from his fellows. It is in this spirit that he wishes for a crowd of onlookers thronging to witness his execution. Such a crowd, he feels, would proclaim his uniqueness and the essence of his individual existence even in death, through their "howls of execration" (121).
It is possible to trace the development of Mersault's existential awareness from the beginning of the novel. He is true to himself, always, but he comes to understand the uniqueness of his individual existence only as the events of the novel unfold. He is scrupulous in recording the truth, as can be seen in the opening words of the novel: "Mother died today. Or, maybe, yesterday; I can't be sure." The telegram that he received only mentions the fact of his mother's passing away, not the date. This can be construed to reveal what people may call his "callousness"-more probably; it only shows his desire to record nothing but the truth. When he asks his employer for two days leave, he imagines that the gentleman looked annoyed and he attempts to excuse himself with the words, "Sorry, sir, but it's not my fault, you know" (1). Mersault describes the preparations that he had to make-he had to stop for lunch, borrow mourning costume, run to catch a bus-but the only feeling he admits to is drowsiness, caused by "hurrying like that, what with the glare off the road and from the sky, the reek of gasoline, and the jolts" (5), making him sleep most of the way in the bus.
The Warden of the Home where Mersault's mother had been staying greets him with a prolonged handshake that "embarrassed" him. The Warden and Mersault both agree that Mersault's mother had been happy there. Mersault tells the reader that that was precisely why he did not visit his mother much. But, his basic honesty compels him to qualify this statement by adding that "Also, it would have meant losing my Sunday-not to mention the trouble of going to the bus, getting my ticket, and spending two hours on the journey each way"(5).
When Mersault enters the mortuary, the doorkeeper hurries in to unscrew the lid of the coffin. Mersault asks him not to trouble himself, and the man stares at Mersault in disbelief. "I realized then that I shouldn't have said, "No," and it made me rather embarrassed"-a statement that shows that at his point Mersault did not really know how different he was from other people. He wants to smoke, but does not know whether it would be in good form. However, he says, "I thought it over; really, it didn't seem to matter, so I offered the keeper a cigarette, and we both smoked" (10). Mersault never regrets this act, but at Mersault's trial the doorkeeper expresses his regret, "Well, I know I didn't ought to have done it," he mumbled, "but I did take a cigarette from the young gentleman when he offered it-just out of politeness" (88). Mersault earns the keeper's gratitude by readily agreeing that he had indeed offered the cigarette.
Mersault's real problem-in the world's eyes-was precisely this refusal to express regret for his actions. The world would have appreciated at least a show of regret and would have rewarded this with an appropriately lenient sentence, but Mersault is always, primarily and essentially, himself. He cannot act as other than he is, and ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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