Existentialism - The Outsider by Albert Camus

June 2, 2018, 9:53 am, By sobyasachi

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being able to compare two different emotional reactions to the same situation
Nietzsche is an important figure to look at when studying Existentialism, specifically, Nietzsche talks about existential nihilism. This is the theory that there is no specific meaning or value to life. He was against moral ideas such as Christianity and utilitarianism (which suggests that you can only asses the morality of an action after knowing all of its consequences). He believed that morality should be left to the masses, and only more prolific people should have their own ‘inner law’.
Heidegger is another key philosopher in existentialism, for his book ‘Being and Time’. He realised philosophy had explored all beings in the world, but not actually what ‘being’ is, and also how humans develop personality over time. By being, he means knowing what it is to exist. He calls us ‘Dasein’, just like every other creature. He looks at the idea of life itself, and suggests that we may not live (or exist) long enough to truly understand being, and confesses in the book that there is no real way of knowing if Dasein is able to understand life.
Going back to looking towards the future, Heidegger had described the present as ‘dread’, he felt that we are always thinking about the past, and using our memories to see what could happen in the future. He argued that the main memory from our past is guilt.
At the end of ‘The Outsider’, the author – Albert Camus, explains his view of what the novel shows through the main character. One point that interested me was that Camus labelled him a ‘hero’. I think that this may be because he is always telling the truth, ignoring the consequences. In my opinion, many would consider him an anti-hero, only his honesty is a heroic-like characteristic. Although, Camus does admit that Meursault doesn’t claim to be a hero. Meursaults acceptance of his punishments for the actions he took is a very existential approach.
Camus describes him as ‘an outsider to society’. And I agree, as throughout the book we see him go against what would be considered normal human reactions. His focus is often more on the physical reactions of life, rather than the mental reactions. He shows know real passion towards other people, such as not crying at his mother’s funeral, and not showing real love towards Marie.
In the novel, Camus seems to suggest that there is no natural basis of morality, and is merely something we have developed. Also, through Meursaults lack of belief in God, Camus seems to suggest that we shouldn’t fear there being no higher power.
The fact that the novel is called ‘The Outsider’ or ‘The Stranger’ reflects my own feelings towards the character throughout reading it. His unusual reactions to events in his life make seem almost inhuman. That could be because society has implanted me with a default setting of what I should view as ‘normal’. A key concept that existentialists are against, seems to be the expectation that we should all follow certain rules and beliefs. This is seen as a way of destroying our individualisation, and it should be our own judgement and feelings that determine what we believe. Otherwise we are not so much human; we in a sense become no more than an object. Towards the end of the novel Meursault says that the prosecutor ‘announced that I had no place in a society whose fundamental rules I ignored’. This is another example of the point made by existentialists that we have been made to follow certain rules that have been laid out by society, and always question and fear those that don’t.

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© Md. Shahar Ali-2018

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