Judgment In Peter Shaffer’s Equus And Albert Camus’ The Stranger

1365 words - 5 pages

Personal judgment in Peter Shaffer’s Equus and Albert Camus’ The Stranger, though internal in the first and external in the latter, mirrors society’s judgment of those who differ from the norm. The two postmodernist authors both use judgment as a tool to promote the postmodern idea that society oppresses and criticizes people who are not like everyone else. Camus and Shaffer place specific motifs and elements into their novels in order to push the idea of societal judgment on the reader. However, while the ideas may be the same, Camus and Shaffer use them contrastingly. Shaffer tends to use judgment of the self while Camus leans towards judgment of others, but the judgment ultimately leads back to people who do not conform to the norm.
Camus and Shaffer both implement physical actions and setting to imply judgment of the main characters. The two authors use images of eyes and the action of staring in different ways to cause a feeling of judgment to well up in the reader. In Equus, Equus himself often watches or sees Alan, his actions, and his faults. Alan stabs out the eyes of the horses in the barn because Equus’ gaze and mockery has finally driven him past the point of no return. The use of Equus as a judge of Alan implies internal conflict and criticism. As a part of Alan’s mind, when Equus criticizes Alan it implies his hate of himself. In addition, the physical set up of Equus emulates a jury. The fact that no actors ever leave the stage as well as the play’s watching audience bring to mind the set up of a jury and a guilty party. Similarly, in The Stranger, people often watch Meursault closely. During Meursault’s trial specifically, the woman from the restaurant was “staring at [him]” (Camus 86). Also, the jurors “were all looking at [Meursault]” and “[He] had just one impression: [he] was sitting across from a row of seats and all these anonymous passengers were looking over the new arrival to see if they could find something funny about him” (Camus 83). The combination of the setting of a trial, the inspection of Meursault, and the anonymity of the jurors leads to an unmistakable sense of external evaluation and consequently societal judgment in The Stranger. Camus and Shaffer use these physical elements in their works in order to permeate both texts with a sense of societal criticism.
Shaffer and Camus pass judgment on Dysart and Meursault through their lack and removal of passion. In Equus, Dysart specifically mentions the lack of passion in himself. When speaking to Hesther, Dysart criticizes himself for his fake love for the wild and primitive. He states, “I settled for being pallid and provincial, out of my own eternal timidity” (2.25). This statement, just a small part of the entire rant against himself, is opposed by Hesther. Dysart, as a psychiatrist, tries to remove emotion and individuality from his patients, specifically Alan. Unlike Hesther, who sees psychiatry as removing pain, Dysart judges himself for becoming a...

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