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Something To Live For: Life Itself

1028 words - 4 pages

"It is not death that a man should fear, but he should fear never beginning to live" (Aurelius). For Monsieur Meursault, it is not until he faces death, that he truly begins to live. In The Stranger, Camus portrayed Meursault as a nihilistic man, devoid of concern for social norms that govern others. He was a character who had no beliefs, ideals, or morals; however as life progresses, Meursault changes in that he begins to recognize the importance of freedom, the significance of companionship, and the value of life, as seen during his imprisonment, his trial, and before he meets the chaplain.
Imprisoned in jail and robbed of his freedom, Meursault is forced to contemplate on his past actions and regrets not appreciating his freedom when he still had it. Prior to the incident with the Arab, Meursault made decisions based on convenience, taking the path that held the least resistance. Rather than rejecting Raymond’s request to write the letter, Meursault agrees because disagreeing would complicate the situation unnecessarily. He fails to recognize the immorality of his behavior and does not think about the possible consequences of his actions. This way of life eventually leads him to kill an Arab, resulting in his incarceration. Now in prison, Meursault struggles to suppress his longings, evidently failing as he reminisces about his past life. He wants to regain the freedom to smoke cigarettes, to relax on the beach, and to spend time with Marie. His brief contact with Marie causes him to long for freedom even further, as Meursault wants to regain the ability to “squeeze [Marie’s] shoulders through her dress” (75). As a result, Meursault’s emotions begin to surface, causing him to express his disapproval of society; he feels as though it is unfair for society to rob away his freedom. However, with the help of the head guard, Meursault understands that “[society has] taken away [his] freedom… because [that is] the punishment” (78). In jail, Meursault comes to the realization that freedom is a privilege, not a right, showing that he acknowledges the importance of freedom.
During the trial, Meursault recognizes and appreciates the significance of companionship. Earlier in the narrative, he judges people based on their physical appearance, noting details about their attire, such as the mentioning of “red ties, tight-fitting jackets... pocket handkerchiefs and square-toed shoes” (22). Even Marie, Meursault’s girlfriend, is viewed solely as an object to satisfy his physical desires. At one point, Marie asks Meursault if he would marry her. He responds with indifference, saying “that if she wanted to, [they] could get married” (41). Meursault does not have any conception of what marriage entails, does not understand that marriage is a commitment, and does not comprehend what a relationship means. However, during the testimony of Celeste, Meursault has an inclination for “the first time in [his] life… to kiss a man” (93). Unlike...

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