The Absurd Morality Of Death In The Outsider

2817 words - 11 pages

The Absurd Morality of Death in The Outsider

In The Outsider by Albert Camus, death can clearly be seen as a
significant image - there being six deaths mentioned in total. In Part
One we are shown the natural death of Meursault's mother and
Meursault's murder of the Arab, and in Part Two we are presented with
the parricide of a brother/son and the subsequent suicide of the
perpetrators, another parricide that is to be tried after Meursault's
case and the death penalty pronounced on Meursault. Through these
depictions of various deaths, Camus shows clearly the conflicting and
often arbitrary treatment of death within society, a treatment that
reveals a confusion between the motives behind acts and the subsequent
response to the completed acts, which ultimately reflects the nature
of the absurd prevalent in the novel.

Section One: deaths directly linked to Meursault

Mrs Meursault's Funeral

Death, as an important image, is established in the very first
sentence of the book, "Mother died today."[1] The simplicity and
directness of this statement is shocking for the reader, and leads us
to try to understand what sort of man Meursault is - a task that we
discover later has been laid as a trap for us. However, even though
this first sentence is simple and direct, it is confused in the very
next sentence, "Or maybe yesterday, I don't know."[2] This confusion
over the time of the death can be generalised to the circumstances of
the death, which are in this case unclear, and indeed we are never
told what the cause of Mrs Meursault's death was. All we have are the
allusions to her age, "About sixty,"[3] and her 'friend', who was "an
old man"[4] that could not prevent himself from "fainting (like a
dislocated dummy)"[5] at the end of the funeral. We, as the reader,
assume that she died of natural causes and we do not concern our
selves with any reason to explain the cause of the event, neither for
that matter does Meursault nor his boss, who "seemed to be relieved",[6]

This image of the direct certainty of death, the confusion or lack of
clarity surrounding the circumstances and the readiness with which we
are able to accept the most convenient explanation - however arbitrary
- is clearly revealed in the events immediately concerning the death
of Meursault's mother, and this sets up a pattern for the events to

Added to this pattern are the responses to the event. Meursault is
unexpectedly passive towards the event. On first hearing the news he
comments, "For the moment, it's almost as it mother's still alive,"[7]
and when he returns from the funeral to his normal life he adds to
this sentiment, "I realized thatÂ…mother was buriedÂ…and that, after
all, nothing had changed."[8] Other people's responses to this death
are much more what the society of the time would expect. Cé–˜este
sympathises before Meursault heads for the funeral with the comment,
"There's no on like a mother,"[9] a comment that...

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