“Death presents an ultimatum to the individual struggle to find meaning in life.”
The human experience is known to have one ultimate and final end and that is what human beings call death or, when they, as a conscious entity, stop existing and that experience stops. Camus uses the philosophical idea of the absurd to ask us as the reader to question whether there is any difference between the beginning and the end, just as you ceased to exist before you were born, you will cease to exist after you die. Everything in between is the result of inconsequential luck and it is this luck which gives way to the idea that there are no absolutes, on one a hand I could be born and on the other I couldn’t of even been a thought on my parents mind. This is the same for death, and so consequences as a part of my choices in life become futile. We might as well take one road or the other. And so it is with a freedom to make choices, uninfluenced and unhindered by the burden of consequence that Camus and Meursault give an impassioned argument for the value of life in a world without religious meaning.
The character of Meursault is Camus’ representation of the absurd man. He is a pied-noir as Camus himself was, an Algerian, a man of the Mediterranean living in a society where tensions between the occupying French and the North African people were already high. In this sense he is already presented to us as a man detached and estranged from cultural norms. His character is sensuous and very in touch with the natural world, his values and his feelings outweigh the pressure one feels to act a certain way by society. Cosmic forces unbeknownst to us all effect Meursault very strongly showing how attuned he is to nature. This is evident in the funeral home at his mother’s wake and subsequent funeral, ‘the whiteness of the room seemed even more dazzling than before.’ The room is intensely visual to him, ‘it was painful to the eyes.’ His reaction to the burning whiteness comes after he has smoked a cigarette and drank a white coffee, things which are said to be hugely disrespectful to do beside the dead, a societal norm which Meursault acknowledges yet chooses to ignore, because he likes white coffee and likes to smoke after drinking coffee, they are rational things to do. He is a man who likes to appease his external self and so when he can ‘smell flowers in the night air,’ it is pleasurable to him, it seems a sensuous existence provides the ability to find comfort in places which are morbid and somewhat depressing and it is ultimately his ability to find comfort in an estranged position that he is condemned for.
Every one of us on the planet, in some way or form has connections and relationships with other forms of life, most commonly in humans, but others bond with animals and other aspects of nature which appeal to their personalities most. Meursault is no exception and throughout the novel Camus uses these characters as blank slates onto which he has projected his philosophical ideas about many different things such as, mortality and moral judgement in Raymond and the loss of ones humanity with Salamano and his dog. ‘They look as if they belong to the same species.’ And the automatic woman who is meticulous and machine-like. Camus can then have Meursault, the representation of the absurd man interact and involve himself in conflicts, introducing disorder within Meursault’s harmonious, nihil existence. Camus is telling the reader that life is too unpredictable for harmony to be achieved, the universe works for and against you simultaneously. Marie, to me is Camus’ representation of what love and attraction is. Although Camus and in turn Meursault do not believe in love as a concept, they recognise the physical and mental attraction that two people can have for each other and that institutions and conventions such as marriage, which are said to render that attraction sacred and eternal are essentially futile as one could easily…