12 Classics in 2015: The Stranger

I enjoyed picking up another slim volume, knowing I would finish this next book in two or three sittings. The Stranger, by Albert Camus, is a study of the absurd arc of all lives. It focuses on one man, Meursault, who kills a man on the beach in the first part of the book. Meursault’s trial constitutes the second part of the book.

Meursault, to me, felt very little emotion other than his lust for Maria, his girlfriend and, possibly, future wife. And although I saw some justification of him shooting the man on the beach, Meursault seemed to hold none of the same justification. He seemed only to defend his atheistic beliefs, and nothing else. He is a sad figure, not because I am a believer and he is an atheist, but because he seems utterly defeated by the absurdity of life. He refuses to use religion or the legal system to comfort or free himself because he recognizes the futility in prolonging the truth: that we will be born, we will die, and then no longer matter. All of us.

Meursault is a Debbie Downer, but Camus channels his philosophy quite well through Meursault’s actions and words. Interestingly, Meursault becomes happiest when he gives up all hope of a life, long or short, and accepts that any path he goes down ends the same.

I certainly don’t see eye to eye with Camus on this. I recognize that life can indeed be absurd and it will yell at us again and again, “resistance is futile,” but resisting is one of the hardest and most rewarding parts of life. It amplifies everything, the valleys, the peaks, the springs, and the winters of our lives. I believe it makes for a richer life, which looks better to me than Meursault’s fate of a jail cell and decapitation.

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