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"You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of. You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life." --Albert Camus
Life. This little four-letter word is so perplexing and difficult to define. Sure, Webster has its own definition. Yet, scholars and philosophers continue to search for its meaning and purpose. Others look towards religion and faith to guide them. Then on the other side there are existentialists. They believe in individual existence, freedom and choice. Because humans can make their own choices, existentialists think humans create their own nature. Likewise, the literary works of Albert Camus reflect this idea of existentialism. He shows how a man can accept the choices he made, appreciate the life he is given, realize the absurdity of life, keep his beliefs and prepare for death. In his novel, The Stranger, the protagonist, Meursault, experiences more freedom when confined in a prison than when he was living in the outside world.
While awaiting death in a prison, the main character, Meursault took responsibility for the choices he made in life. As we know, throughout the novel, Meursault was passive; he was like a leaf being blown in different directions. For example, he made the conscious choice not to see his mother's body in the casket. Most people would want to pay their respects and see the body of their loved one for a last time. This wasn't the case with Meursault. The reason wasn't because he was too shocked or upset; he just didn't feel like it. This indifferent attitude was common in Meursault. "Then I felt like having a smoke. But I hesitated, because I didn't know if I could do it with Maman right there. I thought about it; it didn't matter" (8). Not only did he abandon the custom and not look at her body, he smoked and drank coffee near her casket. Another choice he made was to start a "relationship" with Marie. The day after he came back from his mother's funeral, Meursault entered a physical relationship with Marie. "That evening Marie came by to see me and asked me if I wanted to marry her. I said it didn't make any difference to me and that we could if she wanted to" (41). This is another clear example of Meursault's apathy. He was only with Marie to satisfy his physical needs; he didn't care for her. In addition to his relationship with Marie, Meursault chose to befriend Raymond, a pimp who engaged in unethical practices. Meursault was aware of all this. Still, he helped him by writing a letter to Raymond's ex-girlfriend. This eventually led to the dispute between them and the girl's Arab friends. However, in the end, Meursault accepted the choices he made. For example, he didn't blame the sun for killing the Arab, he accepted responsibility. Today, many people blame their upbringings, stress and mental conditions, not Meursault. At the same time, he didn't deny any of it or lie about it. He understood that he was in prison and that he had made choices he couldn't change. He realized that it was a part of the past and all he could do was reflect on it. Clearly, Meursault took responsibility of the choices he made.
Similarly, while confined, Meursault appreciated his life more. Before, Meursault lived; he worked, ate and slept. That was all he did. He liked the structure in his life. On Sundays, he didn't know what to do with himself. He usually observed people from his balcony and waited for the workday to start. But in prison, his whole perspective changed. He no longer had the physical freedoms he had before. He couldn't eat whenever he wanted
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