Essay on the absurdism of albert camus the stranger

Albert Camus’ novel The Stranger offers a portrayal of a character who exemplifies the author’s philosophical notions of absurdity. Meursault is an automaton, whose existence bears little, if any, meaning, and whose actions resonate in an equally hollow purposelessness of being. Thus, Camus endeavored to portray, in a fictional work this time, his philosophy of the absurdity of human life, its utter lack of rational meaning and order.
Meursault’s story is one of a man who agrees to die for the truth (cited in Sagi 90). Like everyone else around him, he was living in a make-believe world, where he created a sense of purpose, or at least a rational structure in which he finds himself alive. His actions are a see-through mist of non-existent purpose, where his internal world is equally desolate as his physical one. His actions, such as marrying Mary and killing the Arab, are not the result of careful consideration and pondering, but a mere twitch of the brain, lacking any discernible reason that would give his actions validity. He is utterly detached from everyone and everything that surrounds him, and the events that would be of great relevance to most people, cause absolutely no stir of emotions inside his stiffened heart. Meursault is like the others, and exactly because of this, he is a stranger to his own existence (Palmer 124). Once faced with the only certainty of life, death, this will change.
However, Meursault does differentiate himself from the world around him, in his amorality. The concepts of good and bad are a painless blur inside his mind, and he does not see anything wrong with writing a letter for Raymond that would further his efforts to torment his mistress. He does it because “ he didn’t have any reason not to please him” (Camus 32). He simply does not see any purpose of his actions, and thus, it really does not matter what he does, even if it something as inhumane as murder. Only once he fully acknowledges and accepts this notion of futility of life and the cruel fact that only in death can one recognize his own puny insignificance, can he find peace within, as well as, outside of, himself.
On having been accused and sentenced to death by beheading, he is finally confronted with notion of his mortality and the fact that all that matters is simply that we live and then die, what we do in between is of no relevance whatsoever: “ And I felt ready to live it all again too. As if that blind rage had washed me clean, rid me of hope; for the first time, in that night alive with signs and stars, I opened myself to the gentle indifference of the world I felt that I had been happy and that I was happy again” (Camus 122). Here, Meursault finds the key to his meaningless, goalless, Godless and indifferent existence after taking an insult from a well intentioned prison chaplain on the eve of his execution (Demetrio 53). Once he understands and comes to terms with the fact that death is inevitable, he realizes that it does not really matter whether he dies now, a few years later or when he is a hundred years old. He ceases to fantasize about possible escape, such as filling a triumphant appeal, because all it does is confuse his mind into erroneously deluding itself that death can be evaded.
Finally, no character manages to give plausible reasons to Meursault’s crime. The prosecutor and lawyer attempt to, and their attempts are based on logic and reason, but nonetheless, the irrationality of the universe remains triumphant. Everything they do is yet another instance of absurdity. Only Meursault, who stares death straight in the face, manages to extract a sense of peace and happiness in this futile attempt to enforce logic and meaning in a world of chaotic absurdity.


Camus, Albert. The Stranger. Trans. Matthew Ward. New York: Vintage, 1989. Print.

Palmer, Barton R. “ The Myth of Sisyphus and The Stranger: Two Portraits of the Young Camus.” Web. 12 Feb. 2012. http://journals. hil. unb. ca/index. php/IFR/article/viewFile/13452/14535

Sagi, Abraham. Albert Camus and the philosophy of the absurd. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2002. Print.

Demeterio, F. P. A. “ A Comparative Study on the Theme of Human Existence in the Novels of Albert Camus and F. Sionil Jose.” Web. 12 Feb. 2012. http://www. kritike. org/journal/issue_3/demeterio_june2008. pdf