Camus’ ‘The Stranger’: Choice and Individual Freedom Are Integral Components of Human Nature Camus’s The Stranger is a grim profession that choice and individual freedom are integral components of human nature, and the commitment and responsibility that accompany these elements are ultimately the deciding factors of the morality of one’s existence. Meursault is placed in an indifferent world, a world that embraces absurdity and persecutes reason; such is the nature of existentialist belief, that rationalization and logic are ultimately the essence of humanity, and that societal premonitions and an irrelevant status quo serve only to perpetuate a false sense of truth. Meursault’s virtue, as well as his undoing, lies in his unique tendency to choose, and thereby exist, without computing objective standards or universal sentiment. His stoic, de facto existentialism is a catalyst for endless conflict between his rationalization- and logic-based existence and that of others, which focuses on an objective subscription to ‘the norm’; such is evident in heated discussions with the magistrate and prison minister, who are seen as paragons of invalid logic and the quixotic, quasi-passionate pursuit of hackneyed conformity.
No windmills are slain 1 in this simulated existence; absurdity of a different ilk dominates the popular mentality, one which would alienate a man based on his perceived indifference towards the mundane, and try, convict, and execute a man based on his lack of purported empathy towards the irrelevant. Attention to the trial sequence will reveal that the key elements of the conviction had little to do with the actual crime Meursault had committed, but rather the ‘unspeakable atrocities’ he had committed while in mourning of his mother’s death, which consisted of smoking a cigarette, drinking a cup of coffee, and failing to cry or appear sufficiently distraught. Indeed, the deformed misconception of moral truth which the jury [society] seeks is based on a detached, objective observation of right or wrong, thereby misrepresenting the ideals of justice by failing to recognize that personal freedom and choice are’… the essence of individual existence and the deciding factor of one’s morality. 2′ The execution of Meursault at the close of the novel symbolically brings forth outpourings of emotion, as Meursault confronts his nothingness and the impossibility of justifying the [immoral] choices he has made; he realizes the pure contingency of his life, and that he has voided, in essence, his own existence by failing to accept the risk and responsibility that the personal freedom of an existentialist reality entails. Bibliography 1 From Don Quixote (1605, trans.
1612), a satirical Spanish novel by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra. 2 Soren Kierkegaard, Nineteenth-century Danish philosopher, on ‘Moral Individualism and Truth.’.