Home > Free Essays > Literature > World Philosophy Literature > Albert Camus’ Novel “The Strange”: The Death Penalty

Albert Camus’ Novel “The Strange”: The Death Penalty Essay

Exclusively available on IvyPanda Available only on IvyPanda
Updated: Sep 12th, 2021

Introduction

In his role as the principal character in Albert Camus’ novel The Stranger, Meursault is a threat to society that upholds the death penalty because he is looked upon as a bad and dangerous example that could lead other people astray. Meursault breaks many societal traditions, causing society to wait for a chance to punish him. That opportunity comes when Meursault kills the Arab brother of Raymond Sintes’ mistress. Society gleefully pounces on the unlawful act and uses it to provide the maximum punishment to Meursault – the death penalty.

Main text

Meursault is given the death penalty not so much for the actual killing but for the blatant way he flouts one societal norm after another that leads society to brand him as an outsider. One of his more ‘damning crimes’ is his indifference at his mother’s funeral {“The investigator had learned that I had ‘shown insensitivity’” (Camus, 64}); this act, coupled with the knowledge that Meursault let his mother languish in an old persons’ home for 3 years before her death, greatly influences the Court’s decision to award the death penalty (Gillis et al.).

Had he not offended society with his atheist views, anti-social stance and uncaring difference to societal traditions, he could have got off with a more lenient sentence on several grounds such as a self-defense plea, harboring no intent to kill or even manslaughter. In the first two instances he could have banked on the favorable testimony of Raymond and Celeste.

Raymond, probably goaded by a guilty conscience , strongly asserts Meursault’s innocence (Gillis et al.) during the trial {“He blurted out that he was innocent” (Camus, 95)}. Celeste, a restaurant owner, declares in court that it was sheer back luck that led to the killing by Meursault, a truthful and respectable individual who regularly frequents his restaurant {“having lunch at Celeste’s like I usually did” (Camus, 21)}. In the third instance, given the fact that the Arab was a foreigner, Meursault stood a good chance of getting a manslaughter charge.

Meursault is an outsider because he does not follow the rules and traditions laid down by society. The overall reason behind this is Meursault’s amorality. Instead of being moral, he is amoral, meaning that he does not mentally differentiate between good and bad. Several incidents testify to his amoral attitude. When Raymond requests his help to draft a tormenting letter to his mistress, Meursault readily agrees because it is a matter of indifference to him {“because I didn’t have any reason not to please [Raymond]” (Camus, 32)].

In another incident, Meursault does not shed tears at his mother’s funeral {“[Everyone was] surprised by my calm the day of the funeral” (Camus, 89)}, breaking society’s tradition that one should grieve at the death of a close family member. In a third incident, although Meursault exhibits affinity towards Marie Cardona, his affection is based purely on physical desire, while sentimentality and emotional ties are absent.

As a result, even though Marie is in love with him – a love steeped in physical desire as well as sentiment and emotional attachment – and yearns to marry him {“that evening Marie came by to see me and asked me if I wanted to marry her” (Camus, 41)}, Meursault is not interested in love or marriage {“[when] she pointed out that marriage was a serious thing, I said ‘No’” (Camus, 42)}. This attitude is seen as flaunting societal traditions of love and marriage that are expected to evolve into family life which constitutes an inherent part of society.

In the fourth, and probably the most damning incident, the atheist in Meursault surfaces as he publicly rejects Christianity when the court magistrate waves a crucifix at him during his trial, sternly calling on him to turn to God {“He took out a silver crucifix which he brandished as he came toward me” (Camus, 68)}. His action is seen as a callous rejection of rational belief structures in general, and Christianity’s conception of a reasonable and sensible world order created and directed by God in particular (Gillis et al.). The many incidents in which Meursault deliberately flaunts societal norms cause him to be branded an outsider who has no right to co-exist with others in society.

Conclusion

In conclusion, Algerian-born French novelist Albert Camus uses the character of Meursault as the protagonist and narrator in his 1942 novel to assert his own philosophy of absurdity that states people’s lives do not comply with any rational significance or order patterns. Human life has no acceptable significance or purpose.

The only thing that is sure in human lives is the certainty of death, and because all people ultimately encounter death, their lives are all identically meaningless. In addition to The Stranger, Camus has written several novels, the most prominent among them being The Myth of Sisyphus , The Plague and The Fall . His outstanding literary contributions earned Albert Camus the prestigious Nobel Prize for Literature in 1957 (Gillis et al.).

References

  • Camus, Albert. “The Stranger.” USA: Vintage. 1989.
  • Gillis, G.J and Ward, Selena. “Sparknote on ‘The Stranger.’” Sparknotes.com. 2007. Web.
This essay on Albert Camus’ Novel “The Strange”: The Death Penalty was written and submitted by your fellow student. You are free to use it for research and reference purposes in order to write your own paper; however, you must cite it accordingly.
Removal Request
If you are the copyright owner of this paper and no longer wish to have your work published on IvyPanda.
Request the removal

Need a custom Essay sample written from scratch by
professional specifically for you?

Writer online avatar
Writer online avatar
Writer online avatar
Writer online avatar
Writer online avatar
Writer online avatar
Writer online avatar
Writer online avatar
Writer online avatar
Writer online avatar
Writer online avatar
Writer online avatar

certified writers online

Cite This paper
Select a referencing style:

Reference

IvyPanda. (2021, September 12). Albert Camus’ Novel "The Strange": The Death Penalty. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/albert-camus-novel-the-strange-the-death-penalty/

Work Cited

"Albert Camus’ Novel "The Strange": The Death Penalty." IvyPanda, 12 Sept. 2021, ivypanda.com/essays/albert-camus-novel-the-strange-the-death-penalty/.

1. IvyPanda. "Albert Camus’ Novel "The Strange": The Death Penalty." September 12, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/albert-camus-novel-the-strange-the-death-penalty/.


Bibliography


IvyPanda. "Albert Camus’ Novel "The Strange": The Death Penalty." September 12, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/albert-camus-novel-the-strange-the-death-penalty/.

References

IvyPanda. 2021. "Albert Camus’ Novel "The Strange": The Death Penalty." September 12, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/albert-camus-novel-the-strange-the-death-penalty/.

References

IvyPanda. (2021) 'Albert Camus’ Novel "The Strange": The Death Penalty'. 12 September.

More related papers