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 slain1 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
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.


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."

Category: Philosophy