Comparison of Character Masks in the novel The Stranger


In the real world there exist many different people, of different races and ages, each one unique. Some live secluded lives with few friends and others live very rich and complex lives surrounded by friends and acquaintances. No matter what type of life is led it is human nature to adjust one\'s external personality to suit the specific situation, much like putting on and removing different masks. People tend to be polite and respectful to others in public even though they may not know the person well or not care for them, yet behind closed doors that mask may disappear and their true feelings may come to the surface. People may adjust their external behaviour and attitudes when around others because they may not like their true selves and either want to change themselves or just merely fit in with society and be liked by others. Another mask that is often worn is the powerful and superior one and so to feel superior when among others pushes them around and becomes a bully. This same person could be gentle, nice and kind when around family but may feel the need to appear superior around other people. This form of adjusting one’s personality or mask to suit a situation in life, is also common among characters in novels, dramas, and other forms of literature. In certain characters it is evident in the novel The Stranger and the play A Doll\'s House . In some instances it is quite easy to notice but other times it may be difficult to identify the changes in character’s masks as the changes slowly develop throughout the plot.

A form of mask wearing was found at the beginning of the novel The Stranger, where Meursault goes to the beach to go swimming and meets Marie Cardona. She was lying on a float when Meursault was swimming towards it. "She turned toward [him]. Her hair was in her eyes and she was laughing."(20) Later on when both Meursault and Marie go swimming together "She laughed the whole time,"(20) and then on the dock while they were drying themselves off Marie playfully says "I\'m darker than you."(20) She puts on a type of giggly, flirty mask when around Meursault, probably because she likes him and wants to be friendly with him. It did not seem like a serious interest at first because it appears that Marie is a very friendly and joyous person who seems like she only wants to have fun, giggle a lot and behave like a ‘bubble head’. But later on in the novel it is found that Marie is not so stupid and ‘bubble headed’ after all and that her giggly attitude was simply to get more acquainted with Meursault. It was the mask she used to get Meursault interested and did not reflect her true intentions. When Marie goes over to Meursault\'s house, and after an exchange of kisses, Marie puts on a more serious tone and asks Meursault the question "...if I (Meursault) loved her (Marie)"(35). Meursault then replies "...that [he] didn\'t think so..."(36) which leaves Marie quite sad and somewhat broken hearted because it seemed as if both Meursault and Marie knew that their relationship wouldn\'t last but in fact Marie did want to make something out of it. Evidence for this is that she constantly asks Meursault if he loves her and also if they should get married.

The beginning of the play A Doll\'s House is similar to the beginning of the novel The Stranger in that both Nora and Marie appear playful and childlike but we later discover that again this is merely a mask. In The Stranger, as stated before, Marie is very childish and giggly when she meets Meursault. The same goes for Nora. She appears very childish in the opening scene when Helmer calls her "my little skylark"(148) and "little squirrel"(148). She hides her macaroons like a child hiding something that she should not have, before going to see Torvald her husband. This seemed to be an act or a mask because it is unusual to see a normal woman act like a child. It is not totally obvious at first that Nora is