Social Norms In The Stranger, By Albert Camus

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Existentialism is a philosophy that invites us to find purpose and meaning in life by thinking independently and acting deliberately, without overt influence from social norms. This philosophy manifests in Albert Camus’s novel The Stranger in the strange character of Meursault, who defies many major social norms throughout the novel. He places no faith in justice or authority figures. He does not pretend to grieve for his dead mother. He finds no logic or rationality in the universe. By exposing the meaninglessness of these social norms in society, Camus invites us to challenge the social norms that dictate our daily lives and to create our own meaning in the society. Contrary to the widespread belief and faith in authority figures to uphold…show more content…
This irrationality is apparent in the events leading up to Meursault’s murder of the man. From the very beginning, Meursault’s decision to head for the beach where he will eventually kill the man is random and meaningless as “to stay or to go…amounted to the same thing” (57). At the beach, it seems to Meursault “as if the sky split open from one end to the other to rain down fire. [His] whole being tensed and [he] squeezed [his] hand around the revolver. The trigger gave.” (59) After long passages describing the painful violence of the sun, Camus’s transition into the murder is shockingly abrupt, provoking a sense of bewilderment at the unexpected randomness of the murder, conveying effectively the irrationality of Meursault’s murder of the man. However, during the trial, when Meursault reveals that he murdered the Arab only because of the sun, refusing to allow others impose their logical but false interpretations upon his life, “people laughed” (103) and even his own “lawyer threw up his hand” (103) as they are unable comprehend and accept such an irrational motivation. To protect themselves from this harsh reality of the universe, they can only fabricate and impose their own logical explanation for Meursault’s behavior. The prosecutor, for instance, is convinced Meursault murdered the man in cold blood, certain in the narrative he has constructed out of events completely unrelated to the murder, from Meursault’s “ignorance when asked Maman’s age” (99) to his association with a man of “doubtful morality” (99). In both cases, Meursault’s indifference for societal standards of morality has painted him as a man immoral and cold-hearted enough to premeditate the murder. Such a zealous search for a logical explanation appears
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