The Concept of Truth in The Stranger by Albert Camus
The most prominent early work of Camus is a novel The Stranger. The problem between a human and an absurd world is central in this work. The Stranger is not a book that explains what and why a man does. In fact, it describes his actions without proving anything. It is a philosophical novel because Camus believes that a true novel has to be philosophical. When The Stranger was published, it became immediately popular among the whole generation of people whose lives were deprived of the future resembling the lives of an outsider and stranger. The principal character, Meursault, became a hero for many young people. According to the author, the main attitude that determines Meursault’s behavior is the rejection of lie. Camus notes that the protagonist of the book is a person who is not willing to justify himself. Therefore, he prefers to accept the impression which people have about him. He dies satisfied with the recognition of his rightness. In this novel, the word “truth” appears as a key concept. Albert Camus shows that the truth is futile in front of prejudice and ignorance in order to prove that everyone is a victim to absurdity.
A novel about the unreasonable world is an absurd piece of work. Due to this fact, its form denies the common ways of seeing the world and questions the narrative. In The Stranger, Camus is gradually rejecting the forms of narrative adding the psychological insights. The author gives his character not an introspective but an extrospective vision amplifying the sense of emptiness of man’s soul, useless feeling of sinfulness, devoid of remorse, and psychological analysis.
The Stranger is a complex work; it might be hard to interpret the main character in an unambiguous way. Meursault’s psychology, his behavior, his truth are the results of Camus’ reflections and observations of the aesthetic of absurdity. The greatest difficulty of this novel lies in its duality. The story consists of two equal parts. The second part is a mirror of the first one, but it is a distorting mirror. On the one hand, Camus wants to show an ordinary man who meets his destiny, from which there is no protection. On the other hand, Meursault wants to condemn the outer lies by his inner truth. Meursault is absolutely free because absurd reigns. He understands that he is an absurd hero of the world in which there is no God and no meaning. Though, there is only one truth – the truth of death. Camus’ novel begins with the death. It appears in the central part of the story. At the end of the book, nothing has value because of the constant feeling of death. Meursault, like all mortals, has to die, and, therefore, he is not a subject to the court; the absence of sense frees him from fault and sin.
Meursault is one of the victims of life’s absurdity; however, his alienation has its base. He does not belong to the society because he cannot take its laws and regulations. He refuses to behave according to the norms and moral rules of the society because he realizes their absurdity. A higher truth was uncovered to Meursault: every man is mortal, and life is absurd. Meursault eschews society because he becomes indifferent to others who think that he behaves in an absurd way. Camus writes that Meursault refuses to lie which does not simply mean to say what is not true. In fact, it means to say more than it is in reality, especially mention what concerns human heart. To lie indicates more than you feel, it depicts the insincere feelings. Thus, Meursault refuses falseness forcing the whole society to feel threatened.
According to Camus, absurdity reveals not only for the chosen people; it can concern anyone, even an ordinary employee, such as Meursault. The meeting with this public hypocrisy takes place on the first page of the book. After Meursault receives a telegram about his mother’s death, he has to take a break from his work. However, his boss is not going to sympathize with him as he does not see the signs of mourning in Meursault’s clothes. In The Stranger, Meursault’s consciousness is the consciousness of something else, for example, brutal reality of the world. The scene, in which he is in a morgue, clearly shows the absence of the character’s feelings; he is looking at the surrounding objects with indifferent concentration. From that moment, he realizes that there is nothing valuable in the world and he is an outsider – a viewer who watches the events that occur with disdain. However, Meursault is in love with nature. He can enthusiastically observe nature, the game of sunlight in the sky, and vibrations of air for hours. Then, being under the influence of another sun play, Meursault commits a murder. It happens unconsciously; he does it as if watching himself from the outside, being a stranger. Meursault is arrested and sentenced to death penalty. Being closer to physical death is accompanied by the increasing internal estrangement from an absurd world that surrounds him.
Most vividly absurdity is realized in the behavior of the hero who is not the subject to the absurd laws of society, who is free from its moral norms. Naturally, Meursault does not live, he exists, without any plan and ideas, from case to case, from one moment to the next one. Camus’ hero is a true person. Although he is alienated from the society, he is close to nature. Meursault argues that nothing is important, everything has no point. If all people are condemned to death, life is pointless and means nothing. That is the main Meursault’s opinion. According to Albert Camus, in our society, every person, who does not cry at the funeral of his mother, is at risk of being sentenced to the death penalty. Camus is right if taking into account the fact that the principal character of his novel has been condemned because he was unwilling to follow the society. In this respect, he is a stranger to the society in which he lives. It is important to ask a question why Meursault refuses to play that game. The answer is simple: he refuses to lie, to dissemble, and to be a hypocrite. Thus, The Stranger is the story of a man who agrees to die for the truth.
The Stranger is not only the book about an unlucky murderer awaiting his execution after a trial; a great villain and a martyr, a stupid animal and a wise man can be recognized in that person. Additionally, the readers can see an alien, a foreigner, a stranger because the society does not accept him. He is sentenced to loneliness for being unwilling to play its game. He always stands aside because he is different. His otherness is that he is true and avoids masks. However, his truthfulness makes absurd society feel threatened; he becomes a menace to others. Unfortunately, every person can suffer from the life’s absurdity. The truth is uncertain because the stereotypes and injustice destroy it.