Existentialism entails freedom of choice. Humans are faced with situations where they tend to question the existence of something in their world; questions are raised about the environment they live in, the existence of God or even each aspect of life. How each person is going to react to such forces will be dependent on his or her nature but not the forces exerted by God, the environment, and our lives. Individuals are the controllers of their destiny, there is no power in existence that will make them do anything they are unwilling to do. The only power that is in play is the individual power which is usually in their hands. In the novels The Stranger and Nausea about existentialism, there is a clear indication of the presence of philosophical existence. The primary objective of the following paper is to identify the existence of existentialism in the following novels: The Stranger by Camus and Nausea by Sartre.

What Sort Of Person Is The Main Character?

In The Stranger, Meursault, the main character, is conscious by nature. A conscious person is one who is aware of what is happening in the environment. He is the kind of person who examines the surroundings, and the reason why things are going on in a particular manner. It is after a careful consideration of the environment the individual is living in that he comes up with a conclusion how he would like his life to be like. The ending is carefully thought through to avoid situations where one blames other factors for the issues happening in the character’s life.


Nausea brings out Antoine Roquentin, a sad person with Borderline Personality Disorder; a man who allows himself to be stressed by things that are beyond his control. In addition, he has a personality that is stressing him. He wants to live alone but, at the same time, he is stressed by it. Obviously, he has not embraced existentialism.

Psychological Portrait

The Stranger

The existentialist character in The Stranger wants to live in the present. The current activities are not dependent on what he will do in future. According to him, the future will take care of itself; such a character has the freedom to do what he wants to do today without worrying how tomorrow will be. For that reason, when his mom dies, he does not mourn because her death will not have any effect on him in the future.

The other dimension that the character displays is the unproductive nature of life. Often, situations change: one minute he has everything in the world and the other moment there is nothing for him to cling on to. It is shown by the character’s happiness while basking in the sun and sadness shortly after.


The main character here wants to live the present in a happy way but is unable to; he has carried a heavy burden from the past to the present times. Some of the reasons why he is sad resulting to nausea are self-inflicted, they include his research and alienating himself from the society. At that point, it dawns on him that he is experiencing existence as he is relating his past with his present. He is thinking of how he has separated himself from the people and also he has come a long way to study a Marquis de Rollebon and maybe that is the reason he is experiencing difficulties in the present.

Differences in the Character

There is a significant difference between the two characters despite the fact that they are both experiencing an existential crisis. The character in The Stranger experiences existentialism due to the events happening in the present. Occurrences that are going on in the current state are the ones the character is questioning. Such incidents include the death of his mother and his state of happiness. After the final questioning, the character concludes that he will not allow such events define his future and his happiness.

In Nausea, the character is relating what has recently happened to him. He is blaming his past for influencing the current events. The character is lonely and disturbed because he does not have any close people. All he is interested in is the research that he has come to do. In the long run, he becomes depressed leading to his becoming lonely. As a result, he holds his past liable for the present.

The difference between the characters is seen in the timeframe in which the events occur. One is in the present while the other is in the past. However, both situations affect the future of the characters.

How Do The Main Characters Exhibit Existentialism?

Both novels focus on existentialism; the difference is that one is about the past while the other is about the present. In Nausea, Antoine Roquentin realizes he has been relating his history to Rollebon as justification of the existence. There was nothing in his power that he could have done about his past since he had already decided that he would go and do his research elsewhere. In addition to that, he chose a lonely life that was stressing him. Regardless of how much he would like to change the situation, his condition is beyond his control. His present time is affected by the decisions he made in the past, therefore it is unchangeable.

In The Stranger, the main character is affected by the present. He has no control over the events happening at the present time. Existentialism is shown in the aspects of life that are uncontrollable such as death and happiness. One cannot control death since it is a natural force, thus there is nothing that can be done. The character decides to embrace the present to avoid being stressed which would compromise his future. In the case of happiness, it is natural to be happy or sad. Considering the fact that he is happy, it should be noted there is nothing within his power that influences his happiness. Similarly, when things go nasty, and he becomes sad, there is still nothing else he could do to control his condition.

Is This Exhibition Successful?

Existentialism in The Stranger is more clear and precise; the character in the book does not allow himself to be molded by the environment and the problems he is going through. He continues with his life without any worries about the consequences of the events that are happening. When such person is compared to the individual in Nausea, there is a big difference. The main character in Nausea sits down and starts contemplating the issues he is facing and eventually gets stressed. He carries that burden with him; he becomes desperate as he has no one to help him. In The Stranger, Meursault can be seen as one who does not care in the actual sense, he does not want to carry any burdens. Therefore, after the comparison of the two, it would be true to state that existentialism depicted in The Stranger is better than that shown in Nausea.

Authenticity and Inauthenticity

Authenticity is the state in which someone is true to him/herself; the spirits and character remain intact despite the external forces surrounding him or herself. In this case, the protagonist in The Stranger is authentic. He is true to himself as he does not allow his challenges to define the kind of man he is. At the same time, inauthenticity is the state in which one is not true to him/herself; the character and spirits are affected by the surrounding. Roquentin is inauthentic, he allows his past to define the person he is today. He is stressed over the fact that he does not have friends and that his research only depresses him.


Existentialism is an essential part of philosophy; it helps individuals to shield themselves from their daily events that are full of uncertainty. They understand life as it is because it is meant to be that way. The moment they try to change things, they realize that situations are unchangeable, and it is upon them to let such instances be as they are. If the circumstances are to change, they will do so automatically, but not because of people’s efforts. Existentialism is the backbone of decision-making; any activity in people’s lives usually is about a choice. Both novels about existentialism, The Stranger and Nausea, have fully covered the issues of concern in the context of existentialism.

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