Alienation derives its concepts from the meanings and understanding of existentialism. The fact behind the reference to alienation as a concept of existentialism is not particularly hard to discern. This is because of the fact that the link that exists between alienation and existentialism can be retrieved from the broad meanings of the two philosophical concepts. Alienation refers “the state of feeling estranged or separated from one’s milieu, work, products of work, or self” while existentialism is defined as “A philosophy that emphasizes the uniqueness and isolation of the individual experience in a hostile or indifferent universe, regards human existence as unexplainable, and stresses freedom of choice and responsibility for the consequences of one’s acts”. In the analysis of Marxist literature, alienation has been considered as a concept that is aimed at describing and criticizing both the social and economic situations set aside by capitalism. On the other hand, existentialism refers to an asymptomatic condition that is remains pervasive in today’s society. This paper seeks to analyze the three types of alienation (self, nature and others) as presented in The Stranger by Camus.
In the stranger by Camus, Mersault exemplifies alienation from self, nature and others by a show of various acts. Self alienation, according to “caused by a philosophical conditioning, and occurs in a person who is searching for an identity and may be led astray in a search for uniqueness which tends to distinguish them from, rather than identify him with, the social group”. In the analysis of the Stranger, Mersault has demonstrated a sense of confrontation; elements and personal attitudes with himself that are clear pointers to self alienation. This is seen when he is portrayed as a man who cannot lie to himself, will not feign emotion and his actions and reactions are against the societal norms. Self alienation is also portrayed by Mersault by his immoral acts, his consideration of life as absurd in that he has a deeply entrenched belief that it is man’s mortal responsibility to stay fully committed to the desires of his heart simply because death is definitive. While in court for the murder of an Arab, Mersault shows self alienation when he says that”I am very convenient that the court should take care of those details” (63).
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In addition to the above, Mersault has shown self alienation by viewing life in un-emotional and non-committal manner. Thus enhances his opinion that after all, life has no meaning because death will surely come. This is demonstrated by lack of emotional feelings at the death of his mother. His reaction towards the death of his mother is strange in that he simply says “Maman died today, or yesterday maybe, I don’t know”
Camus has also portrayed Mersault as completely alienated form nature. This is well illustrated by the choices that he makes and his reactions during his mother’s funeral. In his opinion, the funeral should have been over, the case closed and he would be left to do his own things. His alienation with nature is also presented in the effect the sounds and smell of the bus has on him on the way to the funeral. While it is natural that a moving bus has to emit sound and smoke, in Mersault’s opinion, both are signs of physical discomfort that makes him sleep the whole way.
Furthermore, Mersault’s alienation from nature is demonstrated by lack of attention he gives to his mother’s corpse while sitting next to the casket. In contrast, he is totally withdrawn to his physical discomfort and is absorbed in the two hornets buzzing against the glass roof. This is alienation from nature because Mersault cannot take consideration of the serious and important events surrounding him but is instead absorbed in his physical discomfort. Alienation from nature is also demonstrated by the inability of Mersault to recall the events that surrounded his mother’s funeral.
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In this paper, another form of alienation that affects Mersault is the alienation from others. This is demonstrated by the desire to stay within the confines of personal self in that he does not care about other people anymore. He has no feelings for the loss of his mother and instead he prefers to be engrossed in personal and physical discomfort. According to”Meursault, never shedding a single tear, keeps an all-night vigil at the casket, surrounded by his mother’s sobbing friends and seems to regard the whole night as somewhat pointless eventually coming away feeling very tired”.His alienation from others is also demonstrated by his inability to see others in the vigil in the beginning of the book. The symbol of blindness has been figuratively used to show his alienation from the people who are not only close to him but are also emphatic to him for the loss of his mother.
As the story progresses, we realize that Mersault has been able to overcome self alienation and alienation from others. This is demonstrated within the story when Celeste speaks to him during the trail. Mersault is not able to recognize the need to live a good life but also appreciates the presence of those around him and the desire to show love. Both actions illustrate his ability to overcome self alienation and alienation from others. When he says “And I felt ready to live it all again too… I opened myself to the gentle indifference of the world.” This statement clearly points towards his ability to break away from self alienation. On the other hand, when he says, “It was the first time in my life I wanted to kiss a man”Mersault has the ability to show love while in the beginning, he could not relate to anyone.