Monday, November 25, 2019
The irrationality of human existence within the The Outsider by Albert Camus and A Dolls House by Henrik Ibsen Essay Example
The irrationality of human existence within the The Outsider by Albert Camus and A Dolls House by Henrik Ibsen Essay Example The irrationality of human existence within the The Outsider by Albert Camus and A Dolls House by Henrik Ibsen Paper The irrationality of human existence within the The Outsider by Albert Camus and A Dolls House by Henrik Ibsen Paper Essay Topic: Literature The Outsider reflects Camus philosophical theory, referred to as the theory of the absurd, that there is no rational meaning in human existence. He believes that humanity is unable to accept this truth and so search for meaning where, in actual fact, none exists. This idea is explored implicitly through the character of Meursault, the narrator and protagonist of the novel. Moreover, aspects of Camus theory can be identified within Ibsens play, A Dolls House. The play illustrates humanitys search for meaning of which Camus suggests, although Ibsens intention was merely to portray the oppression of nineteenth century marriages. In the novel The Outsider, the protagonist, Meursault, is depicted as a man who does not possess any rational meaning in his thoughts or actions. When put in a room with several other prisoners, most of them Arabs1 and is asked what he had done unlawful, Meursault simply replies that he killed an Arab1. Then, he carries on recounting other aspects of the occasion such as his sleeping mat and how he could just see the sea2 through the tiny window. This scene demonstrates how Meursault is not concerned with judgment as he does not ponder over what should or should not be said in order to conform to the accepted morals of society. His candid reply exhibits his irrational nature, both in thought and action, seeing as he does not think any further of the incident or have an explanation for what had happened. In addition, he carries on noticing the physical matters surrounding him despite their insignificance to the situation. Camus creates such a character to exemplify the true nature of human beings, according to him. He does not make it so that Meursault is a supporter of societys customs in order to clarify the characters status as an outsider. Meursault is perceived as an outsider to society because of his acceptance that there is no rational meaning in human existence. Furthermore, his way of thinking and the way he acts show no basis on reason, but more so, on irrationality. This proves that, for Meursault, rational meaning is nonexistent. Camus emphasizes this through the simple language used throughout the novel. He writes in first person perspective and without the use of adjectives and metaphors to reflect Meursaults straightforward nature and how his interest lies in physical truth rather than interpretations. An illustration is when Meursault receives a telegram from the home. It announces: Mother passed away3. Meursault only states that it could have happened today or yesterday but that he do esnt know. This reveals his concern for the physical truth and his lack of response to the situation. He does not continue on to expressing his sentiment which also illustrates his indifference to humanity. In contrast to Meursaults character, Ibsen creates his protagonist as one who does base thoughts and actions on the basis of rationality. When asked if it ever occurred to Nora Helmer, the protagonist of Ibsens play A Dolls House, that she was committing fraud by forging a signature on an official paper, she replies that it didnt mean anything to her because, at the time, her husband was in a critical state4. She then reasons for the fraud by saying she couldnt stand4 the man she made the deal with as he went through all those cold-blooded formalities4 knowing the difficult situation she was in. Unlike Meursault, Nora seems to be concerned with judgment as she attempts to justify her misdeed with an explanation. This is a representation of what Camus mentions in his theory as Nora searches for a rational meaning in order to conform to the social and moral standards set by society. Initially, Nora is conveyed as a complete adherent to the conventions of society. She did not question nineteenth century marriage norms and accepted her status as a wife and mother. Her husband, Torvald, addressed her as a little sky-lark5, a little squirrel6 as well as a little singing bird7. The recurrence of the word little suggests Noras insignificance and expresses Torvalds condescending attitude towards her. Further, these pet names signify her as purely a plaything. Nora is also symbolized as a plaything by the Christmas tree mentioned at the beginning of the play. She is comparable to a Christmas tree as it possesses a physical beauty about it and can also evoke feelings of warmth as a mother does. However, both the tree and Nora seem to be simple household decorations to Torvald as opposed to anything with genuine worth. As the play progresses, Nora finds herself being more and more oppressed by her marriage and decides to leave behind her family in search of an identity independent from her own as a wife and mother. Her rebellion against her family, and especially her husband, is foreshadowed at the very start of the play as she takes a bag of macaroons out of her pocket and eats one or two5 against her husbands favor. When asked of the matter, she lies directly to him and states that she would never dream of doing anything8 that he didnt want her to. This remark contrasts to Meursaults frank nature as Noras deceitful personality is revealed. Additionally, Noras departure explores Camus theory in the way which she attempts to find meaning in her own existence. By leaving behind her family, she believes she will discover her true identity as somebody more than just a wife and mother. Ibsen uses irony to present this situation by symbolizing Nora as the singing bird which her husband regularly addressed her as. He tells her that she mustnt go dropping her wings7 but, in reality, she does quite the opposite she flies away. The bird is a symbol for her freedom as it is able to fly freely without the limitations of its cage, in Noras case, without the limitations of being a wife and mother. In The Outsider, humanitys search for meaning is also communicated, however, through the other characters rather than the protagonist. Camus uses the motif of observations to exemplify how endless this search for meaning is. In the courtroom of Meursaults trail, the judge observes a witness for a rational answer to either convict or discharge Meursault for the murder previously committed. In response, the witness again repeated9 a futile statement that results in him being asked to sit back down. This scene demonstrates how people attempt to give rational explanations to irrational actions. As the prosecutor is unable to find a rational meaning behind the murder, Meursault is condemned to death for being a menace, or merely an outsider, to the customs of society. His trail beforehand is incorporated to encapsulate humanitys attempt to find rational meaning. It is an illustration of the theory of the absurd because, in the end, there is no rational meaning, and so, this scene successf ully depicts Camus belief that to find rationality in an irrational world is prone to be a failure. This motif of observation also communicates Meursaults emotional detachment, mentioned earlier, as he describes things only as they are, without any interpretation or judgment of it. This detachment is significant as it verifies Meursaults status as an outsider to humanity. He does not do as the majority of people would: form opinions. An illustration of this is when Meursault observes the peculiar little woman10 dining at Celestes. He notices all the physical details such as how she took out a blue pencil11 to write with and the magazine which gave the radio programmes for the week11. He notices these details of color and subject without thinking any deeper about them and, within moments, he forgets about her. This is ironic as she is very similar to Meursault himself yet he regards her as peculiar. Both Camus and Ibsen also explore how appearances can disguise reality. Ibsen displays this through Noras drastic change in character from a seemingly unintelligent and simpleminded woman to someone of strong will and independence, whilst Camus shows that Meursaults appearance as a menacing person is all along masked by societys perception of him as an outsider. In conclusion, both protagonists accept their reality and experience what freedom is to them. For Meursault, he accepts the reality that he is truly an outsider to society whereas for Nora, she accepts the reality that she is not fitted as a wife or mother. For that reason, she decides leave, against the conventions of her time, in order to pursue her own aspirations. However, if Camus philosophy were to be applied to Ibsens play, then Noras search for meaning would ultimately be a failure as no meaning would exist in the first place.