Similarities and differences between Mersault The Free Man and Mersault The Prisoner - Literature Essay Example

Similarities and differences between Mersault The Free Man and Mersault The Prisoner

Camus as prominent representative of existentialism in literature, implies in his writings that human life is meaningless and insignificant - Similarities and differences between Mersault The Free Man and Mersault The Prisoner introduction. In “Outsider”, Camus intentionally makes the plot circle around a hedonist, a user of this life, who is addicted to momentary impulses and desires and rarely tries to critically reflect upon his existence.  The author also intentionally isolates his protagonist from the society so that the latter can distract from the earthly good and look at his life from the height of the years he has lived. The present paper argues that whereas Mersault The Free Man is described as superficial and apathetic in his attitude towards society, Mersault The Prisoner develops loath for the polity and people around him and eliminates the regret about losing his life. However, in both of his hypostases, the protagonist remains sincere truth-seeker, uncommitted to societal norms and values.


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In the first parts of the novel, Mersault is portrayed as a person, who seeks to derive maximum pleasure from each moment of his life. Even when visiting his mother’s funeral, he suddenly feels sleepy and tired and falls into sweet slumber in the nursing home where his mother spent her last years (Part  1, Ch.1).  It is clear that Mersault’s feelings are dictated by his physical sensations and both appear to be temporary, for instance, his emotions associated with Marie  arise only when he is seeing the woman. Moreover, the protagonist explains his willingness to kill the Arab  from the beach as a result of excessive heat: “It was just the same sort of heat as at my mother’s funeral, and I had the same disagreeable sensations – especially in my forehead, where all the veins seemed to be bursting through the skin. […]  I fired four shots more into the inert body […]” (Part 1, Ch.5). In the confinement, Mersault misses freedom and longs for survival (Part 2, Ch.5), but after meeting the priest, whose words seem to his empty and senseless, the protagonist realizes that the world has generally been indifferent to him all the time. For instance, he comes the idea that the ostensibly important people in his life are already forgetting him and he actually has not developed true attachment to him. Mersault also finds out that he is extremely self-sufficient and thus never established strong connections to this world. In fact, he has lived his life as an outsider, caring mostly about his own well-being and remaining equally uninterested in the “world’s life”.  He has nothing to lose except the life which he was “consuming”, but is able now to do without (Part 2, Ch.5).

Mersault is also portrayed as a “peaceful opponent” of societal norms and conventions, so it seems like morality is a strange word for him. For instance, the main character is not able to understand at first why Marie wishes to create a family with him (Part 1, Ch.4) and displays no response to the episode with Raymond battering his girlfriend (Part 1, Ch.4). However, Mersault is not strikingly antisocial, he rather resembles a person who never involved into the life of the broader society.  However, when left alone in prison, Mersault has time to consider and explain to himself human behavior. He concludes that people have a fear of being rejected by others, for this reason, they imitate each other’s “social” acts. In addition, the man comes to the unique notion of corrections and punishment: in fact, his execution is intended as a public entertainment so that others can come, see and learn by his negative example. It seems like at the end he feels indignation and even slight scorn for his future spectators: “[…] all that remained to hope was that on the day of my execution there should be huge crowd of spectators and that they should greet me howls of execration” (Part 2, Ch.5).

However, in spite of all changes the main character undergoes, he actually remains himself in the jail. Mersault accepts no fabrications:  although his lawyer recommends for  Mersault’s own profit that he confess that he is feeling remorse for killing the Arab and committed the crime because of the distress about his mother’s death, the main character declines this suggestion.  Even though he seeks release, Mersault believes he doesn’t have to act against his nature and distort the truth. In addition, the tone and the detail of his narrative doesn’t change  when he is isolated from society, so one can assume that his sincerity is not affected by the confinement.

 Therefore, Mersault is a brilliant example of the personality that accepts their life just as it is, regardless of the objective conditions. In prison, he also receives new knowledge and new insights and realizes that his happiness with his interesting  and physically pleasant life can be compared to the happiness with the forthcoming departure from this petty and miserable human society.


Camus, A. The Stranger. New York: Vintage Books, 1942.

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