Close

09/04/2019

What do you think about this existentialist essay?

QUESTION
What do you think about this existentialist essay?
Camus’s attempt to adapt subtle and symbolic existentialistic ideas is also faulty. The book The Stranger clearly ictuates the fact that human behavior always defaults to fearing and rejecting that which isn’t understood. Meursault pays the price for believing what he believes and for acting the way he acts in conjunction to what he believes. Camus inserts human behavior into the books seemingly inhuman protagonist by subtly mentioning in first person what Meursault does to keep himself occupied without doing any “absurd” and pointless tasks. Yet Meursault still does these things, perhaps without realizing it. Looking out onto the street from his balcony all day is as pointless as ever. Meusault’s own belief of pointlessness interferes with his actions and behavior and thus results in doing what he believes is pointless and “absurd”. You can’t get away from life, even if you believe life is pointless. Even if you stand still, the action is still pointless.

Meursault deals with his mother’s death in the most unusual of ways. By ignoring her death and moving on with his life in the most emotionless and inhuman way possible. Yet, it goes hand in hand with his belief. Death is a matter that doesn’t worry the existentialist believer, unless coerced by some mean that only works on such person, Meursault clearly doesn’t contemplate death even when he’s about to die at the end of the book. He rejects religion, he rejects life, he rejects what was given to him. Or does he?

I don’t believe so. Even if you try to not be yourself, you’re still yourself. Even if you try to not be human, you’re still a human. Whether you want to ignore yourself and isolate yourself from others, you’re still susceptible to feeling, wanting, loving, needing etc. Camus included subtle clues to Meursault’s humanity even in the most unusual places. When Meursault has sex with Marie, Meursault’s way of showing his love toward Marie is by having sex. Sex is the most instinctual thing we can do. Acting on instinct is a way for Meursault to impart how he behaves and what he believes in. I applaud Camus for adding symbolism to this work, but in adding existentialist ideas, he only succeeded in alienating his readers.

Although Camus catches the readers attention and draws him or her into the life of a seemingly ordinary man with an unusual way of living, Camus created this man with the trait of being a complete monster. Now, although when Meursault is being tried, we’re supposed to feel sorry for him for being found guilty for how he acts, I felt no remorse for him. There wasn’t any way to feel sorry for a man that doesn’t appreciate his life or life in its entirety.
I did this essay for fun, to see If people would like to read it. I also typed it up to gather my thoughts for my senior project, but it was all in vain because it wasn’t what the teacher was asking for.8(

-Do you like it? Does it make sense?

ANSWER
Well, what *was* your teacher asking for?

You make good enough sense, but only inasmuch as you’re giving your opinion on the book. If it’s for yourself this, and appearing as “I”, is fine, but if this is supposed to be a literary analysis you’re probably on the wrong track.
Essays in literature usually aim to analyse how an author tries to convey his ideas, not to appraise said ideas. If you’re going to assert that “Camus’s attempt to adapt subtle and symbolic existentialistic ideas is also faulty”, you should 1-explain what “existentialistic ideas” are 2-how Camus attempts to “adapt” them, and only in 3-offer a point of view as to whether he succeeded or not, while acknowledging the view opposite to yours. If you’re aiming for any measure af academic rigour, your opinion that Camus failed to accomplish what he set out to do shouldn’t constitute the bulk of your essay, not without putting it into context (i.e. philosophical motivations+style).
For example you shouldn’t just assert that Meursault reacts to his mother’s death in the “most unusual”, “most emotionless and inhuman way possible”; instead you could lay out a brief analysis of the novel’s opening, citing the focus of the character on practicalities without any visible emotional response, then submit the idea of his lack of humanity/emotions.

Also, you should be wary of using expressions such as “we’re supposed to” (in your last paragraph); this implies that you know for sure what the author meant to do, how he wanted the reader to react: you don’t. Even if the author himself told you what he meant to do (which obviously wouldn’t have happened here), you couldn’t know that for sure; analysis and interpretation may well lead to giving more (or different) meaning to contents or style than was intended in the first place; you probably should show you’re aware that any interpretation you offer is just that: an interpretation.

Any remarks you make should be based on analysis of the book, any opinions you give should be grounded in it; in an essay you are supposed to show you are able to focus on a question (although I don’t know if there was one here, what this piece was based upon) or theme, and even though I know it’s tempting to barge in, give opinions and open yourself up, it’s usually not the primary purpose of an essay.

I don’t know how old you are if you’re getting ready for your senior project (I’m not familiar with your school system), so obviously, depending on your age, requirements for an essay may be more or less strict.
I think you seem fairly articulate, but that you need to reign yourself in if you’re going to write a successful essay. You need to be clear about what your question is, what your thesis is, and what the progression of your essay will be.

I don’t know if this is the kind of feedback you were looking for, and I haven’t read this book in a long time myself, so maybe you’ll think I’m completely beside the point (and maybe I’m starting to sound old as well), but I hope this is of some use to you. Good luck with your work.