So many of you all tried to write about the sun as a symbol in the novel--but you never really went beyond locating it as a symbol. Here, Angela not only shows HOW the sun works as a symbol, but uses it to develop a solid character analysis and connect it to the Oedipus myth--another thing a bunch of you tried to do to establish M as a tragic hero. But again, proving a character is a tragic hero is a bit simplistic and formulaic. The first body paragraph does a super job with the pacing of language to create a dream-like state in the narrator (a deft analysis)--and Angela continues on to transition to "blindness" as a topic, investigating the effect on many levels.
There are times in life when one becomes completely overwhelmed by the intensity of a situation and leaves reality. These situations allow the human senses to become sharpened and discover things that one would normally not notice. In two passages from The Stranger, Albert Camus suggests that the intensity and blinding quality of the sun cause Monsieur Meursault to enter a dream-like state and ironically discover the truths and reality of his life. By the end of the first chapter, Monsieur Meursault is at his mother’s funeral and buries her and by the end of the first half of the book he murders an Arab. Both passages deal with death which is a topic that is difficult to accept and understand. Death makes people start to question their own lives and try to find the purpose in living, even though, in the end everyone will die. Although Meursault does not want to acknowledge or does not seem to care about the death of his mother or the fact that he is killing the Arab, the intensity of the sun consumes him and enables him to realize the truth in his life. Camus suggests this through his use of imagery of the sun and imagery of the eye and blindness. The imagery of the sun reveals when Meursault’s senses start to become acute and make the reader feel as if he has entered a dream-like state. The imagery of the eye reveals the qualities of Meursault that make him a tragic hero which is connected to the mythical story of Oedipus. Also, his use of diction contributes to the feeling that Monsieur is in another world and has left reality.
When Meursault is on his way to bury his mother, the sun is beats on him and makes him exhausted. Up until this point in the story Meursault has not come to terms with or has acknowledged his mother’s death. While walking to bury her he is completely overwhelmed and says, “…everything seemed to happen so fast…that I don’t remember any of it anymore”(17). Meursault’s short and choppy sentences suggests that he is leaving reality and entering a dream-like state. He continues to say, “Except one thing...”(17). This one thing that he recalls is a statement that the nurse made about the heat. She says, “‘If you go slowly you risk getting sunstroke. But if you go too fast, you work up a sweat and then catch a chill inside the church’”. This quotation is a metaphor for life and reveals that in life there will always be consequences. Although one may try to avoid certain things such as “sunstroke”, in the end one will “catch a chill inside the church” or suffer. This suggests that although Muersault may try to avoid acknowledging his mother’s death it is unavoidable and the end result will be feelings of pain and guilt.
Meursault responds to the nurse by saying, “She was right. There was no way out”(17). Meusault agrees and believes that life is inescapable and the intensity of the sun is revealing the reality of his situation. He finally realizes that his mother has died. Monsieur continues on and begins to observe objects and people around him. Once Maman’s “fiancé”, Perez, catches up with the crowd, Monsieur notices, “big tears of frustration”(18), running downs his face. He than says, “They spread out and ran together again, leaving a watery film over his ruined face”(18). Camus creates this image of Perez over come with sadness for Maman. He is blinded by his tears and Monsieur observes this perhaps because he has difficulty expressing his own emotion. Perez may be compared to the mythical prophet Teiresias who is blinded but is given the gift of prophecy to make up for his blindness. Although Perez may appear to be suffering through Meursault’s eyes, in reality Perez knows the truth and is suffering because he is mourning the loss of someone he loved. The fact that he had the chance to love another human being is his gift and this is something that Meursault has yet to experience.
Meursault in the second passage also becomes blinded by tears but for a different reason than Perez’s. Meursault’s blindness is from trying to avoid his destiny and not accepting the truth in his life, similar to the mythical character Oedipus. Oedipus blinds himself after he tries to avoid his destiny and fails miserably.
After Meursault finishes observing Perez he begins to describe specific objects around him. As he watches, “the blood-red earth spilling over Maman’s casket,” and “the white flesh of the roots mixed in with it…”(18), it seems as though he is realizing that his mother is finally gone. Monsiuer’s diction is so specific and gives the effect that although he is not expressing any emotion he is fully aware of his situation and is finally saying good-bye to his mother. Monsieur continues to list random things such as, “voices, the village,”(18) and “waiting in front of the café”(18). Meursualt’s diction once again suggests that he has left reality. He is listing random things that have nothing to do with the death of his mother. Also, the staccato feeling and rapidity speed of his words make it seem as if he is overwhelmed and that his thoughts are scattered. In the last line of the passage Meursault finally says, “…and my joy when the bus entered the nest of lights that was
Monsieur decides to walk alone on the beach in the second passage, after previously leaving the beach to avoid the Arab, who is stalking his friend Raymond. . Raymond returns to the beach house to be safe, but Monsieur chooses to go back to the beach alone with a gun. The second passage, similar to the first, takes place on a scorching hot day. Meursault returns alone to the beach and is intently watching the Arab. As Meursault contemplates leaving the Arab and returning to the beach house he says, “But the whole beach, throbbing in the sun, was pressing on my back”(58). Meursault’s diction and personification of the beach gives an image that the intensity of the sun is weighing heavily upon him. The beach is being personified and it is “throbbing in the sun” and is “pressing” on his back. Once again he leaves reality due to the intensity of the sun and it is not allowing him to leave the beach. He is unable to avoid his destiny and the truth has to be revealed. As Monsieur comes closer to the Arab he says, “The sun was the same it had been the day I’d buried Maman”(59). This quotation suggests that, similar to the other passage, Meursault enters his dream world and the sun is forcing him to face the truth which he wants nothing to do with. Eventually Meursault comes closer to the Arab, when finally, he “drew his knife”(59) and “held it up”(59) to him “in the sun”(59). Monsieur now realizes that he could be killed and becomes nervous and is sweating profusely. He says, “…the sweat in my eyebrows dripped down over my eyelids all at once and covered them with a warm thick film. My eyes were blinded behind the curtain of tears and salt”(59). Similar to Perez in the first passage Meursault is blinded by tears. Meursault’s tears of blindness differ from those of Perez because his are not created by truth but are created from the avoidance of truth. Meursault can easily be compared to the mythical character Oedipus. Oedipus, a tragic hero, ends up poking out his eyes and causing blindness because he avoided his destiny. He tries to avoid consequences in his life, just like Muersault, and in the end is punished. Meursault always takes the easy way out and never actually suffers because he is not willing to take a risk and accept the truth. These are the qualities that make him a tragic hero. The fact that he avoids his destiny and does not accept reality, brings him a life filled with tragedy and pain. Now the truth is revealed and there is no way he can go back.
The Arab begins to slash at Meursault and all he can “feel were the cymbals of sunlight crashing”(59) on his forehead. The moment on the beach continues to intensify as the sun continues to pound on Meursault. Eventually, “everything began to reel”, and “the sea carried up a thick fiery breath…”(59), and it seemed as if the “sky split open from one end to the other to rain down fire”(59). The diction and imagery of these quotations reveals that this dream world is progressively becoming more intense. The fact that pure rain is turning into fire suggests that Muersault has lost all control over his life and his destiny is taking over. Monsieur’s body begins to tense up and he starts to grab his “hand around the revolver”(59) and finally “the trigger gave”(59). Meursault shoots the Arab and he slowly returns from his dream world back into his false reality. He finally, “shook the sweat and sun”(59).Once the sweat and sun have left his body he has officially left his dream world and must face his actions. He than says, “I knew I had shattered the harmony of the day, the exceptional silence of a beach where I’d been happy”(59). The longer structure of this sentence compared to the previous short sentences suggest that Monsieur’s actions are becoming less intense and are slowing down. This is another sign that he has left his dream world.
Meursault tries, throughout the story to avoid suffering and truth and in the end he is basically receiving his “chill inside the church”(17), for never accepting the truth. He continues to shoot four more times and than admits that “…it was like knocking four quick times on the door of unhappiness”(59). Monsieur is taking in the fact that he has taken another’s life. All of his life he avoids suffering and his destiny and it came back to him in the end. He finally admits that he is unhappy and realizes that he must now live in his false reality which he has created.
In The Stranger, Albert Camus succeeds at creating a tragic hero who lives in a false reality. Monsieur Muersault only discovers the truth in life when he goes into a dream-like state. The intensity and clarity of the sun allows him to travel into this state and see things in his life that he normally would not see. Meursault, like Oedipus was “blinded” because he does not accept his destiny and in the end creates his own tragic life. Inevitably in life there are events and situations that one many try to avoid, but the truth is that one needs to realize the reality they live in and accept their destiny. Muersault realizes this too late. He avoids feeling any emotion about his mother’s death or anything for that matter. He thinks that he will live peacefully by avoiding his suffering, but he shatters his peace and takes another’s life.