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Published: 04-11-2019

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The Dawning of the Truth: The Symbolic Meaning of the Sun in Meursault's Awareness in the Stranger by Albert Camus

Truth Dawning:

The Sun as a Symbol for Meursault’s Awareness in Albert Camus’ The Stranger

In his novel “The Stranger,” Albert Camus makes use of the relentless Algerian sun as a metaphor for the awareness of reality that pursues his primary character, Meursault, throughout the novel. The plot is fashioned around 3 deaths: these of Meursault’s mother, the Arab, and Meursault himself. At every single of these crucial points in the novel, the sun, the symbol of awareness, presses upon Meursault. The purpose of the sun, it seems, is to make Meursault recognize the absurdity of his existence.

Even the book’s setting in Algiers, the capital of Algeria, underlines the thematic significance of the sun. The Algerian climate is typically hot, dry, and relentlessly sunny. As critic Jean-Paul Sartre writes, “Camus likes vibrant mornings, clear evenings, and relentless afternoons. His favourite season is Algiers’ eternal summer season. Night has hardly any place in his universe” (3). Therefore, Meursault is confronted by the sun at each and every turn. At times he basks in the sun at other occasions, he runs from it. His globe is one of black and white, light and dark. In this planet, the sun serves as a metaphor for Meursault’s self-awareness. He is repeatedly confronted with the presence of life, the inevitability of death, and the absurdity of existence but, repeatedly, he attempts to keep away from these strands of awareness.

Meursault’s inner conflict is represented not only by his struggle with the sun, however, but also by his reaction to heat, vibrant light, and the color white. For instance, the book opens with a telegram indicating the death of Meursault’s mother. At first glance, it seems that Meursault is not affected by his mother’s death as he prepares himself for the evening long vigil by her coffin. Then, even so, Meursault explains, “The keeper switched on the lamps, and I was almost blinded by the blaze of light” (Camus 9). The lights replace the sun in the function of persevering truth, with all the “symbolic and metaphorical associations that exist among light and consciousness” (Manly 89). Meursault believes he is uncomfortable simply because of the lights, though he is, in fact, uncomfortable with his mother’s death. He is not totally conscious of death’s consequences and does not wish to be. Meursault asks the caretaker if some of the lights can be turned off, but it is not feasible. The lights must either be all on or all off. This polarity “suggests that we either reside in light or dark that is, we either grasp the reality of death or we don’t, we either reside in the moment of the perceptive now or we don’t-there is no middle ground” (McGuire). In Camus’ globe, in other words, there should be knowledge or ignorance. It is telling that, rather than face his mother’s death, Meursault shuts his eyes to the light and drifts to sleep, symbolizing the blissful unconsciousness in which he lives his life. Similarly, in the course of the funeral procession, Meursault tries to block out what is going on about him, but is continually brought back to reality by the blazing sun.

Later, although attending his mother’s funeral, Meursault sees a nurse with a colorful scarf about her head. Until it is pointed out to him, he does not notice that the nurse has a massive bandage covering most of her face she is dying from a tumor. In reality, “one saw hardly something of her face except that strip of whiteness” (7). The bandage is white, a colour “traditionally linked with knowledge, [and] is right here the expertise of death which humans cannot face” (McCarthy). Hence, Meursault ignores the surrounding death till he is forced to see it, whether by whiteness, vibrant lights, or the sun.

Meursault’s continuous denial of life’s troubles tends to make him strategy his life as if he have been a child. For instance, he exhibits awareness only of sensory experiences. As a single critic writes, “drying his hands on a crisp towel at midday is just as crucial as becoming promoted to a far better job” (Thody two). His life centers on meaningless particulars, and he seeks only his private comfort. He can't comprehend emotions such as love or hate, or understand how they enter into his every day life. When Marie asks him if he loves her, he replies that the question indicates “nothing or next to nothing [to him]” (52). Similarly, he can not make basic connections amongst events and his emotions. When he hears his elderly neighbor Salamo weeping for his lost dog, he thinks of his mother “for some reason…I don’t know what” (50). Thus, he proves unable to make the logical leap among another man’s sense of loss, and his own.

His inability is particularly apparent when Meursault is on the beach, prior to he murders the Arab. Once again, it is symbolized by the sun. He feels overwhelmed by the scorching sunlight and seeks refuge from it, but can locate none. Meursault describes the light as a “thudding in [his] head” (Camus, 72). The implication, of course, is that he is not basically fighting the external he also is fighting, within himself, for his own version of reality. As he writes,

I clenched my fists in my trouser pockets and keyed up each and every nerve to fend off the sun and the dark befuddlement it was pouring into me. Whenever a blade of vivid light shot upward from a bit of shell or broken glass lying on the sand, my jaws set challenging. I wasn’t going to be beaten, and I walked steadily on (Camus, 73).

Thus, Meursault refuses to be beaten. But beaten by what? He is not truly in combat with the sun, but with the awareness of death and the absurdity of life that threatens to destroy his world. Later in court, he tells the judge that he killed the Arab “because of the sun” (Camus, 130). Mistaking the Arab for his assumed enemy, the sun, he fires the gun. The shot “marks the end of the primordial ordinariness that has been the basis of his seemingly uncomplicated happiness” (Gay-Croisier, 89). As Manly writes, “the suggestion that a symbolic waking to consciousness is at problem in this crucial scene is reinforced by the descriptive specifics of the actual shooting. Unsettled by the sun and not fully in manage, Meursault shoots the Arab 5 times” (3). Meursault senses that some thing has changed. He has begun his journey into the light. He knows that he has “shattered the balance of the day, the spacious calm of [the] beach on which [he] had been happy” (76). He then fires 4 a lot more shots into the Arab’s corpse, “and each and every successive shot was one more loud fateful rap on the door of my undoing” (76).

Meursault’s awareness continues to increase throughout his court trial. For instance, he realizes the ridiculousness of the proceedings, saying, “I wasn’t to have any say and my fate was to be decided out of hand” (124). Ultimately, he realizes that this absurdity exists not only in the courtroom, but everywhere in life, as people try to make sense out of random, meaningless events. Meursault’s “consciousness and self-consciousness are awakened and continue to develops the trial proceeds” (Gay-Croisier). During the trial, he spends endless days and nights in his jail cell trying to occupy himself. Following the guilty verdict is reached, he uses this time to obsess about his impending execution. At instances, he tries to console himself. He tells himself that “on a wide view, [it] tends to make tiny distinction no matter whether one particular dies at the age of thirty or threescore and ten-since, in either case, other males and women will continue living, the globe will go on as before” (143).

Meursault also becomes obsessed with the hours just before dawn. “They constantly came for 1 at dawn that much I knew,” he confesses, “all my nights have been commit in waiting for that dawn” (141). Of course, the dawn he speaks of is both literal and figurative. His whole life has led up to the moment of his death, and to his realization that, someday, he will die. Meursault’s life was once a query of how to devote his evening. Now, it is a question of no matter whether he will reside or die to see an additional day. Only then can he understand that death is the only accurate expertise that 1 can have without death, life is pointless. Meursault realizes that, “viewed from a single angle, [an execution] is the only issue that can genuinely interest a man” (138). When the priest visits and Meursault lastly gets to argue his point of view and express the thoughts he has developed, he tells us, “I now had my back to the wall and light was flowing over my forehead” (148). This symbolizes his impending acceptance of the truth of the absurdity of life. Ultimately, in his jail cell, Meursault accepts his impending death. He can now face his execution, and he can now face the dawn. He is no longer operating from the light. The sun will rise, and he will die in its light.

Eventually, “The Stranger” is a story of one man’s awakening. Meursault awakes from the darkness and “consequently becomes aware of the blood-stained mathematics which command our lives” (Manly 90). Meursault’s ultimate resolution comes with the knowledge that any search for meaning can in no way be fully completed, and that the only fulfilling life is one in which there are no more illusions.
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