REALITY IN L'ETRANGER
One critic has said "The characters seem to move in a kind of trance in a kind of dream world.
Another critic has said that he praises the realism. `What is your view?
1. The descriptions in the book are realistic.
The settings are very much everyday life:- The old folk's home. An apartment block in suburban Algiers - the beach.
Usually the descriptions arebrief and impressionistic but effective.
a) eg. the description of the beach as they arrived there as the morning
of a holiday. The yellowish stones, with which flowers growing among them - the rows of beach cottages with green or white gates L the motionless sea with a few bathers. The gentle sound of a distant trawler - further up the massive cape slumbering on the clear water.
b)Description of action is equally effective.
eg. the events on the landing after Raymond has beaten up his Arab mistress and the neighbours have brought the police.
c) Accurate social description. Critics have remarked on the accuracy of
observation it the description of the court procedure. Camus had been a newspaper reporter, (in fact he visits himself in the court at Meursault's trial - thereporter who eyes Meursault with an expressionless face throughout).
d) Description of the appearance of characters e.g. the examining magistrate.
2. In view of this realism why might the reader get a sense of unreality?
A) Because the book is split into two parts.
In Part one, we see events from M's. point of view. In Part two, through the eyes of other people. Thus we question what isin fact real?
eg. the question of the cafe au lait. Meursault describes in Part 1 how he came to accent the drink. It appears quite natural.
(page 26) "Il m'a offert alors d’apporter une tasse de café au lait. Comme j'aime beaucoup le café au lait j'ai accepté et il est revenu un moment après avec un plateau."
It appears quite natural. However at the trial it becomes a step towards theguillotine. The prosecutor thunders
(page 104) Oui M.M. les jures apprécieront. Et ils concluront qu'un étranger pouvait proposer du café mais qu'un fils devait le refuser devant le corps de celle qui lui avait donné le jour.
Meursault's love for Marie might appear like the sweet spontaneous love of two ordinary people
It may appear, as in the prosecutor's eyes, the most shamefuldebauchery.
Meursault's. relationship with his mother might represent normal son-mother ties,
It might represent callous unhumanity approachihg or even surpassing matricide.
showing also the problems of ageing and illness.
The friendshp with Raymond might be a normal acquaintareship of neighbours
A criminal collaboration of the basest kind.
This dichotomy illustrates animportant philosophical issue, which was given much emphasis by the Existentialists:
The distinction between subjective reality and objective reality.
Objective reality is the actual object as it exists or the actual event as it occurs. But these objects and events have to go through human perception and need to be interpreted by individual brains. Thus says Kierkegaard there is asubjective relational truth – as a result that which the individual conceives to be true is true.
This statement is not a negation of objective reality; it simply asks us to recognise the unique interpretation which each individual gives to our common environment.
When listening to the trial, Meursault accepts the validity of the prosecutor's version.
page 112) J'ai trouvé que sa façon de voir lesévénements ne manquait pas de clarté. Ce qu'il disait était plausible .
B ) M's. world appears strange to us because he describes it without any values or judgements.
The eye of the narrator Meursault is the eye of the camera reflecting without comment the objects and events of his environment.
Thus a blank statement of his mother's death:
"Aujourd'hui, maman est morte. Ou...
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