Tutor profile: Rona W.
Write about the role of globalization in modern Chinese society.
Analyze the tension between Meursault and societal constructs in The Stranger by Albert Camus.
Sigmund Freud first introduced the concept of the id and super-ego, two opposing constructs of the mind. The id is based on instinctive impulses which demand immediate gratification, while the super-ego incorporates societal norms and rules. In The Stranger, Albert Camus uses the motif of the stifling sun as a metaphor for Meursault’s super-ego to criticize the societal constructs of funerals and legal proceedings as superficial ways to maintain a facade of order in a chaotic world. He attempts to show readers the suffering that comes along with preoccupation on the super-ego whilst ignoring the id, which leads readers to realize that it is best to ignore societal constructs, as they only take away autonomy. However, he fails to convince, due to his readers’ own super-egos. During the funeral, Meursault focuses more on his physical discomfort caused by the sun rather than his mother’s dead; in contrast, another man named Perez expresses the emotion expected by society and then collapses in the heat. The motif of the oppressive sun illustrates Camus’s warning to readers that giving into the super-ego leads to loss of independence. After his mother’s vigil, Meursault goes outside and notes that “the sun was up”(Camus 12). He says he “could feel how much [he’d] enjoy going for a walk if it hadn’t been for Maman”(Camus 12). Here, his physical desires are hindered by the requirements set by society, which dictate he must mourn for his mother. This is the first obvious instance of Meursault’s struggle between his id and super-ego, and like the rising conflict, the sun is also just beginning to appear. Later, as the procession is about to start, Meursault says that “the sun was beginning to bear down on the earth”(15). He then complains that he “was hot in [his] dark clothes”(15). Instead of grieving for his mother, as society expects him to do, he is more concerned with his physical discomfort. His dark mourning clothes--a social construct that has no rational basis--only contribute to his unease. In contrast to Meursault’s outward indifference, another man, Perez, is visibly distraught over Meursault’s mother’s death. He weeps intensely, the way society dictates he should, and in his struggle, he falls far behind the others in the procession, “fading in the shimmering heat”(17). Eventually, he cannot take the physical exertion and “crumple[s] like a rag doll”(18). Perez’s super-ego, which pushes him to mourn conventionally, causes him to become more preoccupied with his emotional pain rather than his physical needs. The heat from the sun reduces him into a fading, mirage-like form, and the description of his collapse implies that he is a toy. Camus is suggesting that by giving control to the super-ego, Perez becomes less than human, and like a doll, he is now being “played” by societal constructs. Likewise, readers who relent to their super-egos will lose their autonomy as well. During Meursault’s trial, the other characters attempt to make sense out of the murder of the Arab by constructing their own version of events; similarly, they also deal with the stifling heat by fanning themselves, a temporary solution which only avoids the real problem. As soon as the trial opens, Meursault notes that “the sun filter[s] through in places and the air [i]s already stifling”(83). Likewise, the trial is stifling. Everyone is preoccupied with finding out the truth, but rather than asking Meursault why he did it, they try to construct their own version of events. He even says that “[the lawyers] [seem] to be arguing the case as if it ha[s] nothing to do with [him]”(98). Everyone is speculating about his motives for killing the Arab, trying to make meaning out of his actions, while ignoring Meursault himself. This is due to the others’ super-egos, which require them to find sense in a chaotic world. However, time and effort is wasted in constructing a more comfortable “truth”, and independence is lost. The only person observing the trial who doesn’t seem to succumb to the super-ego is a young reporter, the only one who has “left his pen lying in front of him”(85) while all the others “ha[ve] their pens in hand”(85). Instead of taking notes, he is “examining [Meursault] closely”(85) and giving him the “impression of being watched by himself”(85). This reporter is studying the actual scene instead of hurriedly reconstructing it through notes, and is thus the only one more interested in the truth than an illusion. As the trial proceeds, the room “get[s] hotter”(87) and “if by some miracle”(89) nearly everyone in the courtroom “[is]provided with straw fans”(89). The only ones not fanning themselves to ward off the heat are Meursault and the young reporter. As the sun is a representation of the super-ego, by fanning themselves, the other characters accept the super-ego the same way they tolerate the sun. The legal system, like waving a straw fan, is a temporary fix which gives the illusion of relief. By calling the distribution of fans a “miracle”, Camus implies there is a fantastical element in all of this, which is ironic as this is a courtroom, which is supposedly very straightforward and logical. This irony leads to his criticism of the legal system, which is a facade of reason meant to satiate the super-ego. He urges readers not to be blinded by the state law the same way they may be blinded by the sun, for it is just a pointless societal construct which restricts independence. However, for all his efforts in criticizing the super-ego as restricting and meaningless, Camus does not get his point across. His readers’ own super-egos prevent them from understanding Meursault: a man who would not mourn at his mother’s own funeral, a man who murders for no reason besides the irritating sun. Rather, they dismiss him, as his personality is so far removed from any they have encountered. Camus could have used a character more readers can relate to as a vehicle for his message instead. In addition, the turn of events through the perspective of Meursault is too abrupt for readers to accept as logical. Society dictates Meursault’s actions might occur under circumstances such as mental illness or drug influence; they would never happen in normal situations. Thus, readers will not apply Camus’s criticism of the super-ego to their own lives, which they deem “normal” as opposed to the “absurd” life Meursault seems to lead. In the end, Camus fails in his attempts to convince readers to choose the id over the super-ego by using the motif of the stifling, painful sun. Without innate understanding of Meursault’s actions, it is impossible for readers to realize the truth that Camus attempts to get at--abiding the super-ego only leads to suffering and loss of independence.
How many irrational numbers are there between 1 and 6?
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