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Friday, October 7, 2011

The Stranger

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Existentialism


Existentialism is a philosophy that emphasizes inadequacy of the human condition and alienation in life. They denounce God and organized religion and they believe that they control their own destiny. These beliefs are portrayed through the characters from each story. Mersault from the book, The Stranger, and Luke from the movie, Cool Hand Luke, both live and die by these beliefs. They both have similar feelings and characters; however, they also have subtle differences that set them apart.


As existentialists both Luke and Mersault question the existence of God. In Cool Hand Luke there is a scene in which Luke is in the middle of the road screaming for God to show is might and to strike him down. It of course is raining and he is holding his tools. Once he is not struck down he begins to realize that God is distant and uncaring. It seems if Luke uses this opportunity to test if God really exists. It seems at one point in his life he believed in God but once he comes upon some bad luck he questions his faith. Similarly, Mersault also questions his faith. In part two chapter one as the magistrate is talking to Mersault he pulls out a silver cross. The magistrate then asks him if he believes in God. Mersault, of course, says no. He thinks that God has done nothing for him and that it is meaningless to dwell on that fact. It seems if Mersault is extremely apathetic. If he has to go out of his way or if something is in an inconvenience he does not want any part of it. The denouncing of God or the disbelief in religion ties the two characters together in an existentialist way.


Each character has a different relationship with his mother. Mersault, for example, does not care for his mother all that much and decided to put her into a home. Once in that home he never visits her or communicates with her in any way. However, in Cool Hand Luke, Luke visited with his mom at the prison. She told him he was her favorite and that she really cared for him. Each characters relationship with their mother I think showed how they interacted with people. Luke seemed more talkative where as Mersault seemed shy and reclusive.


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The characters indifference towards life also plays a major role in their disbelief of a God. For example, Mersault showed very little emotion at his mother’s funeral. When asked if he wanted to see his mother one last time before they screwed the top of the coffin he said no. Without shedding a tear or looking at his mother one last time shows how apathetic this man really is. Luke also shows indifference but in a different way. In one scene Luke eats fifty eggs. This utter disregard for his well being just to past time shows how much he truly does not care. This apathetic behavior sets the tone for both the book and the movie.


Women play a significant role in both of these characters lives. Mersault has a girlfriend named Marie. Marie is always asking Mersault to marry her and to settle down. He never gives her a straight answer or says he does not see the point in getting married. Luke sees women differently. He notices that Lucille is trying to entice the other guys. The other prisoners do not seem to get what she is doing to them. Luke seems to understand women better and that might be a reason why he has a better relationship with his mother than Mersault does.


The beliefs of an existentialist are complicated and make reality seem harsh. The characters in both The Stranger and Cool Hand Luke lived these ideals to the fullest. However, all it brought them was an early death.





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