Discuss the last sentence of The Stranger: "I had only to wish that there be a large crowd of spectators the day of my execution and that they greet me with cries of hate." Why does Meursault wish for a crowd of angry spectators to appear at his execution? What is the impact of the ending?
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The Stranger ends with Meursault's refusal to renounce his actions, his refsual to show remorse for killing the Arab or for not crying at his mother's funeral. Instead, he hopes for an angry mob to jeer at his beheading. He says that no one had the right to cry over his mother's death because she was ready to live her life all over again. The same it is with him. So, instead of tears, Mersault and Camus want us to show anger in the face of death.
One of Camus' earlier essays, "The Myth of Sisyphus" shows this same hatred for death. There, Sisyphus cheated Death and lived two lives. Rather than be buried, he again enjoyed the sun and ocean by his wife's side. But Death caught up to him a second time and, as punishment, made him forever roll a rock up a hill, only to have it roll back down. But, Sisyphus accepted his punishment. An eternity of useless labor was a small price to pay for seeing one's wife, the sun, and the ocean again after death. In the end, Sisyphus would have done it all over again, punishment and all.
Like Sisyphus, Merusault is an absurd hero who:
- Loves life
- Hates death
- Scorns the gods
First, Meursault loves life: he loves the beach, water, sun, and sex. He has no regrets; he lives with total freedom. Like Maman and Sisyphus, he would live his life all over again, without changing a thing. He would not cry at Maman's funeral; he would shoot the Arab; and he would refuse to feel guilt for either.
Secondly, Meursault hates death. This is why he doesn't want to see his mother. This is why he doesn't cry at her funeral. He hates those who sit up all night and cry and torture themselves for another's death. The culture of mourning is absurd to Merusault, and so he becomes angry at the old people and Thomas Perez for feeling such blathering guilt. Instead, they should all love the sun, water, and each other rather than following a hearse around until they faint.
Thirdly, Meursault scorns the gods: at the rest home, at work, in prison, at the church. He resents all forms of authority that take away one's freedom by prescribing behavior which says one must cry at a funeral; one must live to work; one much believe in God, etc... All of these institutions limit choice and freedom of the individual.
So, Merusault and Camus want us to be angry at his death, not angry at him for killing the Arab, but angry at the entire culture of death: the death penalty, the funeral homes, the churches, the prisons, the judicial systems, any institution that makes a living off of death. As readers, we too are in that angry mob greeting him with cries at hate. For he is our absurd hero.
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