In The Stranger, how does death symbolize both modernism and absurdism?

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In Camus's The Stranger, the main character witnesses death firsthand and grapples with the meaning of life. He confronts his own existence and the distance he feels from other people, and he slowly spirals out of control.

In this work, death is related directly to the concepts of modernism...

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In Camus's The Stranger, the main character witnesses death firsthand and grapples with the meaning of life. He confronts his own existence and the distance he feels from other people, and he slowly spirals out of control.

In this work, death is related directly to the concepts of modernism and absurdism through how Meursault deals with the philosophy of life in the story. Modernism is a philosophy that breaks from traditional views of religion and morality, and absurdism is the belief that life and existence are inherently meaningless. Meursault comes to the realization in the novel that there is no point to the actions we take in this life, because, ultimately, we all die and decay. His despair laments the impermanence of human existence and mourns his belief that there is nothing after death, even for the morally superior. As a result, Meursault realizes there is nothing to be gained but to pursue pleasure and contribute to the chaos of life.

Death is a representation of this because it is the true end from a modernist perspective (there is no life after death according to that philosophy), and being such a definite end, life itself is meaningless (according to absurdist philosophy).

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Modernism refers to a classification of art that made a point of consciously rethinking the very fundamentals of both structure and themes. It introduced new narrative techniques like stream-of-consciousness and themes that challenged the mores of society and the dogma of religion. Absurdism is like existentialism in declaring that life not only has no objective meaning but is also a completely futile exercise in trying to find meaning. Meaning is something that is created by each individual in their struggle against the inevitability of non-existence.

In The Stranger, modernism is at work with regard to death in the way Camus uses the first-person perspective of the lead character, Meursault. There is no huge emotional production regarding his narrative after his mother dies. Indeed, he thinks and talks about anything but her death. It's striking because opening the book with the line "Mother died today" would seem to open up an emotional floodgate, but instead, Mersault's response is entirely matter-of-fact. Meursault even thinks that he should probably have some kind of feeling about his mother's death, but he instead is only interested in physical pleasures: smoking, eating, drinking, and sex. That the protagonist of this novel is completely indifferent to others, even to their deaths, is another aspect of its modernism.

It's an absurdist novel in a very precise way: Meursault does not achieve true enlightenment until he acknowledges that there is a material difference between life and death and accepts that his impending death will bring about non-existence. The key quote here is as follows:

I was sure about me, about everything, surer than he could ever be, sure of my life and sure of the death I had waiting for me. Yes, that was all I had. But at least I had as much of a hold on it as it had on me.

There is no comfort against death: not religion, not material pleasures. Death is the only certainty, and our lives must be lived with full awareness of this struggle and the fact that we cannot overcome it. Only in accepting this for himself does he understand the implications of the death of his mother and the man that he killed; his detachment toward others doesn't end until he realizes that it is the inevitability and impassivity of death ("the gentle indifference of the world") that gives us meaning.

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