Personal Motive Vs. Societal Influences: The Powerful Role Played By Society In "Crime And Punishment" And "The Stranger"

1550 words - 7 pages

PERSONAL MOTIVE vs. SOCIETAL INFLUENCESBourgeois society enslaves one such that any attempt to transcend the induced limitations results in self-destruction. In The Stranger by Albert Camus, Meursault's lack of a local cause, motivation, and personal means of justification for his crime offers the possibility of such an outside force pulling him towards the direction of wrongdoing. Raskolnikov of Fyodor Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment contrasts himself with Meursault in that he continually wrangles with himself over the motivation of his crime. On the other hand, Raskolnikov is also unable to find a plausible explanation, hence opening the door to other likely reasons. In both novels, one ...view middle of the document...

But, Camus also presents a realistic individual that possibly lived at the time the novel was written. In the 1940's, Algeria was occupied by the French, which naturally resulted in their feelings of superiority to the Arabs. Arabs were considered a lower class of citizens than the French Algerians. Raymond and Mersault therefore occupied a higher place in society than the Arabs. With a lack of a personal motivation, Mersault proves to be a victim of this imperialistic ideal. The Arab is described as being in "greasy overalls"(Camus, 55), "backing away, slipping behind the rock"(Camus, 56) like prey being chased away by a mightier predator, and having "shadows on his face" (Camus, 58) as a darker, lesser entity would. This is no valid cause for murder.When trying to find a credible cause or justification for Meursault's final punishment, the reader also uncovers society as a major influencer. Mersault's own justification for committing the crime illustrates that he shoots an Arab on the beach without explicit reason or motivation. He says that "it was because of the sun"(Camus, 103) and that he had a headache, thus failing to provide a substantial motive that satisfies the likes of a typical society which yearns for something concrete, believable, and simply suiting what they already have in mind. Therefore, Mersault is condemned to die not as much for the crime itself as for his refusal to accept the standards of social behavior placed by the French society. When his lawyer tries to find a credible explanation to fit Mersault, he suggests that Meursault should argue that he was upset by his mother's death and in a state of shock, but Meursault refuses to hold this lie. Meursault, the man of indifference and 'disordered' reasoning, refuses the binds of the typical society and clings to the truth as he sees it, not as society wishes it. His lawyer only continues searching for fitting answers. "Why...why...why???" is all that he can say. Furthermore, Mersault does not fathom the magistrate, whom he thinks is "wrong to dwell on [the cause], because it really didn't matter"(Camus, 69), proving that society must find rational reasoning in everything. One sees that Mersault does not look upon the event as an average person of society might, by finding an interpretation that makes the event seem less irrational, but instead Meursault keeps the status of the murder as unexplainable. Hence, the form of judgment that the jury uses conveys the power that society holds over an individual's life. Because they are unable to fit Mersault neatly and systematically into a group and they find his mind incomprehensible (a great discomfort to the average person's mind), society is forced to set him aside, resulting in their handling his case in a negative sense. Yes, he is guilty of murder and deserves some punishment, but the fact that he killed a man continues to appear to have little impact on his sentence. Camus highlights the mechanical ways in which society...

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