Friday, November 12, 2010

Short Essay on Existentialism

Essay on Existentialism

Existentialism, belief of creating meaning into one's life, was applied in several parts of this story. Some existentialism aspects such as, living one's life as an example for others to follow, acting irrationally, acting upon what one says, and accepting responsibilities and consequences were clearly presented in The Guest by Albert Camus.

The protagonist, Daru, lived his life "with such poverty, he who lived almost like a monk in his remote schoolhouse, nonetheless satisfied with the little he had and with the rough life" (Pg. 1243). Daru had so little and lived in an austere manner, yet was satisfied with what he had, and took his position to set an example for others to follow. He set his life as a man that "everything happens as if all mankind has its eyes fixed on him and were guiding itself by what he does," and during the poverty in Algeria a non materialistic character was an important value to emulate.

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Next, one existentialism aspect is to act irrationally, and the Arab did so by killing his cousin. Balducci explains that the Arab killed his cousin over the fact that "one owned the other grain." Even though Algeria was going through a paucity of goods and famine, it is illogical for a man to kill his blood for grain. The Arab also substantiates an irrational answer by giving the excuse of "He ran away. I ran after him." The Arab's reason is just as absurd as when Mearsault killed a man because he claimed that the sun was in his eyes. To act irrationally is an existentialist value, and the Arab presents this quality when he is asked why he killed his cousin.

Another characteristic of an existentialist is to act upon what one says or believes. Balducci's task was to order Daru to bring the Arab to the prison, however, Daru responds, "Repeat to them what I've said to you: I wont hand him over." Until the very end, Daru sticks to his word. He didn't hand over the Arab, but instead let the Arab to choose his destination. Daru is aware of the fact that "towns sprang up, flourished, then disappeared; men came by, loved one another or fought bitterly, then died. No one in the desert, neither he nor his guest mattered," in other words, he believes that human life is meaningless; his life, the Arab's life, or any other man's life does not matter. This trait is also existentialism. Weather the Arab killed a man, loved a man, Daru lets him free, or puts him in jail, it doesn't mean anything because human life is meaningless, and that's why Daru will not decide the Arab's fate, and sticks to his word to the very end.

By allowing the Arab to choose his fate, which he chose to go to prison, it proves the Arab to be existentialist to accept his responsibilities and consequences. The Arab had several opportunities to escape Daru's house. During the night, the Arab had a chance to escape Daru's house, and later the characters of the book comment on how “the Arab, had dared to kill and not managed to get away," (pg. 1251) indicating that he could have escaped if he desired to do so. However, the Arab chose not to escape, but to accept what he did. Once left on the hill to choose his destiny, Daru saw "the Arab walking slowly on the road to prison." (pg. 1252) By choosing to go to prison, he has accepted his actions and was accepting the consequences.

The ending of this story is very similar to The Stranger. Mearsault, an existentialist, acted upon what he believed, and yet was censured by the society and killed. Similarly, Daru believed the Arab should pick his destination even though he was criticized by Berducci, and was later misunderstood by the Arab's brothers, which the readers can predict would hurt Daru. Throughout the story when Daru was living his life as an example for others, the Arab giving an irrational excuse for killing a man, Daru sticking to his word and acting on it, and the Arab accepting his responsibilities and consequences are all strong, supportive evidence of existentialist qualities.

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