by Albert Camus
The Stranger Philosophical Viewpoints: The Absurd Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Part.Chapter.Paragraph). We used Matthew Ward's translation, published by Vintage International published in 1989.
"I know that at one time or another you’ve wished for another life." I said of course I had, but it didn’t mean any more than wishing to be rich, to be able to swim faster, or to have a more nicely shaped mouth. It was all the same. (2.5.23)
The chaplain is looking for some sign of remorse, but the best Meursault can come up with is that wishing he didn’t kill the Arab is no different than wishing for a nice six-pack.
Then, I don’t know why, but something inside me snapped. I started yelling at the top of my lungs, and I insulted him and told him not to waste his prayers on me. I grabbed him by the collar of his cassock. I was pouring out on him everything that was in my heart […]. He seemed so certain about everything, didn’t he? And yet none of his certainties was worth one hair of a woman’s head. He wasn’t even sure he was alive, because he was living like a dead man […]. But 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. (2.5.25)
Look at the differences here: the chaplain cannot escape death, yet Meursault accepts death; the chaplain lives for the afterlife, yet Meursault has lived his life in the present; the chaplain’s world is meaningless without Christianity, but Meursault has no such reliance on anything external.
Nothing, nothing mattered, and I knew why […] what did other people’s deaths or a mother’s love matter to me; what did his God or the lives people choose or the fate they think they elect matter to me when we’re all elected by the same fate, me and billions of privileged people like him […]? Couldn’t he see, couldn’t he see that? Everybody was privileged. There were only privileged people. The others would all be condemned one day. And he would be condemned, too. What would it matter if he were accused of murder and then executed because he didn’t cry at his mother’s funeral? Salamano’s dog was worth just as much as his wife. (2.5.25)
Okay, we’re good with the claim that all men are equal—but then Meursault pushes it one step further: he says Salamano’s dog was worth just as much as his wife. Hold up. This seems shocking at first, but not when you look at the reason for Meursault’s initial claim that people are all equal: they’re all going to die. Well, so are dogs. So the life of a man can’t be more privileged than the life of a dog (or an amoeba, actually), since all are made equal by death.