Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Two E-mails by Two Students

The TWO following extracts are from TWO mails sent by Susan (first one) and Maisha (second one). I have also included a short commentary at the end of the second one. 

1.      I read all the blog post from August 2014 and I have to say the amount of work they finished by this time back then is almost unimaginable. A feeling of hopelessness consumed me but I believe if they can do it so can I. Some of the students have shared their tactics of work i.e. multitasking or reading 8 or even 9 books at once. Sounds impossible but they did it anyway. I think that is the mentality we should all be working with, making the impossible possible. I am currently reading paper boys. I plan on working on Sea of poppies, my Antonia, Ancient Greece and Wuthering Heights. You will be receiving all reports on them. I will work on my report writing skills and involve myself more into them instead of writing about the text only. I am also working on the ‘why major essay’, you will be receiving my first draft by today.

2.      An assessment of The Stranger: Reading is taking me far longer than I had expected. I am making slow progress with Stranger and thus, am going to write a short (quite overdue) report on it. 

From the beginning the writer paints the scene with a stark lack of emotion, a most harsh pragmatism, that lingers throughout the book. The first paragraph shocks, but locks you down too. How could someone talk in such a matter-of-fact tone about his mother's death? The date of the death would be a matter of minor concern for most of us, as we would be overwhelmed by the news of the death itself. It was shocking, but it kept me reading. I pondered what that imparted about my character for a little, but it was time to get on with the book. 
Meursault does not unfold as the book continues. The writer shows his love of simplicity and uses only black and white to paint his protagonist. The simplicity is what makes the character so brilliant. The reader is consistently in awe of how indifferent the man is to emotions. Through the crisp simplicity the writer beckons the reader to delve deeper; surely there must be some cause for this disturbing behavior? We plow through the book searching for a clue to the mystery. We see streaks of grey in the black and white when we see Meursault's tendency to often guilty and apologetic; especially about his mother's death. This only inspires us further to investigate the source of this strange cocktail of emotions; guilt and indifference. Did he not want to see his mother's face to avoid the onslaught of even more guilt? The old man at the night vigil adds further mystery. Did he know something we did not? We had to find out. 

As the story progresses we see a lustful side of him; a spark of emotion perhaps? Camus disappoints again. Meursault feels lust devoid of any emotions. Marriage and love mean little to him and he is as blunt as a hammer when he expresses that to Marie. Though everyone else is appalled by Salamano's behavior towards his dog, Meursault is not the least bit ruffled. When Raymond asks him for help to violently punish his mistress, Meursault unflinchingly complies. Just as he uses only one room in his apartment, he seems to use only one room in his brain; that of logic. All the other rooms sealed shut and if an emotion tries to escape, it is beat down and silenced. Meursault relishes this, perhaps because he feels in control of the situation in this way. He feels most uncomfortable in situations which make him vulnerable to emotions e.g. his mother's funeral. As a result, he loves to be alone and knows how to keep himself entertained, as we see when he spends hours looking out his balcony or when he goes to prison and efficiently avoids the insanity that isolation incites by thinking of something as mundane as his room. Or is he insane already? 

Another underlying theme is patriarchy. It is present in the main character Meursault, who only looks to women as objects of pleasure and has no feelings to spare for them. It is also portrayed through Marie, who loves Meursault dearly even though he treats her like she is worthless. But it is most apparent in the way Raymond treats his mistress. It is apparent in the way that he feels it is right to beat her until he draws blood from her body because he suspects that she has committed theft. It is apparent in the way Meursault does not need convincing when Raymond asks for his help. It is even more apparent when the police let Raymond off with a simple warning. It is safe to say that  had this happened in a country such as France today, Raymond would get much more than a warning. It stands to show how far feminism has progressed. (This underlined part is quite debatable. I have a lot of things to say against the conclusions made here.) 

There is a disturbing lack of emotion that Meursault has towards killing. In an irrational move, he takes a life and makes sure he takes it (he fires four more shots into the body) and he finds no need to justify it. Even though his lawyer and the judge struggle to justify it for him, to make sense of his actions, he feels no need to give the killing any substance. He describes his act as "simple". The lack of justification jolts the reader as it goes completely against society's struggle to bring order to chaos. It opens up quite a frightening part of Meursalt to us. 

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