Professor Boggs – Comp. & Lit. March 9, 2004Emotion Under the Hard ShellWhether or not God exists is a thought that millions of people pondereach day. Is there an after life? What happens when I die? In the end ofthe Stranger, Meursault meets a chaplain in his jail cell.
The chaplaintries to get Meursault to believe in God and develop some sort of faithbefore he dies. However, Meursault won’t listen to him and thinks hisbeliefs aren’t worth crap, “He seemed so certain about everything, didn’the? And yet none of his certainties was worth one hair of a woman’s head”(120). Meursault does not believe in God at all, and that’s the reason forhis anger and frustration with the chaplain. He only has a few days beforehe dies, and the last thing he wants to listen to a priest preach to himabout believing in God and developing faith. As Meursault speaks to the chaplain, he is angry because the chaplainmakes him feel as if he is at loss for something; as if his life inincomplete because he doesn’t believe in God, “. .Order now
. as if I was the one who’dcome up emptyhanded” (120). Meursault can’t stand listening to thechaplain talk to him about this because he believes that he is hardly theone at loss. Meursault is certain about his life, about the decisions he’smade, and about his inevitable death. Regardless of the fact that what hislife is made of is somewhat feeble, he still knows exactly what his lifeis, “Yes, that was all I had. But at least I had as much of a hold on itas it had on me” (120-121).
What has happened in Meursault’s life isdefinite and he has no doubts about his life. However, all the certaintiesand beliefs that the chaplain claims he has are intangible. These areblind beliefs that no one can prove are true, and as a result these beliefsare worthless in Meursault’s eyes. He cannot believe in something he can’tsee because that will drive him nuts.
He doesn’t have the heart or mindsetto have faith in God. I believe that Meursault uses the comparison to “asingle hair on a woman’s head” because he is saying that he wouldn’t tradea single moment with Marie for all the faith in the world. He thinks faithis a lame concept because it is something that doesn’t even exist in thereal world. As the chaplain continues to speak to Meursault, attempting to helphim, he gets shut down. Meursault is stubborn and rejects every word outof the chaplain’s mouth. The chaplain tries to convince Meursault thathuman justice does not matter and that divine justice is was what reallymatters.
Meursault once again denies the chaplain by telling him that hedoes not know what divine justice is. Divine justice is nothing but afigment of the chaplain’s imagination to Meursault. All of the chaplain’sattempts are futile as Meursault refuses to believe that anything willhappen to him after he dies. Why does Meursault refuse to believe thatthere in an afterlife or a God? I believe that in Meursault’s mind, hecannot see God or some sort of higher being, therefore one must not exist. The fact of believing in something that you cannot see, hear, or touch is ascary concept.
People have trouble everyday believing in a higher beingbecause there is no physical evidence that one exists. You never see God,you never hear God, and you never touch God in your lifetime on Earth. Meursault is afraid of believing in God because he cannot see him. Although portrayed to be somewhat of a tough man, I really think thatMeursault is scared. He is scared of commitment, scared of emotion, andscared of faith. Faith is a scary concept because you can never prove it,and with a character like Meursault, faith is probably frightening.
That’sthe reason that Meursault suddenly starts yelling at the chaplain in hisjail cell:”Then, I don’t know why, but something inside me snapped. I startedyelling at the top of my lungs, and I insulted him and told him not towaste 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, cries ofanger and cries of joy” (120).
Meursault hates the fact that the chaplain is so certain of all his beliefsbecause he knows that doesn’t have the capability to do the same. He findscertainty in what he has done and what has happened in his life andbelieving in God would lead to uncertainty and confusion for Meursault, anduncertainty is something Meursault cannot handle. I think that Meursault is truly a weak character under that hard shellhe portrays himself to have. He cannot commit to Marie because he does notfeel true love and it may even scare him.
In addition, Meursault can’teven cry at his own mother’s funeral. He acts as if her death meansnothing to him, which I don’t believe is true at all. I don’t think thatMeursault is this emotionless character that he shows himself to be. Heonce had feelings and morals, but he has numbed them because he can’thandle all the pain and anguish that comes with life. I know thatMeursault is just like every other character with emotions and feelings inthe book because in the end of The Stranger I see his true character comeout, “.
. . for the first time, in that night alive with signs and stars, Iopened myself to the gentle indifference of the world” (122). Meursaultopens up and that numbed emotionless heart of his is revealed. Meursaultis finally able to feel pain, happiness and every other emotion that heused to see every day through his neighbors in his apartment building.