Sartre majorly talks about the concept of freedom in his works and states

Sartre majorly talks about the concept of freedom in his works and states, “we are free because we are not a self (an in-itself) but a presence to-self. This implies that we are ‘other’ to ourselves” (Existentialism, 2009). This inner indifference or distance forms the freedom- the definition of an individual and Sartre believes that along with this freedom, comes the responsibility over an individual of his actions and decisions but the ignorance of that responsibility results in alienation. He states, “We ourselves are responsible for our world and our choices. But when we refuse this responsibility, ‘alienation’ happens”. (Existentialism, 2009) Sartre believes that when an individual becomes ignorant of his responsibilities being a free man of free will, then alienation occurs. Sartre in Notebooks for an Ethics mentions that, “one aspect of alienation is ignorance…is a finite but not limited positively, my freedom is still completely there” (Sartre, 294) Robert Tally, also explains the condition of alienation in an individual through his article, where he states that alienation is, “a condition of being estranged from someone or something…alienation refers to a person’s psychological withdrawal from society”. He further explains the theme of alienation in the sense that, “the alienated individual is isolated from other people…alienation has an additional sense of separating the individual from his or herself, a fragmentation of one’s self through work” (Robert T. Tally, 2)
Sartre believes that alienation is not the oppression, rather it is the dominance of the other on an individual, which dominates the inner self of an individual and forces the individual to see its reflection in the other, which makes an individual objectified and he returns to the society in a state of alienation and stay in isolation. Sartre states, “It is the predominance of the other in the pair other …return to their promoters as alienated and alienating” and believes that, “the alienated person is also completely outside of alienation…is also alienated in the mode of having to be so, wholly in his ideas and wholly outside of them” (Sartre, 1992: 413)
Camus, on the other hand, gives the concept of absurd. His most philosophical essay, Myth of Sisyphus, majorly explains his philosophy of absurd in detail but this essay was published much later than his novel The Stranger, where he depicts the state of absurd in an individual’s life, or the absurd existence of an individual. The reason of publishing the novel first could be in order to make public understand the feeling of absurdity, before the prior understanding, facts and explanation and of the philosophy of ‘absurd’. He desired that man should become disoriented or divorced from the reality they know and must understand and recognise that the reality means that you as living being exist and the death is approaching, which is inevitable. According to Camus, these are the only abstractions and truths, which do not exist now. A man should extinguish all his goals, hopes and longings. In the feeling of absurd, the meaning of the life of an individual becomes opaque and the significance of his life vanishes. Man is only left with his life, universe and death.
Camus in order to explain the absurdity of life, first raises the question in Myth of Sisyphus, whether life if worth living or not, as all other questions are secondary about life in front of this fundamental question. So in order to understand, he tries to explore, “what is the meaning of life?” (Camus, 1942: 4). But before he answers his own question, he assumes a situation, that a man does not have any meaning in his life, therefore he consider suicide because he states, “killing yourself amounts to confessing that … life is not worth the trouble” (5). Camus introduces the concept of Absurd as a person who suddenly feels lack of illusion and light in his life and becomes alien or strange to himself and the things around him. When he becomes strange or alien to his daily routine surroundings, like Roquentin (Nausea). As Jean-Paul Sartre’s concept of ‘nausea’ in Nausea is also seen as Camus’ concept of absurd. Camus believes that a man only becomes conscious of his meaningless existence when he recognizes the absurd, the strangeness, the feeling of being alien in familiar surroundings or to familiar things. This strangeness generally occurs when man becomes tired, mentally and physically, and starts to recognise the absurd nature of his existence, at odd times and in odd places, when he is not able to find the beauty of nature and the world becomes incoherent and strange.
Camus believes that when man face the absurdities of life, or recognises the absurd, he gets on to the journey of searching the truth. In that journey, he re-evaluates all he know, along with his morals, beliefs and his existence. All these aspects become questionable to him. During his journey of searching the truth, he finds the world full of paradoxes and contradictions, but he continues his journey to find truth because according to Camus, “the mind’s deepest desire…parallels man’s unconscious feeling in the face of his universe: it is an insistence upon familiarity, an appetite for clarity”(17). Man in the most confused and unconscious situation desires to find meaning in his life and in the world.
Camus perfected his philosophy of the absurd during his lifetime and also incorporates the major aspects of existentialism in his works, which present the idea of the Absurd. According to Adele King, the novels are not the medium to preach, but is a medium or a platform, where the grave matters can be handled ‘comically’ and ‘lightly’, so as to be felt distant. Camus’ and Sartre’s works emphasise man’s freedom and freedom where no bad or good choices are made. Adele King states, “Man’s desires conflict with the indifference of the universe” (56) and Sartre states that, the absurdity “is the split between man’s search for unity and the conflict between mind and nature and the split between man’s affinity with infinity and the finite character of his existence” (109). When discussing about the Absurd, it deals with the truth, chance, death, beauty of nature, unintelligibility of reality and revolt, all of which characteristics are precisely apparent in Nausea, The Stranger and The Fall.
The protagonists of the selected novels, use simple dialogue in the beginning and does not jump on to the idea to find meaning and purpose in their life. Both the writers present the protagonist in the light of a very simple day to day life or situation, which can easily be understood by people and can relate to it, as no such transcendence happens neither were readers confused by the emotions, sentiments or reflections of the protagonist, nor the objectives were set or the intentions discussed. Suddenly the abrupt change or realisation of the protagonist projects the concept of absurd of Camus as in The Stranger, Camus wanted the readers to come to the conclusion about the absurd existence of man in the novel. Sartre states beautify about Camus’ world of Absurd in The Stranger as, “The stranger, a work detached from a life, unjustified and unjustifiable…And that is how we must accept it, as a brief communion between two…the author and the reader, beyond reason, in the realm of the absurd” (Sartre, 1962: 112).
Camus’ style in his novels represents the idea of glass wall, which helps to separate the character and the reader. Though the wall is transparent and the characteristics of the characters are projected clearly, but it does not reach to the meaning of the actions. In other words, glass wall is considered to be the mind of the protagonist, which is clear to its thoughts but not to the meaning, therefore the novels are just the chronological order of events which does not entail any significance or meaning to the actions or the events. Sartre states that, “The events are just linked in time, in a chronological order.” (Sartre 118), as the events given by the protagonist in the novel, be it Nausea, where protagonist keeps a diary, or The Stranger, where protagonist is recalling the events from the cell or the prison have no meaning but the events are chronologically set. Even Camus tries to project the reality of absurd in an individual’s life and in the universe through the idea of glass wall.
In The Stranger, the protagonist represents how the individual deals with the absurd life in daily routine. Meursault stops hoping and accepts the life with honesty at the end of the novel, where he desires to live “life all over again” (Camus, 1989: 154). He accepts the reality of the absurd world and the inevitability of death, he hopes for no different outcome from his life. He tries to be happy and content to his life because at the end he realizes that there can be no change in the inevitable truth, i.e., death. He states in the novel that, “all alike would be condemned to die one day” (152), therefore, he remains at distance with people and also indifferent towards the emotions and sentiments, which the society fails to understand and trials him on that basis. He throughout the novel just narrates his life events without any emotions or sentiments and Adele King states that Meursault “defends the life he has led, a life with no transcendent value” (Adele, 47). He at last accepts all the absurdities of life and the inevitable truth of living and therefore he finds peace in what all will come in future.
Meursault’s way of living a life is rare and a bit different from many because like many other people he does not strive for the economic or social ambitions which makes a man assume to better himself and signify a meaningful existence. In the end, when he reconciles with himself, his moral and beliefs comes in light that the life for him is not worth living and the dying is inevitable, therefore he claims that, “I was sure of myself, sure about everything, far surer than he; sure of my present life and of the death that was coming” (Camus, 1989: 151). Sartre rightly claims for Meursault that “He exists; we don’t understand or judge him. He lives and that’s all” (Sartre, 1962: 114).
The Stranger contains a lot of symbolism from Camus’ Myth of Sisyphus. The mythical character, Sisyphus’ punishment of endless futile work of rolling up the rock to the mountain and its tossing back to the ground is compared with the days of Meursault in prison. He confesses that all his days in prison are same since day one. Sisyphus’ punishment and his futile work is Meursault’s life in general. The low life of an individual and his existence in world is followed with the unsympathetic universe. With the help of Meursault, Camus tries to project that an individual in this universe tries to find and search for purpose and meaning, to find truth, peace and happiness in his life. Meursault is seen as an enemy to the society because of his rebellion attitude and the universe is also seem to be against him but still he tries to attain the harmony between him and the universe, as he accepts his daily routine, values the things he lost in prison and accepted death as well. He found his happiness by accepting the absurdities of life and found a new meaning and purpose to live his life all over again.
The novel has two major parts, first part is the beginning of the novel till the murder of the Arab and the second part of the novel consists of Meursault’s trial and his imprisonment. The views of Meursault in first part of the novel are seen differently in the second part of the novel. These views are generally based on the time and the world outside. At first when he was free, he experienced everything, went for swimming, movies, work in office, go out with Raymond, but he could not find satisfaction and was not able to appreciate the beauty of nature. He remained emotionally indifferent towards people and his mother. Whereas, during his imprisonment, at first he was unsatisfied and the visits of Marie were sterile for him and the days spent in cell seems to be totally same for him, but slowly he tried to understand the absurdities of life and started accepting the things. The search for truth came to some meaning when he understood that death is inevitable and has to be faced by everyone living in this world. Then he understood the value of all what he has lived throughout his life and the importance of the things he miss now in prison. With the acceptance of the reality, he also found a sense of happiness and peace at his heart.