For Sartre

For Sartre, man is a subjective being, who is capable of living his life without society and this stance is seen in the characterization of Roquentin in Nausea. Within this stance, Camus’ characters also show the courage to live the life in isolation, where the character does not need the help of the society to survive in the world.. Meursault (The Stranger), like Roquentin (Nausea), is a character that can live in isolation unlike other people, who try to find meaning or purpose of their lives by depending upon others. Though Meursault, like Roquentin had a girlfriend and relied on her, but for a short period of time. Meursault is emotionally indifferent character from others. He keeps himself isolated and alienated from the society and believes to do things according to his own will in his own particular way, instead of confining to the rules and ways of the society. This nature of Meursault puts himself in difficult situations at different times, which embarrasses him for a moment but subsequently takes the responsibility of his actions and choices for the unique progression.
He depicted Sartre’s discussion over men’s happiness and unhappiness, or the ethical problems, intellectual confusion, search for meaning and purpose in life in his literary works. Even the title of the novel, Nausea, depicts a lot about his intention in the novel, as he defines the meaning of nausea or the condition of being in nausea through his philosophical work Being and Nothingness. Here he describes that nausea helps a ‘being-for-itself’ or consciousness to discover the contingency. As Sartre states, “A dull and inescapable nausea perpetually reveals my body to my consciousness.” (Sartre, 1943: 338)
Roquentin (Nausea) realises that he in particular and being in general are unwanted, i.e., the existence of a being in general is unjustifiable and superfluous. He knows and is conscious of his existence and of the fact that he is an existent being, but the purpose of existing and meaning in life is not defined, or is superfluous, i.e., he cannot help but remain struggling with the idea that he cannot overcome the superfluity and contingence of existence. Roquentin (Nausea), explains his views regarding the existence of being-in-itself by stating that, “We were a heap of living creatures, irritated, embarrassed at ourselves we hadn’t the slightest reason to be there… Even my death would have been de trap. De trap, my corpse, my blood on these stones, between these plants at the back …” (Sartre, 2000:184)
Camus also believes like Sartre, that the individual is not a stone, i.e., ‘being-in-itself’, which is not conscious of itself but has its essence or the characteristics, which are unchangeable. To the contrary, individual is ‘being-for-itself’, an ongoing procedure, who is conscious of itself but does not have a defined essence. It is a continuous process because he keeps on discovering something about himself, which helps him develop his essence and define himself. Within this process the individual also makes use of freedom to make choices and decisions and later take the responsibility of his actions. In this manner, Meursault (The Stranger), has the ability to take decisions throughout the novel, use freedom to act the way he wants rather than the way society wishes an individual to be. Though he feels embarrassed at certain points but he does not take recourse to what the society accepts. Whereas, on the other hand, Clamence, (The Fall), first takes the refuge in being-for-others, but later in the novel, he reaches to the stage of realisation and moves towards the path of recovery, where he realises his mistakes and works upon to decrease the burden of it by confessing his mistakes and becoming justice penitent.
According to Camus, when an individual is on the journey to find the truth, search for clarity in the meaning of existence, he generally reduces the understanding of the universe within the limits of his thoughts, which he can assimilate. The thoughts like, “I know this to be true,” “I understand this,” and “I can feel … I can touch this” (Camus, 1942: 6) becomes less clear than what he realise. In The Stranger, the basic theme is the existential philosophy- which according to Camus has the assumption that God is absent and therefore there is no divine purpose behind the human life or afterlife. Humans think that they share the existence with the lower creatures and his ability to think and reason makes them apart from that of other lower creatures because of their consciousness. According to Camus, many human beings automatically work, being blind to the absurdity of their lives or meaningless existence but there are others who understand and experience the awakening to absurdity and realises the meaninglessness of life. Camus believes that the awakening of human to the absurdity of life can lead him in two directions. Either the human leads to suicide or to recovery. But both the actions need or involve decision-making. One who is lead towards the direction of suicide, according to Camus, is because he feels that, “killing yourself amounts to confessing that … life is not worth the trouble” (Camus, 1942: 5) and also recognises that, “the absence of any profound reason for living, the insane character of that daily agitation, and the uselessness of suffering”( Camus, 1942: 6), whereas, the one who realises the absurdity of life and accepts the life in that situation, leads to recovery, where he looks at death from near and understands that death is an inevitable thing and an inseparable truth of human existence and it is to be shared by all at some point of the life. This aspect ironically gives the individual a purpose to live life with love and compassion.
During this journey, Camus states that the individual has to face a lot of contradictions because of which he gets demotivated and realises that he is certain and aware of nothing and in the midst of it, he finds no truth. This is where, the man becomes strange to himself and to the familiar things around him, he gets crushed in the feeling of being sure of nothing and unable to logically give assurance for his feeling. Therefore, he recognises life as a futile cycle of knowing nothing and being strange to everything. Roquentin (Nausea) feels the same, alienated from the society and people and this alienation arises when the things and objects around him become strange and he cannot relate to them, which gives rise to the condition of ‘nausea’. Roquentin states, “Then the nausea seized me, I dropped to a seat, I no longer knew where I was; I saw the colours spin slowly around me, I wanted to vomit. And since that time, the Nausea has not left me, it holds me” (Sartre, 2000: 33). Generally this happens when the third mode of being comes in existence, i.e., being-for-others. This stance is seen in Roquentin’s words to Adolphe, where he states, “The nausea is not inside me: I feel it out there in the wall, in the suspenders, everywhere around me. It makes itself one with the cafe, I am the one who is within it” (Sartre, 2000: 20)
The ‘look’ of others objectify the subjectivity of the person and in order to hide from the suffering of that condition, the individual falls in bad faith. Sartre explains the development of the concept of ‘bad faith’ in Being and Nothingness. According to Sartre, ‘bad faith’ is where an individual lies to himself. He explains that the people who fall in ‘bad faith’, know that they are lying to hide their reality to temporarily avoid the sufferings because they actually fail to accept the reality, and do not have the capability to separate themselves from the problem or to accept a change. They lack the ability to negate, or to re-interpret their situation; they lack their freedom and transcendence.
Whereas, Meursault (The Stranger), does not fall in ‘bad faith’, when he met the girl Marie immediately after his mother’s funeral and spends some time with her, because he does not wish to act according to the society or to think what is ‘appropriate’ to do according to the society. There are many instances where feels embarrassed but they do not change his perspective. He tackles tough situations in the most existential attitude, like swimming the following day of his mother’s funeral with a girl he just met, or replying reluctantly to the marriage proposal from a girl, who states, “I said it didn’t make any difference to me and that we could if she wanted to.” (Camus, 1989: 76) This shows his lack of compassion because being insensitive in such a situation is embedded in the ideas of an existentialist. He agrees to marry her, not because he wants to but because she wants and it won’t make any difference to him. He does not wish to change his life without any reason because he does not feel that he needs to have something more than what he already has. Therefore, he also refuses the offer from his boss to go to Paris and later regrets because he has upset him. He does not give any rational explanation for refusing the offer except that he already has everything he needs to live the basic standard life.
Sartre explains that in ‘bad faith’, an individual may reject the ambiguous existence of an individual who realise that they are both, ‘being-in–themselves’ and ‘being-for-others’, which will be discussed later in the chapter.. The ‘being-for itself’, i.e., consciousness negates in-itself and rejects the ‘being-for-others’. Sartre believes that because of the ‘look’ of the other, an individual feels that he has lost his subjectivity because the individual starts perceiving himself from the perspective of the other and also over thinks how the other person will perceive his image. As an individual will become an object and will be observed from the point of view of the other and will lose his subjectivity and freedom, then he will have to live according to the set rules, but according to Sartre, a ‘being-for-itself’ has the capability to live a life in isolation, it does not need ‘being-for-others’ and can exist alone.
The question of the ‘other’ is majorly discussed in Heidegger and Sartre’s Being and Time and Being and Nothingness. On the other hand, Camus believes that an individual is in the midst of the world, i.e., the ‘being-in-the-world’. Like Sartre, Camus also believes that the ‘other’, is considered as both a necessity as well as the threat for the being. Clamence (The Fall) also falls in the trap of the other, where he lives in the shadow of the others as a hypocrite, what the society accepts as good. Clamence (The Fall), was a criminal lawyer in the beginning of the novel, where he use to take up the case of the criminals and try to free them of their charges. This made him obsessed with his self, which is not considered as his own self, created by him, through his own decisions, actions and choices, instead it is given by people, as a generous man, lady’s man, noble man, etc. Like Camus’ character, Sartre’s protagonist and other minor characters fall in the shadow of the others. Roquentin, in the beginning, is dependent upon the historical figure, Rollebon, and his ex-girlfriend, Anny, without whom he felt he couldn’t find meaning in his life. Rollebon is the figure over whom he was writing a thesis and wanted at some point to be like him. Anny was also living in ‘bad faith’, which she termed as the perfect moment. The moment she kept on urging till the end of the novel.
Meursault(The Stranger), on the other hand totally ignores the look of the others and thus becomes a stranger or an outsider for the society. Reaching towards the ending, even Meursault for a short while but first time in the novel gets affected by the other during the trial, where he states, “It was then that I noticed a row of faces in front of me. They were all looking at me” (Camus, 1989: 83); and “for the first time in years I had this stupid urge to cry, because I could feel how much all these people hated me . . . and for the first time I realised that I was guilty” (Camus, 1989: 90).
Sartre in Nausea also gives an example of Lucie, a charwoman, who symbolises ‘being-in-itself’ and portrays the sufferings of individuals, who attempts to find meaning and purpose in life by merging with others in the crowd. Her husband has become the major reason for her suffering and because of him she stays in an anguish state. In an encounter, with Lucie, where she was pleading to a man not to leave her in such a state but he walks away, Roquentin recognises her, “it is Lucie, the charwoman.” but, he says, “I dare not offer her my support, but she must be able to call for it if need be: I pass before her slowly, looking at her. Her eyes stare at me but she seems not to see me; she looks as though she were lost in her suffering.” (Sartre, 2000: 44). The protagonist Roquentin shows the ‘being-for-itself’, which represents the nothingness of the pure consciousness, other people in cafe represents ‘being-for-others’, whereas, Lucie represents the inauthentic struggle of being in the middle of both the realities. Though the common grounds of suffering remain the same, but the nothingness of Roquentin goes in negative direction whereas, the sufferings of Lucie take her in the positive direction. Roquentin represents Sartre’s concept of ‘look’, whereas, Lucie and Charles represent Sartre’s ‘sadism-masochism opposition’. Lucie is largely represented as a masochistic and Charles as sadistic. Roquentin through his look, objectifies Lucie, turning her into an object, she stares at him back, but her look is not able to counter Roquentin’s look by her own ‘look’, which makes her a mere object. On the other hand, she becomes largely masochistic, when she calls after Charles, as “Charles, I beg you, you know what I told you? Charles, come back, I’ve had enough, I’m too miserable!” (44), and Charles becomes largely sadistic. Here Lucie is represented as the fusion of ‘being-in-itself’, by being objectified by the look of Roquentin and a sadism-masochism relation with Charles and thus doubly entrapped in the sufferings and despair. On the other hand, Roquentin who was trying to understand and accept the reality of his life does not help Lucie, when he could because he wanted to give Lucie the freedom to make a choice by herself, whether she wants to get the help or wants to bear the suffering so that she does not completely become the object.
Through the above discussion it is clear that it is not an individual’s condition that makes him realise the hell, but the look of the ‘others’. The ideas of Sartre and Camus can be related to each other to some extent, but Camus refuses it by saying that all that links him to the Sartrean group is just a mere coincidence and the result of being in same country at same time in same condition and nothing more. He claims it in an interview in local newspaper, named Diario. Camus in his irritation states that, “It is a serious error to treat…a philosophical research as serious as existentialism…The similarities…come naturally from the chance or the misfortune that we have to live in the same era and in confrontation with common problems and concerns”. (Lottman, 470)
Despite of Camus’ rejection of … he is seen as an existentialist and also deals with the same problems as Sartre does in a little different way through his philosophy of the Absurd. In this connection, Germaine Bee comments, “Camus remained more consistently faithful to Existentialism…than did Sartre with his commitment to doctrinaire Marxism…There was no theorist’s system he Camus wanted to communicate to others. It was of the one-sidedness of doctrinaire ideologies that he was critical”. (Charlesworth, 40)