Albert Camus created Meursault as the protagonist of The Outsider in order to illustrate the condemnation of a character who refuses to lie even to save himself.
Likewise, Jean Anouilh creates Antigone as a classic hero who also refuses to lie, but Meursault of The Outsider and the main character Antigone of Antigone are extremely different characters living in very different societies. However, each made the courageous choice to follow their unique and apparent non-conformist set of beliefs, thereby presenting an unwanted challenge to their repressive societies, and ultimately resulting in their heroic deaths.In order to effectively reveal that nonconformity is unacceptable in society, Camus creates an ordeal that Meursault must overcome. Thus, Camus demonstrates the reality of society’s outrageous condemnation of those who refuse to conform. Unlike Antigone whose set of morals and beliefs are apparent through her actions at the beginning of the play, Meursault appears to be a degenerate person at the beginning of The Outsider.
He does not grieve at his mother’s funeral, smokes a cigarette and drinks coffee beside her coffin, and sleeps with a new girlfriend the day of her funeral, he does not express any condemnation towards the way that Salamano treats his dog, or the way that Raymond treats his mistress. Society sees these actions as abnormally degenerate it is announced that he has ‘no place in a society whose fundamental rules [he] ignored,’1 and he is therefore condemned for his failure to conform. Meursault is sentenced to death for not believing in god, and for his failure to act depressed at his mother’s funeral.Hence, Camus provides the reader with a basis that is fundamental to understanding the everlasting conflict between the individual and a society whose ultimate desire is conformity. In order to prove how important conformity is to society, Camus sets up the trial so that Meursault, the defiant individual, must fight against the church and the state not to play the game of conformity. Meursault refuses lie and explain why he killed the Arab even to save his own life, but the readers remain unsure as to why.Hence, Meursault’s very action ‘threatens to engulf’2 a carefully structured society, and society feels the need to eliminate him. By refusing to lie to justify murdering the Arab, Meursault rejects the social norm of fighting for one’s life no matter what it takes.
He abolishes the opportunity to continue living, much like Antigone who, much more vigorously, rejects the social norm by declining to be the typical passive women of her time. Thus, Camus uses the trial as a means to illustrate the discontent that nonconformists like Meursault and Antigone create amongst society.In the afterward of the novel Camus explains ‘Lying is not only saying what isn’t true. It is also, in the case of the human heart, saying more than one feels. ‘4 His novel allows the reader to realize Meursault is different from others because he ‘does not want to make life simpler’4 by lying to himself. As a result, ‘society immediately feels threatened.
‘3 To Meursault, everyone is the same but they lie and exaggerate in order to feel special. Ultimately, both Antigone and Meursault can not live with themselves if they lie. Eventually, the Chaplain provokes a momentous outburst in Meursault.He directs his anger at the Chaplain declaring everyone lies to themselves to be happy. His refusal to follow this social normality only makes him more ‘sure of myself, sure of everything, surer than he was, sure of my life and sure of the death that was coming to me. ‘4 He believes that ‘time was the very thing I didn’t have for taking an interest in what didn’t interest me.
‘5 Thus, the only thing that matters to him is following his beliefs because only this will allow him to be happy.He believes that even these liars ‘would be condemned one day. 6 Finally, we understand that the foundation of Meursault’s beliefs rests with the very fact that since everyone has ‘got to die, it obviously doesn’t matter where or when’7 and they might as well follow their beliefs and be happy. Even in prison awaiting his execution, Meursault is able to develop a form of optimism without hope, and die realizing ‘I’d been happy, and that I was still happy. ‘8 Unlike Camus initial presentation of Meursault, the readers learn about Antigone’s belief of loving her family above all else immediately from the argument between Antigone and Ismene.Anouilh presents Antigone as the classic hero who values her duty to her family more than the law, and more than her own life.
Even though Antigone knows she is giving up an easy life with Haemon she knows that she must remain true to herself and her beliefs, and she must not allow herself to be swayed by luxuries. It is also quite clear that she knows she is fated to die and the readers are reminded of it constantly throughout the text.She willingly admits ‘Creon has to have us put to death, and we have to go and bury our brother. 9 Her choice to follow her beliefs despite the fact that she knows she will die is indeed a heroic and admirable one, and as a result Anouilh creates the classic hero much unlike Meursault who may be considered an antihero for his refusal to cherish any of values that society cherishes.
Having created a classic hero with a greater and more meaniful existence than most of her society, Anouilh takes us to the next stage of the book where, much like Meursault, she is forced to face the consequences of her actions. The conflict between Antigone and Creon is a conflict between value and duties.Antigone sees no validity in a law that disregards her duties to her brother Polynices because she puts her love for him above the law, and Creon believes that since that is the law he has decreed she should follow it, despite her beliefs.
The strength of Antigone’s beliefs becomes incredibly apparent in her argument with Creon. In the midst of their argument, we learn of Antigone’s love for her brother through her story about receiving ‘a big paper flower’10 from him. Thus, because of her love for him, Antigone is willing to disregard the law to give him proper burial rights.Unlike Meursault, her belief about one’s duty to their family, and about putting love above all else are clear to the reader before she is judged and sentenced to death. Similar to Meursault, Antigone refuses to lie even when given the opportunity but for extremely different reasons. Antigone chooses her beliefs over her life in order to prove something about its external importance to her society, but Meursault is driven by ‘the passion for an absolute and for truth’11 which he must personally abide by in order to be happy.Ultimately, Antigone appears to be a better person than Meursault because she chooses to be true to her love for her family, a universal love that everyone can relate to and a love that everyone appreciates, while Meursault’s natural existence is one which challenges the structure of society, a unique existence that few can relate to or understand.
Creon, who knows little about love, ceaselessly provides Antigone with the opportunity to live by asking questions like ‘Maybe you thought that as the daughter of Oedipus… you were above the law?However, perhaps Antigone’s most condemning truth is when Creon asks her if she love’s Haemon and, staying true to her beliefs, she responds ‘I love a Haemon who’s demanding and loyal like me. But if that happiness of yours are going to pass over and erode him..
. then no, I don’t love Haemon any more! ’13 We also learn that, like Meursault, Antigone values the truth to such a degree that she says ‘who will she [Antigone] have to lie to? Smile at? Sell herself to? ’14 Antigone would rather die that be one of the ‘craven candidates for happiness. ’15 Meursault feels the same way about the truth as he too would rather die than lie.Since she is true to herself rather than the law of Creon, she too is condemned to die. In conclusion, by observing nonconformists like Antigone and Meursault struggle ‘to preserve their integrity in a world which is mean, ugly and corrupt’16 we are consistently reminded that, despite the ceaseless demands of society, and in order to be happy, one must remain true to his of her self and his or her beliefs. We become tremendously aware that a society which demands deception, deceit, and uniformity in order to survive is far from perfect, and we must never forget the pure integrity of truth, individualism, love and wisdom.