THE STRANGER: POVERTY OF AN ANTI-HERO

By Thomas Merton
Unicorn Journal 2: 1968. pp. 10-19.

Brief Comments by Bob Corbett
March 2002

Thomas Merton argues that the standard view of Albert Camusí The Stranger is a misunderstand. On Mertonís view it is generally taken that Mersault lives a rather meaningless life, then when confronted with a trial for his life, he rebels against the system, and through his courageous death becomes the model anti-Hero, one who resisted unto death.

Merton attacks this view for both internal and external reasons.

Internally he argues that what dictated most of Mersaultís life was not meaninglessness but poverty. He was what he was up to the time of the murder on the beach because of his numbing poverty which left him no energy to do anything but tolerate life. In the period of the trial he came to understand his own world, but far from being an anti-Hero to the system, he just did what made sense for himself.

Externally he points out that the standard view makes Mersault into a nihilist and that much of the bulk of Camusí corpus demonstrates that his entire life and work was a protest against and rejection of nihilism. Further he cites the characters of Dr. Rieux and Tarrou in The Plague and the work The Myth of Sisyphus to point up to the ultimate resolution of the problem of meaning in the intersubjectivity of love.

Mertonís augment is articulate, careful, drawn out with care and intelligence. It stands as a strong challenge to the dominant view of this novel.


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