Phillip Korkis

Professor Boggs – Comp. & Lit.

March 9, 2004
Emotion Under the Hard Shell
Whether or not God exists is a thought that millions of people ponder
each day. Is there an after life? What happens when I die? In the end of
the Stranger, Meursault meets a chaplain in his jail cell. The chaplain
tries to get Meursault to believe in God and develop some sort of faith
before he dies. However, Meursault won’t listen to him and thinks his
beliefs aren’t worth crap, “He seemed so certain about everything, didn’t
he? 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 for
his anger and frustration with the chaplain. He only has a few days before
he dies, and the last thing he wants to listen to a priest preach to him
about believing in God and developing faith.

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As Meursault speaks to the chaplain, he is angry because the chaplain
makes him feel as if he is at loss for something; as if his life in
incomplete because he doesn’t believe in God, “…as if I was the one who’d
come up emptyhanded” (120). Meursault can’t stand listening to the
chaplain talk to him about this because he believes that he is hardly the
one at loss. Meursault is certain about his life, about the decisions he’s
made, and about his inevitable death. Regardless of the fact that what his
life is made of is somewhat feeble, he still knows exactly what his life
is, “Yes, that was all I had. But at least I had as much of a hold on it
as it had on me” (120-121). What has happened in Meursault’s life is
definite and he has no doubts about his life. However, all the certainties
and beliefs that the chaplain claims he has are intangible. These are
blind beliefs that no one can prove are true, and as a result these beliefs
are worthless in Meursault’s eyes. He cannot believe in something he can’t
see because that will drive him nuts. He doesn’t have the heart or mindset
to have faith in God. I believe that Meursault uses the comparison to “a
single hair on a woman’s head” because he is saying that he wouldn’t trade
a single moment with Marie for all the faith in the world. He thinks faith
is a lame concept because it is something that doesn’t even exist in the
real world.

As the chaplain continues to speak to Meursault, attempting to help
him, he gets shut down. Meursault is stubborn and rejects every word out
of the chaplain’s mouth. The chaplain tries to convince Meursault that
human justice does not matter and that divine justice is was what really
matters. Meursault once again denies the chaplain by telling him that he
does not know what divine justice is. Divine justice is nothing but a
figment of the chaplain’s imagination to Meursault. All of the chaplain’s
attempts are futile as Meursault refuses to believe that anything will
happen to him after he dies. Why does Meursault refuse to believe that
there in an afterlife or a God? I believe that in Meursault’s mind, he
cannot 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 a
scary concept. People have trouble everyday believing in a higher being
because 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 that
Meursault is scared. He is scared of commitment, scared of emotion, and
scared of faith. Faith is a scary concept because you can never prove it,
and with a character like Meursault, faith is probably frightening. That’s
the reason that Meursault suddenly starts yelling at the chaplain in his
jail cell:
“Then, I don’t know why, but something inside me snapped. I started
yelling at the top of my lungs, and I insulted him and told him not to
waste 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 of
anger and cries of joy” (120).

Meursault hates the fact that the chaplain is so certain of all his beliefs
because he knows that doesn’t have the capability to do the same. He finds
certainty in what he has done and what has happened in his life and
believing in God would lead to uncertainty and confusion for Meursault, and
uncertainty is something Meursault cannot handle.

I think that Meursault is truly a weak character under that hard shell
he portrays himself to have. He cannot commit to Marie because he does not
feel true love and it may even scare him. In addition, Meursault can’t
even cry at his own mother’s funeral. He acts as if her death means
nothing to him, which I don’t believe is true at all. I don’t think that
Meursault is this emotionless character that he shows himself to be. He
once had feelings and morals, but he has numbed them because he can’t
handle all the pain and anguish that comes with life.I know that
Meursault is just like every other character with emotions and feelings in
the book because in the end of The Stranger I see his true character come
out, “…for the first time, in that night alive with signs and stars, I
opened myself to the gentle indifference of the world” (122). Meursault
opens up and that numbed emotionless heart of his is revealed. Meursault
is finally able to feel pain, happiness and every other emotion that he
used to see every day through his neighbors in his apartment building.