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Many artists, authors, and composers have put the beauty and warmth of the sun in their work. The Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh created landscapes that expressed his joy with
sunshine. The American poet, Emily Dickinson, wrote a poem called “The Sun” which she described the rising and setting of the sun. The Russian composer, Nicholas Rimsky-Korsakov, included a beautiful song, “Hymn to the Sun,” in his opera The Golden Cockerel.
However, Camus’ usage of the sun opposes its warmth and beauty in The Stranger. The sun is a symbol for feelings and emotions, which Monsieur Meursault cannot deal with. There is a sun motif present throughout the novel, which characterizes the usual fondness towards the sun. The sun is a distraction from Meursault’s everyday life and he cannot handle it.
The sun first presents a problem to Meursault at his mother’s funeral procession. Even before the procession starts, Meursault calls the sun “inhuman and oppressive.” Meursault has shown no emotion towards his mother’s death and he directs his emotions at the sun. To Meursault, the sun is an influence on all his senses, as he cannot hear what someone else says to him. He pours with sweat, which symbolizes the flow of his emotions. Meursault constantly thinks about the sun when a normal person would be mourning his dead mother. He says, “I could feel the blood pounding in my temples,” which is strong expression.
At the beach with Raymond, the sun provokes Meursault to commit a crime. He says, the sun shattered into little pieces on the sand and water.” While going to get a drink of water, the foreign Arab uses a knife to shine the sunlight in Meursault’s face. Meursault knew that all he had to do was turn around and walk away. His emotions took over. Camus states, “All I could
feel were the cymbals of sunlight crashing on my forehead and, instinctively, the dazzling spear flying up from the knife in front of me. The scorching blade slashed at my eyelashes and stabbed at my stinging eyes.” This causes Meursault to fire and kill the Arab with a revolver. What makes it worse, he fires four more times to make sure the sun is gone for good.
In prison, Meursault changes his views on both the sun, and on his view of life, which are similar. Meursault was first introduced to the harsh sun at his mother’s funeral. Then, the sun took him over and led him to murder another human being. But in jail, Meursault realizes that the sun, and life, is warm and friendly. He discovers that you assign meaning to your own life and that the sun does not need to cover his emotions anymore.
Although most creative thinkers have used the sun as a positive being, Camus’ sees the sun as a barrier to Meursault’s emotions. He goes through many situations in his life that are affected and caused by the sun. Once he ends up in prison, Meursault realizes how much the sun was barrier to him. Then he finally recognizes the sun as a gentle indifference to the world.
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