\ Denial and Criminal and Social Behavior in the Works of
Albert Camus and Jean-Paul Sartre.
The attitude of people towards crimes they are guilty of is often a main topic of philosophical works. Many writers and philosophers, including Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus, use human response to a violation of the rules of society as proof of their opinion on human nature. For example in No Exit, by Jean-Paul Sartre, the first instinct of the characters is to deny their wrongdoings although they have all been condemned to hell. The characters’ initial denial of having murdered and driven others to suicide shows their desire for separation ...view middle of the document...
In the eyes of the magistrate, Meursault is rejecting society by rejecting religion, and because of this he is treated as an enemy. As well, the character of Raymond is a pimp, and Meursault’s trial becomes even more hopeless after the jury learns of their friendship. In No Exit, Estelle has an affair with a man of a lower class, which is why she says it is doomed to fail. Garcin deserts the army because he is a coward, which shows that he is unfit to participate in the pro-war society. Inez is a lesbian in a society intolerant of homosexuals, and implies that she does not have much money. While the characters in No Exit are not rebelling against social codes, they are unable to be complete members of the society, despite their best efforts. Still, they make excuses for why they cannot live like everyone else. By having their characters make excuses for going against the behavior accepted by society, Sartre and Camus show what happens when people are unable to follow the moral values placed upon them by peer pressure.
The characters of Estelle from No Exit and Meursault from The Stranger have the same attitude towards their actions. Estelle is an upper-class socialite who is (at first) more concerned with the decoration of the room and applying makeup than with the fact that she is in hell. Her choice to pay attention to little details rather than the larger situation parallels Meursault’s description of his murder of an Arab. Shortly after a fight in which Meursault's friend gets stabbed, Meursault shoots and kills one of their adversaries. He avoids mentioning his reasoning for killing the man, because it does not exist- he describes the feeling of the hot sun on his face instead. Both characters choose to avoid focusing on their actions, instead distracting themselves with other, trivial things.
The emotions of other people play a major part in the lives of the characters in No Exit and The Stranger. They trivialize the harm they cause during their lives, just as Meursault trivializes writing a breakup letter for his “pal” Raymond, saying that “he had no reason not to.” By claiming that there would be no downside, Meursault makes writing a breakup letter into a one-dimensional activity with no effect, showing how little he cares about other peoples’ emotions. His oversimplification of an action foreshadows his unthinking act of murder later in the story. Also, Garcin’s reasoning for writing the letter reminds one of Garcin’s reasoning behind why he tormented his wife. According to Garcin, he only humiliated her because “it was so easy,” and he enjoyed watching her flinch “like a sensitive plant.” Garcin tormented his wife just because he could, while Meursault does things because he cannot see why he should not. Neither character reflects on their actions, which is why neither one really knows why they perform certain actions for anything other than personal enjoyment.
All the characters from No Exit cause the deaths of...