Emotion Under the Hard Shell

Comp. & Lit.

March 9, 2004

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.

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