The stranger and the great Gatsby Essay
The two novels revolve around two characters with a great desire to attain and sustain a desirable life. In the Great Gatsby, the author presents a study of a wealthy and ambitious character who goes by the name, Gatsby. According to Bruccoli, Gatsby is a pathetic character from whom one can almost find no socially redeeming values (129). The stranger according to Albert, revolves around an emotionally detached amoral young man who defies the societal norms thus deemed a threat to humanity (49). The two different characters from the two novels, Meursault and Gatsby, demonstrate a degree of contrasting oblivion to how they try to attain and sustain the lives they want in a totally contrasting manner.
To begin with, Meursault who is not amused by the death of her mother in an old person’s home upon receiving a telegram informing him of his mother’s demise acts with a disturbing sense of indifference. He seeks his boss’s permission to go and bury his mother upon where he dozes off in a moving bus for most of his journey. Upon meeting with the director of the old person’s home, he is taken to view his mother’s body where again he displays undesirable character. He refuses to view the body even when the caretaker volunteered to open the coffin for him. He also spent the whole night smoking cigarettes, drinking coffee, and dozing in the morgue for most of the night.
According to Albert, he is indifferent when it comes to the realm of practical and physical (52). He claims that he does not take any concern about the details surrounding his mother’s death (54), instead, he is more intrigued when the caretaker tells him of the length of the vigil and how long it took before the body decomposes (29). This shows Meursault’s level of indifference towards matters that society considers normal.
From the novel, we also understand that he was enraged by the caretaker’s interest in conversation during that night. This portrays him as an anti-social person. On the other hand, we see Mr. Gatsby portraying the same kind of behavior. This is seen when he dies and there is no one to attend his burial apart from Nick and two other friends. Bruccoli argues that this portrayed Gatsby as a highly anti-social human being whose traits were not likable to many people (136).
The Lavish Parties
We are informed that he threw lavish parties that people attended indiscriminately. This gesture shows that people were just interested in using his property and not enjoying his company. This trait makes both Meursault and Gatsby’s characters different in that both did not relate with people well, though in different ways. Gatsby was throwing parties just to show people he was well off but not because he liked them and vice-versa. Meursault on the other hand did have friends though not many who were loyal to him. Although they were both not very likable, Meursault had few friends who were truly loyal to him compared to Gatsby who never had one true friend.
Gatsby lies about being the son of a rich Midwesterner, a lie that is disputed later in the story. This is an indicator that he was embarrassed about his poor background whose blemish he was trying so hard to cover. Meursault on the other hand was proud of his mother and did not lie about his past irrespective of how it was. During the burial when the director of the home tries to talk to him about a religious burial of his mother, he refuses to heed citing his mother’s contrary opinion towards religion. This shows that he valued his mother’s beliefs and to an extent shared them. Gatsby despite all his riches finds no satisfaction in his life. He is not satisfied by the friends he has, the life he lives, or the love he is so desperately searching for.
Broccoli states that Gatsby’s wealth created an avenue for always craving for more (142). This becomes evident when we see Gatsby chasing Tom’s wife and nick’s cousin, Daisy. They have an affair where he falls back in love with her and hopes that she could love him back like they used to before their relationship ended. Nick tells him that our desire to replicate the past forces us constantly back to it does not appease him thus his tragic outcome. On the contrary, Meursault finds love in Marie Cardone, his workmate when they meet at the beach as he was going to take a swim. They make a date to watch a comedy that evening and later spend the night together.
Though he never emotionally attached himself to her, Maria loved him much that she wanted to marry him despite his peculiar behavior, which she claimed to have intrigued her. Meursault finds love easily in spite of his peculiar character, whereas, Gatsby tries desperately to be loved by his childhood lover, who had been married. From this contrast, Broccoli’s conclusion that Gatsby was desperate for love and was not dignified enough to have any other person love him despite having amassed such great wealth makes a lot of sense (148).
From Meursault’s perspective, we can conclude that he was truly an atheist. This follows from the time the examining judge who brandishes a crucifix and urges him to turn to God is greatly shocked by his claim that he did not believe in God. Meursault is sincere enough that even when the chaplain urges him to turn to Christ, he gives him the same response and stands by it. This makes him appear to have a strong stand. Gatsby on the other hand does not declare his religious stand. From the immoral deeds that he is pursuing, one can easily deduce that there is a very high rate of decadence in Gatsby’s community. This can be proved by the fact that not a single marriage is stable, for each partner was cheating on the other. This raises the issue of morality on the side of Gatsby and his friends. Although he does not declare his religious stand, with the evidence from his immoral behavior, one can conclude that he is not much different from Meursault, though in a different way.
Gatsby is highly ambitious as can be seen by his great desire to get rich and cover his childhood poverty blemishes. He cheats his friends that he was a rich man’s son and he schooled in oxford and that he inherited his wealth from his parents. Later he contradicts his story and tells Nick that it took him three years to amass that wealth. Upon his death, his father who attends his burial, we learn from his father that, since his childhood, Nick had always wanted to improve himself and rise above the life of the poor and uneducated family into which he was born.
On the other hand, we learn that Meursault does not care about riches or poverty and that everything to him was just the same. He worked but not ambitiously working. The only thing he seems interested in is nature and weather as seen during his mother’s burial. We learn that he was enjoying the nature around the village and he complained about the strong sun, to which he did not want to blame Thomas’ walking challenges, claiming that Tom was old, thus could not walk comfortably during such weather.
Meursault does not show any sign of cowardice. He does not show remorse upon his mother’s death or upon killing Raymond’s mistresses’ brother at the beach. When the lawyer talks to him about his mother, he gets disappointed by his lack to show remorse for his deeds particularly, his mother’s death. His entire case turns from murder to questioning his morals. The prosecutor calls him a monster and deems him unfit to be in society, for he was a threat to the lives of other people. He is sentenced to death upon where he reflects more on life, thus coming up with a philosophical conclusion of life.
The Realities of Life
Meursault sees the realities of life, thus comes to reconcile with himself, and the deeds of the people in the society he awaits death without fear, though; this was not the life he desired. Gatsby on the other hand while riding with his mistress, Daisy, runs over Myrtle’s wife and takes off, showing a sign of cowardice. He is later found by George Wilson, who kills him shortly before shooting himself too. He dies before achieving his ambition of living happily ever after with his childhood lover, Daisy.
Both counts depict sad stories of two characters with different characteristics, sharing different goals in life, but whose lives end in almost the same fate, though differently. They share characteristics that differ in slight variation, citing their varying lifestyles. Where Meursault is amoral, Gatsby is immoral; where one is frank the other one is constantly laying as the case of Gatsby.
When Meursault is not getting emotionally attached to a relationship, Gatsby is being totally overwhelmed by emotion, where one is very ambitious, Meursault seems indifferent to wealth and riches, thus not ambitious. In the end, both are condemned to death as a result of the way they relate to society. The only difference is one dies having reconciled with himself and the world around him, Meursault as Gatsby dies suddenly and without prior notice.
- Albert, Carl. The Stranger. trans. Matthew Ward, 1988. Print
- Bruccoli, Matthew J. (ed.). F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby: A Literary Reference. New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers, 2000. Print
- Scott, Fitzgerald, F. The Great Gatsby. Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1925. Print
- Viggiani, Carl A. Camus’ L’Etranger. PMLA, 1956, 71 (5): 865–887.