utsider’The purpose of this essay is to bring to light the significance of Marie as a character in Albert Camus, The Outsider. Through analysis and criticism, this essay endeavors to reveal her importance as an aid to the better the readers understanding of the personality of Meursault, the protagonist of the novel.
Marie is first introduced to the reader in chapter two of part one. The description of Marie that Camus gives us in this chapter as well in other parts of the book is remarkably objective in nature. In every portrayal of Marie, the author paints a detached picture which highlights the objectification of Marie in this novel. The narrative employs short sentences which serve to emphasize the coldness and lack of emotion in the light under which Meursault sees Marie. This narrative style is noticed in the second paragraph on Page 24 especially in the lines She had her leg against mine, and I was fondling her breasts. Towards the end of the show I kissed her, but badly. Afterwards she came back to my place. The apathy and indifference with which Camus has described Meursaults date with Marie resembles that of a history textbook, simply listing down a chronology of events, like consequences leading to a final outcome. The narrative in the rest of the chapter is comparatively rich in the use of adjectives and feeling. This shows, therefore, the objectification of Marie even during her introduction in the novel.
Another characteristic trend that is observed in the description of Marie, is sensuality. Marie is presented only as a body, especially in the first part of the novel. The descriptions are sexual in context which exhibits the objectification of Marie into a body . The lines on page 37 , I really fancied her because she was wearing a pretty red and white striped dress and leather sandals. You could see the shape of her firm breasts and her suntanned face was like a flower., are indicative of this point under consideration. We get similar descriptions in other parts of the novel as well .These bodily descriptions give us the sense of emotional detachment that Mersault feels for Marie and points out that the essence of their relationship revolves purely around sex and physical pleasure. The character of Marie has thus been molded into a commodity and a vessel of sexual satisfaction. This commodification of Marie can be distinctly noticed in the line Yesterday was Saturday and Marie came over as wed arranged. This line characterizes the objectivity of their relationship thus reinforcing my inference that Marie is Meursaults object of fancy, just like a toy in a childs hands.
We thus made aware of Meursaults choice of not entangling himself in a relationship of love and emotion. When he was asked by Marie whether he loved her, Meursault replied that he it did not mean anything to him but he probably did not. On another occasion, Meursault also showed an indifference when asked about marriage. He replied that marriage was not a serious matter for him but that he would not mind. Meursault also bluntly added that he would have said the same thing to any other woman. But Marie did not shiver from the coldness of Meursaults statements. Instead, she said that she probably loved him for being peculiar and that is why she would like to marry him. Meursault is identified to be a character who believes in the frankness of opinion. This is what makes him seem emotionless and this lack of emotion is seen as an incongruence with the norms of society. That is what makes Meursault the Outsider. Meursault candidness is thus reflected in his relationship with Marie for the fact that he sees her as an thing and still chooses not hide behind a mask of pretentious emotions. His objectification of Marie is thus indicative of Meursaults own personality.
Further objectification of Marie can also be observed through the absence of voice that the author has given her. This has been intentionally created by Camus to highlight her commodification. Maries voicelessness can be seen at every instance in the novel involving her. One distinct point worth mentioning in this context is that she is the only side character in the book who does not have a story to tell. By the words story to tell, I mean a background story or an element to add to the plot. Both Raymond as well as Salamano and his dog have their own stories to tell. But Marie on the other hand is introduced without much background information.
Another lucid feature of Maries is her laughter. At every occasion when Marie is addressed or asked for an opinion, she responds with a smile or a laugh. Certain lines , such as I asked her if she wanted to come to the cinema that evening. She laughed and said there was a Fernandel film shed like to see. bear example to this observation. The smile and the laugh are practically substituted in exchange of Maries voice. The lines when she laughed I fancied her again and and for no apparent reason, she laughed again, so I kissed her are quite striking because they indicate that Marie appealed to Meursault when she remained voiceless, just like a toy-doll or a dummy. Another prominent example is the courtroom scene when Marie was asked to take the stand. Marie answered all of the prosecutors questions in an objective manner and in an almost toneless voice. This was when the judge and jury intently listened to her statement. But when Marie burst into tears and pleaded for Meursaults innocence by saying that she was being forced to say the opposite of her thoughts, the judge beckoned for her to be taken away and continued with the hearing. This underlines the fact that Maries emotions and thoughts were of no relevance to the judge and only the answers of the questions put forward by the prosecutor held significance. This not only illustrates societys failure to accept Maries opinions and value judgments but also her reduction into an object or a mechanical toy doll, only supposed to smile or deliver programmed answers to questions.
In part two of the novel, the objectification of Marie is of a different nature. The theme of part two revolves around the imprisonment of Meursault, the court hearing and his execution. This part of the novel shows a change in Maries significance as an object of fancy. She becomes the symbol of Meursaults freedom from incarceration. Just as he was addicted to smoking, Meursault had become addicted to Marie. Meursault managed to overcome his desire for cigarettes. But his longing and yearning for Marie, or for any of the women of his past, was much greater. Maries character is thus responsible for invoking sympathy within the reader for Meursault. Meursaults incarceration and separation served to add a trace of love and affection for Marie. Although the bodily descriptions still prevail, a touch of affection is noticed. Nostalgia is also prominent in his descriptions. During his imprisonment, flashes of memories of swimming with her in the sea and squeezing her shoulders would cross his mind. He would look forward to Maries visits and make the most of having Marie there when she visited. In addition to this, Marie also encouraged Meursault not to loose hope. She was, in truth, the only reason for Meursault to cherish any hope. This accentuates her significance as a symbol of his freedom.
We can thus conclude that understanding the relevance of the character of Marie is crucial to comprehending Meursaults persona. She is a symbol of his truthfulness, indifference, objectivity and freedom from captivity. Her character might not inspire any respect for Marie as a person, but her relationship with Meursault elucidates the reason for his being called The Outsider.
‘The Outsider’ by Franz Kafka