Lucy" by Jamaica Kincaid, and "The Stranger" by Albert Camus. Specifically, it contains a comparative analysis of the main characters in the two books on the concept of self, proposed by Robert C.
Solomon in his book, "The Big Questions." These two characters are controversial and mean different things to different readers. Some see them as cold and unemotional, while others see them as figuratively standing for truth and the utter truth of self.
The two characters in these two novels are unusual, to say the least. However, each of them fully embodies Robert C. Solomon's ideas on self, and self-knowledge. Solomon writes, "A person's self-identity is the way he or she characterizes his or her essential self" (Solomon 196). Thus, a person who is comfortable with their own self-identity does not need to conform to other's views and societal forces, and these two characters are quite comfortable with themselves and their identities, and so, they are extremely self-aware. They do not worry about what other people think, because they are happy with themselves, flaws and all.
Many readers see these two characters as cold and unfeeling. For example, Meursault cannot even show any emotion over his own mother's death and funeral. He says, "Mother died today. Or maybe yesterday, I don't know" (Camus 9), and later it is noted he, "hadn't cried once and left straight after the funeral without paying respects at her grave" (Camus 86). To those around him he is cold and unfeeling, but these things do not matter to him, because he does not need the approval of the world to live his life, he only needs his own approval, which he gives himself. However, because he shuts himself off from emotion, he shuts out a large part of life and happiness. He is unable to open up to others, and so, he may understand and approve of himself, but he does not understand or approve of others, and so, he is not totally and fully aware, he is only self-aware. Lucy, on the other hand, is aware of those around her, and is also self-aware. However, she is sexually active, (some might say a slut), and while she is open to sexual adventures, she is closed to her mother, and even burns her mother's letters, refusing to forgive her for placing her brothers and their education over her own. She feels her mother has placed limitations on her that should not exist, and she cannot forgive her for it, no matter what happens. This is Lucy's biggest weakness, but it does not disable her, as Meursault's relationship with his mother disables him. He is so cold and unemotional that he is unsympathetic, while Lucy is sympathetic and endearing, despite her faults.
Probably the biggest difference between these two characters is their ability to love. Meursault is unable to love Marie, and freely admits this to her. He casually says, "that it didn't mean anything but that I didn't think so" (Camus 44). He is incapable of sharing himself, and so, his self-worth has taken over his life, making him incapable of caring for anyone else but himself. This ultimately leads to his doom, for he cannot allow anyone else into his life, and as he distances himself, he also distances himself from society, and shuts himself off from any meaningful and caring relationships. Lucy is far different from Meursault, because she allows herself to love. She loves the children she takes care of, and she loves some of the men she has relationships with. Lucy, unlike Meursault, is able to let people into her life, and because of this, she transforms in the novel, and has a greater sense of herself and her worth by the end of the book. During her relationship with Paul she begins to bloom, and changes from a woman "on whom not long ago I would have heaped scorn" (Kincaid 100), to a woman who is fulfilled, with a career and a life that is satisfying. She is ultimately successful in life because she is not shut off from the world; instead, she uses her past experiences to help transform her future. Meursault is shut off from the world, and while his past experiences make his future,…