The novel vividly illustrates this event, stated as follows:
The scorching blade slashed at my eyelashes and stabbed at my stinging eyes. That's when everything began to reel. The sea carried up a thick, fiery breath. It seemed to me as if the sky split open from one end to the other to rain down fire. My whole being tensed and I squeezed my hand around the revolver. The trigger gave; I felt the smooth underside of the butt; and there, in that noise, sharp and deafening at the same time, is where I tall started. I shook off the sweat and sun. I knew that I had shattered the harmony of the day, the exceptional silence of a beach where I'd been happy. Then I fired four more times at the motionless body where the bullets lodged without leaving a trace. And it was like knocking four quick times on the door of unhappiness.
His heightened consciousness at the time of the Arab's killing once again reiterates the savage nature of Meursault's character, for it is only at the most savage state that human beings react to killings and violence with fervor and insensitivity. Though considered as a deviant behavior to his society, Meursault's indifference and lack of ability to express his emotions is considered as the best display of human being in society by Bree (1972). In his critical analysis of "The Stranger," Bree considers Meursault's character as "...far from being totally deprived of sensitivity, for he is animated by a passion...the passion for the absolute and for truth. It is still a negative truth, the truth of being and feeling, but a truth without which no conquest of the self or of the world is possible" (114). Thus, in a world of normal people, Meursault is considered the 'most normal' of all because of his inability to experience his reality as it is, a condition that Camus interprets as his character's inability to lie.
However, despite the exaltation of Meursault's character in the novel, Camus illustrates the unfortunate event in which society once again demonstrates its power to control the fate of the individual. In Meursault's case, society had, like Humbert's downfall, deconstructed Meursault's 'untainted' character by sentencing him to death simply because he failed to show the reaction society had expected him to show once he had been accused of murder and sentenced to death. As he reflects later in the novel, Meursault shares, "It was still only me who was dying, whether it was now or in twenty years' time. At that point the thing that would rather upset my reasoning was that I'd feel my heart give this terrifying leap at the thought of having another twenty years to live." Camus' character shows wisdom in this passage, illustrating his knowledge about life and realities as more profound than his 'feeling' and emotional contemporaries (Scherr, 2001). However, what differs Meursault with Humbert's character is that the former is able to retain his free will, not yielding to the pressure of the magistrate nor the priest to at least show feelings of remorse for the death of his mother and commitment of murder. Up to the time of his death, he had remained a 'free individual,' unaffected by society, and in fact, reaching an understanding of his true self and meaning as an individual in the world.
The discussion and analyses of "Lolita" and "The Stranger" demonstrates how society is a vital determinant that shapes the individual's personality and behavior. As illustrated in this paper, free will can be highly influenced by the society or not, and the characters of Humbert and Meursault, respectively. Their lives chronicle human suffering and sorrow because they failed to conform and 'play the game' of the society they live in, leading to their eventual alienation and curtailment of their right to exercise their free will through their imprisonment and eventually, death.
Bree, B. (Ed.). (1972). Camus. NJ: Rutgers UP.
Booker, (1993). Literature and domination: sex, knowledge, and power in modern fiction. Gainsville: Florida UP.
Camus, a. (1988). The Stranger. NY: Alfred a. Knopf, Inc.
Dupee, F.W. (1957). In Nabokov: a critical heritage. N. Page (Ed.). NY: Routledge.
Nabokov, V. (1955). Lolita. NY: Vintage.
Scherr, a. (2001). "Camus's 'The Stranger'." Explicator, Vol. 59, Issue 3.
Skerner, P. (1966). Escape into aesthetics: the art of V. Nabokov. NY: Dial Press.