The converging and diverging aspects of Sartre and Camus’ works have been reached through the detailed cross-examination of the study of the philosophical and conceptual framework of Sartre and Camus’ work. Camus as discussed in the previous chapters, does not spare a single occasion to deny himself, being tagged as an existentialist. The major reason behind his denial of the tag as an existentialist could be Sartre, as the fact remains that Sartre is the famous known face of the existential philosophy and Camus does not wish to be linked with the Sartrean ideologies because Sartre is more focused towards the philosophy whereas, Camus is more focused on the practice of the ideas.
According to Sartre, absurd is the permanent and consistent nature of the world, unchangeable, and it closes the doors of hope and expectation for an individual. Whereas, on the other hand, for Camus, absurd is the initial stage of paradox, where the mind only hopes and the nature only gives. For Camus, the state of absurd is not the blocking point or the last stage in an individual’s existence; instead it is the starting point in an individual’s life and his ideology. Camus’ idea of absurdity has a very positive approach towards the ethics of human revolt and harmony. Camus has not been seen opposing the ethics of existentialism. In fact he has put the idea of existentialism in practical situations. Sartre is seen as a black and white existentialist, who throughout his life talked about the condition of an individual in an absurd world, in the face of fixed pattern of life, values and morals, then the freedom to make choices by an individual and later take the responsibility of his actions. Whereas, on the other hand, Camus denies being an existentialist and is not recognised as an existentialist straight away but does have the similarities with the ideas of the existentialists.
Through the cross examination in the previous chapters, we reach to the converging point of the selected writers and their works, where the indictment of bad faith is implicit at various instances and the protagonists try to avoid the acknowledgement. The characters try to explain that there is no other choice rather than to rely on bad faith, but both the writers lay the example that there is always a choice, it might be difficult and inconvenient at times, but the choice is always there. According to Sartre, an individual should avoid being in bad faith and instead acknowledge the action or decision made rather than being tempted towards the easy way out from the situation. This concept is understood as taking the responsibility of the actions and decisions made. Though all the three protagonists of the selected novels have fallen in bad faith at different times but gathered up themselves popped the bubble of imagination and faced the reality with confidence. Even F. A. Olafson in Freedom and Responsibility states that the freedom and responsibility is, “based on the avoidance of ‘bad faith’ and the open acknowledgment…Responsibility is not a solipsistic exercise…it is being answerable to someone for something” (269).
According to Sartre, along with freedom comes responsibility, but when an individual ignores the responsibility of his actions and decisions, he has to face alienation. During the state of alienation, the individual tends to set a goal for his life when he does not have any. There is a certain way the individual treats people around him, when the individual does not share any kind of relationship with them but have an ontological relation. Sartre believes that, even if an individual does not share any particular relationship with others still, “relation to others is defined by the purely formal recognition of his universal personhood. But this universal personhood is itself defined by his freedom” (Sartre, 1992: 103). Sartre in Being and Time, raises three major issues. First, indicates that freedom is the primary characteristic of an individual’s existence and essence, second, if there is no God, then there is no a priori value and third, the freedom of an individual is necessarily linked with the freedom of others. These are the issue, which Sartre deals with in his works, as understanding the need of freedom and taking the responsibility of his actions can lead an individual to make better and ethical decisions with his own values. The same issues could also be seen in Camus’ work, projected in a little different light, as Camus, also like Sartre and Nietzsche wants an individual to make his own values.
The freedom of an individual is impossible to distinguish from the individual’s reality. Sartre does not believe that an individual exist in order to gain freedom subsequently. Indeed he believes that the humans are free and “there is no difference between the being of man and his being-free” (Sartre, 1992: 2) According to Sartre and Camus, the freedom of an individual and his responsibility towards his actions and decisions constitute the essence of the individual. Olafson puts it as humans are “condemned to be free” (268), they always tend to face the situations with alternatives and the choices will always be there, but the essence depends upon the choices an individual makes, even if it is the choice of doing nothing. The zest of Sartre theory of freedom is that an individual is always unwilling to accept and acknowledge him being free. Whereas, Camus’ view is also similar, as he believes that the universe does not provide any salvation and therefore the path towards freedom can only give the sense of authentic life to an individual. Freedom is one of the most important and essential components of an individual’s existence, to make decisions and commitments, along with responsibility that comes hand in hand. This becomes the integrity and ethicality of an individual’s existence.
Detailed discussion in the previous chapters makes it evident that Camus’ social and moral outlook went through major changes between the time period of The Stranger and The Fall. The existential writers, who influenced Camus, were Kierkegaard, like whom his major concern is the existence of an individual. Second influence is Nietzsche, like whom he also believes in the lack of the objective of good and evil and believes that an individual should make his own values. Third influence over Camus is Heidegger’s centrality of death to an individual’s experiences. The last but not the least is Sartre’s influence over Camus regarding the existence of an individual, which is absurd, meaningless, purposeless and full of void. These influences over Camus are the most evident at the end of the novel (The Stranger), where Meursault in the most poetic passage, yells his heart out at the chaplain of the prison, and states, “Nothing, nothing mattered and I knew why… all elected by the same fate, me and billions of privileged people like him who also called themselves my brothers?” (121)
This poetic passage gives an undeniable insight into the existential outlook of Meursault over life. Camus’ ideas on existentialism is clearly seen in The Stranger and Richard Kamber states in On Camus, to understand Meursault’s views as, “Because of death’s finality, the way one lives and the choices one makes lack importance beyond the interests of individual human beings.” (6) Camus believes that people does not regard their moral beliefs as justified or acceptable by the divine reason. Therefore to support this he states in The Myth of Sisyphus that, “All systems of morality are based on the idea that an action has consequences that legitimise or cancel it…there may be responsible persons, but there are no guilty ones, in its opinion.” (50)
Meursault’s anger in the above passage portrays the heart of Camus’ central perspective throughout his absurdist phase. This central perspective could also be read as the moral of The Stranger but the moral of The Fall is a bit different, because The Fall gives the imprint of the last period and the most pessimistic period of Camus and man’s complete exile or detachment from the nature. In The Stranger, there are no guilty people, whereas in The Fall, there are only guilty people. Camus in The Fall, condemns the whole clan of humanity as guilty. He believes that the whole humanity is in need of judgment but the primary objective or concern of humanity is to avoid it, but he claims that the only way to avoid judgment is to judge your own self. Clamence (The Fall) states, “The more I accuse myself, the more I have a right to judge you. Even better, I provoke you into judging yourself, and this relieves me of that much of the burden.” (140) Camus believes that he carry the same guilt as the others but the only way to dilute it a little and lose some burden is by confessing the guilt to others and extending or approaching the judgement over others, as Clamence in The Fall exclaims that, “I was wrong, after all, to tell you that the essential was to avoid judgment. The essential is being able to permit oneself everything…I haven’t changed my way of life; I continue to love myself and to make use of others.” (141)
The purpose of Camus’ The Fall could be clearly expressed by Clamence. Clamence’s condemning of himself could be seen as Camus’ idea to force people to condemn themselves in order to live a more light at heart life, without much burden on their shoulders of the guilt they committed. The hypocrisy of Clamence in the novel could be seen as his attack over the fellow intellectuals by his parodying of their hypocrisies. Clamence is connectable to all the allegations that Sartre has put on Camus, but Clamence instead of denying them, accepts them all and paints a gloomy picture of grim humanity. Camus does not paints the humanity as the most horrible of all but his central moral is to first, condemn selfishness, specially of Clamence, where he neglects the drowning woman. Second, to recognise and examine our own selfish side through Clamence’s extreme selfishness. Third, is to accept and learn to deal with the guilt. To accept a guilt an individual has committed is the most difficult aspect but if one does so, he can live an even better and relaxing life. As Camus in The Fall tries to explain it through Clamence that, “Only, the confession of my crimes allows me to begin again lighter in heart and to taste a double enjoyment, first of my nature and secondly of a charming repentance.” (141)
Camus through The Fall, wish the people to be open about their flaws, as recognising our own flaws will help an individual to recognise the flaws and guilt of the others too. Camus believes that the individual should confess their guilt to others and others in return should confess their guilt to them rather to God, who might not exist. Therefore, the drastic change in Camus’ writing could be seen through Meursault (The Stranger), who is seen as a character, completely empty of any values, which could be the basis of his innocence, and on the other hand, Clamence (The Fall), who is full of guilt and repentance. Both the characters through their ups and downs come at the end to accept the absurd nature of existence and find solace thereafter without confining to the standards of the society and accepting the absurdities of life.
Camus believes that life is absurd and the more we put resources to find order in the universe the more we push the rock up the hill, but all the efforts remain futile at the end of it, and an individual is left with nothing. Richard Kamber in On Camus states in this context that, “The absurdity of this condition became all too real when Camus’ life and career were tragically cut short with a car accident that took his life on January 3, 1960.” (6) All his efforts and steps towards the understanding of meaning and purpose of existence become futile, when the rock rolls back to the bottom. Even Sartre, after the death of Camus, praises his works by keeping aside his grudges against him. Germaine Bree in Camus: A Collection of Critical Essays-Jean Paul Sartre quotes the praise of Camus by Sartre as, “He represented in our time the latest example of that long line of moralists…His obstinate humanism, narrow and pure…But on the other hand” he reaffirmed “the existence of the moral issue.” (173)
To conclude the above discussion, Camus can be read as an idea, who cannot restrict his ideas or confine his ideology within one aspect or one ‘ism’, be it existentialism, marxism, communism, socialism or any other philosophy as such. His ideas and works show his interest in the existential study of an individual existence and an individual’s condition, therefore he appears as an existentialist, like Sartre. Their philosophies and concepts give a direction to an individual to live a meaningful and purposeful life based on their own choices, decisions and values by accepting all absurdities and taking the responsibility of their actions.