Mortality And The Meaning Of Life In The Stranger And Invisible Man

People have struggled for centuries to find their purpose. Many people encounter obstacles on their journey to self-enlightenment. People might believe they have found the purpose of their lives, regardless of their profession, family, or other factors. Many want to find their true purpose and not be limited by the expectations of society or common ideologies. The main character Meursault (from Albert Camus’ novel The Stranger) doesn’t uncover his identity until it is confronted by his mortality. The Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison’s novel, shows the Narrator struggling to find his purpose due to his own confusion about his identity and the ideologies of others. These stories mirror the difficulties faced by immigrants in America during the early 1900s. They had to find their identity amid ostracization, confusion and a lot of other people.

The Stranger teaches us a valuable lesson: Sometimes, you have to accept mortality in order to decide the purpose of life. Meursault is exactly like this. Meursault is a person who just goes about his daily life, without really caring about the outcome. Marie asks him if it is true that he loves Marie. This shows his lack of meaning in relationships, which results in him becoming detached from the outside world. Meursault is adamant that his love for Marie had no effect on his thoughts or feelings. But he discovers his true purpose before his execution (Camus 121-123). It is impossible to find oneself if one lives a life of carelessness and attachment. Meursault also teaches us that we must accept the fact that death is inevitable and that it will bring benefits to our lives. Similar to Invisible Man’s struggles with the Narrator, this idea can be applied to Meursault. Both men require an eye-opening experience in order to find their true identity.

Invisible Man is Ralph Ellison’s story about a Narrator who feels out of sight to the rest. His skin color makes it difficult for others to see him because he is black and grew up during segregation. Dr. Bledsoe tells him that he’s not even a person. It doesn’t exist. Why can’t you understand that? “The white people tell everyone what to believe,” (Ellison 141). This negatively affects his self-perception. He feels like his destiny has been predetermined. This lesson can be learned by readers who allow the judgments made about him to distort their sense of his identity. To find purpose, you must be objective about yourself without prejudices and stereotypes. The Narrator may be influenced by racism but his self-concept is not. Although his internal struggle is clearly caused by outside forces, it is not permanent. This tells the reader that people shouldn’t be held responsible for their own discriminatory beliefs.

The Narrator is a classic example of an immigrant struggling to adhere to his or her own culture and beliefs in the early 20th Century. Immigrants were often considered outsiders upon arrival in America. They arrived in America hoping to find a better purpose. However, their journey was hampered by the judgments of others. Their hardships are similar to Meursault’s in Invisible Man. They are seen in society as the odd man out, just like immigrants. The immigrants, however, had a different drive for success than the men mentioned. Meursault and Narrator don’t have the motivation to improve their lives. Both men are content to let other’s prejudices and ideologies guide their lives. Contrarily, immigrants who arrived in America in early 20th-century America did not accept other people’s views as facts. Irish immigrants, for example, were often ridiculed simply because they were Irish. They were not allowed to apply for jobs and were considered less than natural-born Americans. They persevered despite being treated badly and became a minority in society. They didn’t let other ideologies sabotage their sense of self-worth, which is something that many can learn today (“Irish immigrants”).

To teach their readers important life lessons, authors use characters. Camus and Ellison achieved exactly the same thing through Meursault’s trial and execution. Readers will be able to see how Meursault was tried and executed. Readers will also be able to see how Meursault conforms to society’s expectations of him. It’s clear that being true to oneself is vital to finding meaning in someone’s lives. These are very different examples of the search to identify from the struggle of Irish-Americans in 1900s. They were able overcome the limitations of other ideologies to make their own decisions. Even though they are quite different, all three examples show how literature speaks differently to humanity. Man cannot find true purpose in the face of the harsh reality and nature without examples.

Works cited:

Camus, Albert. Albert Camus’s novel about a man with no identity. A.A. Knopf published New York in 1946. Print.

Ellison, Ralph. An unnamed protagonist discovers he is invisible to the world. Vintage International published New York in 1995. Print.

Kenny, Kevin. “Irish immigrants in the United States.” Irish immigrants. The US Embassy issued a report in 2008. Web. 24 Feb. 2016.


  • rosssaunders

    Ross Saunders is an educational blogger and professor, who has written extensively on topics such as education reform, online learning, and assessment. He has also spoken on the topic at various conferences and universities.

rosssaunders Written by:

Ross Saunders is an educational blogger and professor, who has written extensively on topics such as education reform, online learning, and assessment. He has also spoken on the topic at various conferences and universities.

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