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Symbolism has seeped into the arts and became an essential part of literary works and general communication. Since the concept of symbolism is effective in the construction of a novel, both works; The Outsider by A. Camus (translated by Joseph Laredo) and Woman at Point Zero by N. El Saadawi (translated by Sherif Hetata) portray the symbolic use of Nature. The symbolic use of nature in literature embodies the emotions and feelings of a character. The protagonists, Firdaus in Woman at Point Zero and Meursault in The Outsider mutually use nature as a way to express their feelings. More abstractly, besides giving insights into the characters, both Firdaus and Meursault use nature to symbolize significant events in the plot. Hence, by analyzing the representations of nature, insights into many of the ideas and images that the authors are trying to convey are obtained. This paper will highlight the symbolic use of nature in both novels.
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Meursault devotes significant attention to the different colours of the sky, the sun’s rays at different times of the day and the beach. In the novel, green is linked to happy moments. This is evident from the vague line: “The sky was green; I felt happy.”  Earlier in the novel, the sky was blue and gold, and now it’s green. The colour green is a blend of blue and yellow, it mediates between heat and cold. It is refreshing, comforting and the colour of plant life. Throughout the novel, A. Camus illustrates that red is associated with love and anger. “The sky changed again. Above the rooftops the sky had taken on a reddish glow and with evening coming on the streets came to life.”  Red is one of the most powerful colours. It incites visions of passion and pain, war and love. The symbolic use of red is different depending on the experiences and the culture of an individual. In African societies, the color red is linked to love and hate. It is based on the intensity of these two emotions. This is also analogous to the Arab on the beach scene and Marie’s red coloured dress, as they both signify love and anger. The colour red affected Meursault biologically, as it increased his metabolism and sped up his breathing.
Comparatively, N. El Saadawi examines the different colours of the sky in diverse times of the day. “The sky also had undergone a change; its colour had turned to black, like that of the earth, and it was pressing down upon me with its added load.”  The author has experienced this feeling once, when she felt unloved by a man. The colour black in the novel is seen as a cold and negative aspect suggesting passivity. The change in the colour of the sky symbolizes the feeling of rejection by the vast world. “The sky was blue with a blueness I could capture in my eyes. I held the whole world in my hands; it was mine.”  The author came across this feeling when she met the man that she loved for the first time. Although blue is more common in western societies, blue skies are full of optimistic meaning in every culture. The color blue in the novel is related to freedom, strength and new beginnings. Both, A. Camus and N. El Saadawi are striving to exhibit the unexpected changes of emotions and feelings by using colours as a symbol in the novels.
Throughout the novel, A. Camus’ usage of the sun disputes its warmth and beauty. Similarly to the changing colours of the sky, the sun and heat are a symbol for feelings and emotions. To Meursault, the sun has an impact on all his senses. Depending on its power, it either makes him angry, happy or resentful. The images of sunlight and heat are common throughout the novel as it is set in Algeria. There are two times when these images are significant to the plot. The impact of the sun on Meursault is represented early in the novel, at his mother’s funeral. He was unable to think about his mother’s death because of the glaring sun and intense heat. At the beach, A. Camus portrays once more the negative version of the sun. “The sun shattered into little pieces on the sand and water.”  The sun provokes Meursault to kill the Arab. This indicates the controlling influence of the hot weather. In spite of this, Meursault changes his view on both the sun and his life in prison. “I moved closer to the window, and in the last light of the day I gazed my reflection one more time.”  Early in the novel, he was introduced to the harsh sun. However in jail, Meursault realizes that the sun and life are warm and friendly.
In contrast, N. El Saadawi uses cold weather as a symbol to illustrate her feelings as a character in the novel. “The ground under me was cold. The same touch the same consistency, the same naked cold. Yet the cold did not touch me, did not reach me.”  The author draws cold weather as a negative aspect. In the middle-eastern societies, winter seasons portray fright, death and stagnation. The author uses cold weather as a symbol to present fright and danger when she first met Firdaus. In the beginning, N. El Saadawi was concerned when she sat on the cold floor in prison next to her. Although danger and insecurity were surrounding her, she felt safe and fearless when she sat next to Firdaus. As if the coldness and all the insecurity could not touch her or reach her.
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In The Outsider, water symbolizes relief, escape and peace. This is evident from the beach scene, before the murder occurred: “I was thinking of the cool spring behind the rock. I wanted to hear the murmur of its water again, to escape from the sun and the effort of the women’s tears, and to relax in the shade again.”  To Meursault, it’s easier to step towards the cool water and away from the sun. In the novel, water is a symbol of regeneration, relief and escape; it washes away all the guilt of the protagonist. The closest Meursault comes to happiness, is in the absence of pain from his surroundings. Nature’s surroundings are vicious that the only thing on Meursault’s mind is escape and peace. Meursault’s urgency to escape from the discomfort caused by heat initiates the murder of the Arab.
On the contrary, Firdaus illustrates that water is a symbol for death and new beginnings. This is evident from the incomprehensible line: “On my head I carried a heavy earthenware jar, full of water. Under its weight my neck would sometimes jerk backwards, or to the left or to the right.”  Water has a universal undertone of clarity. Symbolically, it is viewed as the source and origin of life itself. When Firdaus’ neck jerks backward with the jar, water represents warmth and comfort. When it moves to the left, water signifies coldness, alienation and death. When it moves to the right, it denotes renewal and love. N. El Saadawi embodies water as both, the fluidity of life and death in the novel.
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