The Difference Between The Perceptions Of Life By The Protagonists English Literature Essay

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In these two legendary novels, The Outsider by Camus and Madame Bovary by Flaubert, the main characters Emma and Meursault live as outsiders in their worlds where their vision of their fantasies is their own reality. Meursault is an existentialist and Emma is a dreamer. In both Emma's and Meursault's opinion of life they do not care about real love in their lives. In the end it takes adultery, criminal activity and being belittled by society for both characters to realize their role in the social order of the times they lived in. The intention of both Camus and Flaubert seems to be to educate the readers and arouse feelings of shock at the protagonists' hardship. The authors achieve this mainly via the use of dialogue and the thoughts of the protagonists.

Madame Bovary is the story of an unhappily married woman, Emma Bovary, who searches for escape through illicit relationships with other men. Eventually, Madame Bovary's indiscretions and her obsession with passion lead to her downfall, which not only appeases the keepers of decency, but shows us Flaubert's opinion of the world wasn't one of naive optimism. Flaubert's adulterous protagonist, the author's alter-ego of sorts, was happy in her offenses, her actions seemingly justified by her dull and lifeless marriage.

When we first meet Meursault he is at his mother's funeral. The narrator describes him as a person whose stoic and cold. This is probably because his mother is death hasn't sunk in yet. The first time we get to know about his opinions on life is his response to the telegram. "Maman died today. Or yesterday maybe, I don't know….That doesn't mean anything. Maybe it was yesterday." From the start we see his emotional indifference and detachment to people and his passive alienation from the rest of society.


Emma's story begins when she is thirteen, at her convent where she has fallen in love with the mystical, aesthetic atmosphere of the religious lifestyle. The teachings of the nuns she doesn't seem to have the desired effect on her. She isn't into substance like God or faith. Instead, she falls for the romantic aspects of it; with the nun's relationship with God being "betrothed" and being his "heavenly lover". An old lady with an aristocratic background introduces Emma to romance novels thus leading her to a whole new world of swoony romantic dreams. Her childhood itself was filled with this impression of life after the convent.

Meursault is more like a spectator of his life than anything else and it reflects on Camus's metaphysical standpoint as an absurdist. Meursault is a detached and deathly honest man. He refuses to lie about himself to save his life. He is a simple and independent person who doesn't accept God or any of society's formulas for happiness."…..I was sure about me, about everything, surer than he could ever be, sure of my life and sure of the death I had waiting for me…." shows that he is absolutely certain about his life.


"Like a sailor in distress, she kept scanning the solitude of her life with anxious eyes, straining to sight some far-off white sail in the mists of the horizon." Emma endlessly hopes that her life would get better, After all since her life so far hasn't been too great so far. Throughout the story Emma begins to believe that she will begin to enter the better half of her life which is shown in "She always assured herself that her next trip would bring her profound bliss, but afterward she would have to admit that she had felt nothing extraordinary."

The final encounter with the priest forces him to reflect on his views of life and death. He is true to his beliefs, though they are restricted. "……...I opened myself to the gentle indifference of the world. Finding it so much life myself - so like a brother, really - I felt that I had been happy and that I was happy again. For everything to be consummated, for me to feel less alone, I had only to wish that there be a large crowd of spectators the day of my execution and those they greet me with cries of hate." shows the confrontation with death causes Meursault to expose his heart to the indifference of the universe. The only thing that could make his death happy is to maintain his beliefs till the very end


Emma is in such bad condition she goes to the church looking for the same comfort she had received in her life when she had been at the convent. She goes to the priest but "She fixed her pleading eyes upon the priest. 'Yes,' she said, 'you solace all sorrows.'" is unsuccessful. We have to feel sorry for Emma as she tries to make things right in her life; unfortunately her environment and the people around her are completely unhelpful.

Meursault walks through life mostly unaware of the consequences of his actions on others. At the end of the novel, Meursault reaches an emotional awareness which contents him- that the world is "gently indifferent." When Meursault realizes this, he does not want to die, nor does he want to kill himself. This means he recognizes that all promise of value rests in life itself. The Stranger would condemn this, and at one point, the novel's hero directly accuses a chaplain of "living like a dead man." Refuting the "no atheists on fox holes" claim, this character challenges the social construct of religion even before his own death, refusing to "waste any last minutes on God."


Madam Bovary feels stuck inside an ill-fated marriage, a constricting society, and a monotonous everyday routine, and she's willing do to almost anything to escape. She dreams of fleeing her old life and finding a new one that's more exciting and full of exotic possibility. However, every time she tries to change her life, it cycles back somehow into the same old, same old. "She was now suffering only through her love, and she felt her soul slipping away in the memory of it, just as a wounded man, as he lies dying, feels his life flowing out through the bleeding gash." shows how she begins to slip further into depression as she believes that her life has no further meaning and commits suicide.

Although Emma and Meursault are opposite personalities, they are both strangers to society because of passion and emotions. Emma needs these to survive, and Meursault does not have these, or, if he does, he hides from them. Emma's society was like Meursault and Meursault's society was like Emma. They should have been switched and they would have fit in perfectly into the society around them. They are alike in more than one way, however. Emma looks for earthly objects to compensate for her alienation, as does Meursault. Meursault tries to compensate with sex, food, and wine. Emma tries to compensate with material items she buys from Lheurex as well as sensual pleasures. They both try to use sex to compensate for their alienation from the society they live in. The two must feel that it will bring them closer to the society that they are alienated from because it is the one thing all people have in common. Although they are alienated, they both also seem to make friends very easily, Emma because of her beauty and Meursault because of his agreeability. Both are strangers to society who have different problems with passion that alienate them from the world.