The characterization of the central characters in The Outsider and Antigone Essay Example
The characterization of the central characters in The Outsider and Antigone Essay Example

The characterization of the central characters in The Outsider and Antigone Essay Example

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  • Pages: 6 (1526 words)
  • Published: November 25, 2017
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Robert Ludlum's claim that "Characterization is integral to the theatrical experience. "1 is demonstrated in Jean Anouilh's play Antigone and Albert Camus' novel The Outsider. Both authors effectively use characterization by manipulating style, foils, imagery, and action to define their central characters, Antigone and Meursault. Their approach intentionally prevents emotional attachment to the protagonists, allowing for a more objective analysis of their predicaments. This detachment is vital to both texts, as it permits a thorough exploration of the characters' situations.

Camus employs an indirect method of characterizing Meursault, requiring readers to synthesize style, imagery, and action to comprehend the enigmatic protagonist. Initially, Camus employs a direct, uncomplicated writing style with a colloquial register. Meursault's vivid account of his passionate sexual encounter - "She had her leg against mine, and I was fondling her b


reasts..." - exemplifies this approach.

Although I kissed her, it wasn't very good. However, she still came back to my place. The imagery used in the story is very literal, and Meursault's tone is detached and indifferent. He carefully chooses his words, avoiding the use of adjectives and adverbs to express his thoughts about life. By telling the story in first person, Camus builds intimacy between Meursault and the reader, making it easier to see how he develops his internal attitude toward his external surroundings.

The first lines of the text reveal Meursault's apathetic approach to life as he states, "Maman died today. Or yesterday maybe, I don't know." Camus uses simple grammar to draw the reader into Meursault's simplistic perception of things. Additionally, through the employment of literal imagery, Camus strengthens Meursault's detached and accepting attitude.

Meursault remains impartial in his observations of both Salamano's

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dog and his mistress Marie. Regarding the dog, he describes its hair falling out and becoming covered with blotches and scabs, painting a clear image of an unappealing animal without adding any personal judgement. Similarly, Meursault provides a veristic depiction of Marie's features but refrains from evaluating her attractiveness.

According to critic Colin Wilson, Meursault's existence may seem perfunctory and lacking in education at first. However, Camus suggests otherwise. Meursault's alleged pimp friend Raymond Sintes believes that Meursault, a university graduate, is capable of composing a convincing letter to send to his unfaithful girlfriend. Girard summarizes Camus' characterization of Meursault as intelligent but lacking in intellectual life, love, friendship, or faith. Meursault's life is constrained to physical senses and mass culture's inexpensive pleasures.

The characterization and behavior of Meursault are simple, whereas Antigone is a complex character with arcane actions. Anouilh portrays Antigone in two ways, using the chorus's voice to create imagery and contrast her with Creon and Ismene, creating an antithesis of a melodramatic heroine. The Chorus introduces Antigone by saying "..

The girl sitting in silence was described as thin and dark, while her sister Ismene was depicted as fair-haired, beautiful, and happy.

The comparison is intensified through the visually evocative imagery of dark Antigone to light Ismene, and then crystalized by the author.

Ismene is more attractive than Antigone. Anouilh's depiction of Antigone, similar to his other heroines Eurydice and Joan of Arc, portrays her with a boyish figure, as she disdains her femininity. This is contrasted with Ismene, who personifies the archetypal blonde ingenue, in order to emphasize Antigone's character.

. is different from the rest, as they do not engage

in primping and seeking attention by applying lipstick and admiring themselves in front of a mirror.

Instead of conventional beauty, Antigone possesses a unique and captivating charm that stops children in their tracks. As the play unfolds, her contrasting qualities to her sister become more evident. Like Meursault, Antigone refuses to conform to societal norms and rejects Creon's realism for her own idealistic beliefs. This allows for a clear comparison between the two characters. The climax of this contrast is evident during Creon's 'Ship of State' speech, where he strips away the religious, political, moral, and filial elements of Antigone's rebellion and urges her to choose banal conventional happiness over her courageous resistance.

Creon believes that personal happiness comes from achieving success, having a fulfilling marriage, and starting a family. However, Antigone disagrees and is appalled by the idea of continuing with one's life regardless of circumstances that may arise.

... a mundane feeling of contentment ...

My desire is to have everything that life has to offer, in its entirety and without exceptions. Otherwise, I choose to disregard it.

Despite all human restrictions, she refuses to give up her desire to bury her brother, even if it means her own death. Her persistence is reminiscent of her father Oedipus and it makes her appear unappealing and outcast from society. By holding onto her unreasonable desire, she becomes an outsider to the human community.

Anouilh reinforces the idea that Antigone is associated with striking natural imagery that is so intense it's almost surreal, embodying the essence of Antigone herself. Despite using different techniques to characterize Antigone and Meursault, Anouilh and Camus have crafted protagonists who drastically differ from one another,

yet possess inner homogeneity. Both Antigone and Meursault share a crucial trait: a search for purity. When challenged by society with compromises to their purity, both choose death as a means to rise above the threat. However, their rejection of traditional values ostracizes them from society and creates distance between the audience and the characters. Antigone has both positive and negative characteristics that serve to keep the audience at a distance, while Meursault's rejection of cultural conventions renders empathy impossible, further dissociating the audience from the primary plot.

The significance of characterization in the text lies in the ability to distance the audience from the central characters. Camus achieves this with Meursault, portraying him as a man who is neither moral nor immoral, but rather neutral.

The author reserves the term "absurd" for a very specific species to which he belongs. This group does not fit into any conventional categories. The theory of the absurd is based on the premise that without God, and with the inevitability of death, everything is permitted. Those who embody this theory live without ambition, hope, or illusions of a future. They are comparable to Somerset Maugham's savages before they were introduced to societal norms by a cleric who taught them the difference between good and evil. Meursault is a prime example of someone who escapes societal constraints by shooting The Arab - thus freeing himself from the same bonds that restrain others.

Camus portrays Meursault as absurd and encourages the audience to analyze him by describing his life rather than scrutinizing it. This presents a challenge as we are then faced with justifying his actions, specifically the murder of the Arab.

Despite our efforts to judge and analyze him based on our customary criteria, we are unable to do so. Similar to Antigone, Meursault lacks rational human reasoning for his behavior, therefore making it difficult to sympathize or grasp his actions. As a result, the character remains enigmatic and opaque.

Despite not being a Don Juan or a Don Quixote of the absurd, he embodies the essence of Sancho Panza and exists before us. We cannot fully comprehend or judge him, but he is undeniably alive. Ultimately, it is his fictional density that justifies his presence in our minds.

The protagonist in Meursault is an outsider who is disconnected from society, evoking emotional detachment from the audience. This detachment is necessary to allow for objective interpretations of absurdist themes and the human condition. Anouilh also employs alienation techniques with Antigone's character to prevent viewers from becoming emotionally involved in her distressing situation. He does this by introducing both positive and negative aspects to her character, while maintaining a dissociative effect that keeps the audience's viewpoint objective.

The comparison of Antigone to Ismene highlights positive qualities such as bravery, vulnerability, innocence, and childlike naivety. On the other hand, the contrast with Creon portrays Antigone as an egotistical and narrow-minded zealot who lacks maturity to base judgments on reason instead of emotions. Similar to Meursault's absurd outlook, these opposing traits make it difficult for us to judge Antigone objectively, requiring emotional neutrality. Although Antigone relies on abstract emotions to make decisions, Anouilh prompts us to analyze her situation logically and rationally, free from emotional biases.

In Antigone by Anouilh, character foils emphasize the protagonist's ambivalent qualities, while in The Outsider, Camus

employs style and imagery to depict the culturally distant character of Meursault. Both protagonists reject conventional happiness and become outsiders in their communities. Meursault appreciates the inherently absurd world around him, while Camus eloquently summarizes Anouilh's dilemma as "Antigone is right, but Creon is not wrong". The author uses this characterization to distance the reader from an emotional attachment to the individual in both texts.

Through the use of likable and unfavorable traits in the same character, the authors prevent the audience from fully empathizing with the main characters, such as Meursault and Antigone. This approach allows for a more objective evaluation of their situations without being influenced by emotional attachment to the characters.

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