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Thread: The Stranger vs. Notes from Underground-My Thesis Statement

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    The Stranger vs. Notes from Underground-My Thesis Statement

    alright guys, I am done reading the stranger, and am still pretty confused as to what to compare. I don't really see "alienation" in The Stranger by Albert Camus unless you analyze how he is so different from everyone else - no emotions and stuff like that. What are two good comparable themes in the novel:

    I need a thesis statement like:

    Albert Camus's, The Stranger and Fyodor Dostoyevsky's Notes from Underground both explore the theme of Alienation and investigate how one's immoral personality leads to their alienation or differentiation from the rest of society.

    That was my previous thesis statement, but looks like I am going to have to change it, because I cannot find concrete examples of Alienation in The Stranger. Also, the thesis is not limited to that structure, it can also be something like this:

    ... explore the theme of alienation, however, Camus investigates ... and Dostoyevsky's inspects ...

    so it can either be a cause - result essay, or the differentiation between the two novels, two separate differences, one similarity and one difference, or both similarities - as it's a 2 paragraph comparative essay.

    it would be much appreciated now more than ever if someone could guide in the right direction?? essay is due in a few days and I have no idea what to write

    edit: how about comparison of their role in society and their differed personalities changing their roles in society or something like that?
    Last edited by aXis; 12-05-2006 at 11:50 PM.

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    hello axis,
    I quote your sayings:

    'Albert Camus's, The Stranger and Fyodor Dostoyevsky's Notes from Underground both explore the theme of Alienation and investigate how one's immoral personality leads to their alienation or differentiation from the rest of society.'

    Stop now.
    Don't understand it false.
    If you allow,

    firstly,
    The Stranger is alienated from EXISTENCE; that is life as such. He does not understand existence, he finds it ABSURD and offending for the rational being that he is.
    The Stranger's alienation is due to his seeing of the absurdity of existence.
    The absurdity of existence is Camus’ major thesis although it is not a new discovery in literature. Namely, Dostoyevski (and others before him too, but its not the place to discuss here about it) wrote already at his time about existential problems and he articulated them in the absurd form which C picks up and develops.
    One is called from non-existence into life without being asked before and for a reason that one may not track down. One will die and pass to non-existence again, without questions, without a reason one may see. The absurdity thesis is exactly this: What can one do not to die? Nothing. Why? Why are we called into existence and for what? Why can one not change something so that this absurd circle will be broken?
    I read The Stranger with the following key in mind: No matter what one does do or not do, one will anyway die. The book seemed to me a complete edifice which would have been ruined if one so much as takes or adds one single word. Every word had its place, every word was necessary and illustrated my reading key. There are a few years since then.

    secondlly,

    Notes from Underground is so far I remember the illustration of D's life experience in prison. He was sent in prison for his literary and political work/ideas. It has nothing to do with morality, or, as you say ‘immoral personality’.

    Living this aside, you should be able to track down in D’s work the same ideas that I just sketched about C’s Absurd.

    I must congratulate you for a lucky choice of the works of the two. C is namely trying to depart himself from D and he develops his ideas to a degree D did not reach. (at list C sees the matter so). But this is not seen in his Stranger.

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    hello again,
    it seems that I made a cofusion. I was trying to refresh my memory about Notes of the Underworld and reading the description of the book, I find all very strange.I am confused . I was talking about another book. Wird...,I whish to know which!...

    Anyway, I was reading the following:
    The character of D's Notes of the Underworld is attempting to 'describe his ideas of life and the quest of being relating man with a piano keybord:man does not whant to think of himself as an instrument that can be played by a superior force without having the power to use his will.'
    Exactly here I see the connection with the Stranger.

    I go now and edify myself about my confussion.

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    The House of the Dead. That was it.

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    thanks for the reply sir dovesinn - can you please further clarify what you mean? i read your post, but i don't understand what the comparison between the two novels would be still? thanks again for your reply - can you clarify my thesis or thematic comparison statement?

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    you ought to get rid of that thesis statement. here are some random thoughts about the books that may help:


    focus on the character's development, insofar as what the world forces them to discover about themselves. In the Stranger, the world writes on the main character whereas the Underground Man desires to write on the world (i.e. contol it). In the former case, he is forced to "feel" guilty, whereas the Underground Man wants others in a sense to "see" him. he comes to learn that it's far too much to cope with. he is made to indignancy, self-loathing, spite, jealousy, rage, and ultimately, despair. He wants to control everything, but the world won't allow it. The Stranger wants nothing, asks for nothing beyond sustenance. He is a passive spectator devoid of a self-reflective capacity. he just lives detached, amoralistically and unemotionally. for example, when his girlfriend asks him if he loves her, he answers, "I guess so." another example is when she tells him to call the cops because the neighbor is beating his girlfriend. He answers, "I don't like cops." he's thrown into a world and the shining light of reason will fuse him to society, thereby extricating all primordial drives, like the sunlight along the blade of the knife wielded against him on the beach marks shimmers with the end of his innocence. the process of humanization engendered by the collective self is complete, even though society has to kill him after it brings him to his senses. in a sense the death sentence is a metaphor for society's murder of human instinct. Camus's message is: Conformity is life.

    The Underground man is on the other end of the evolutionary spectrum. he suffers from solipsism, the notion that he is at the center of everything; that the world must either be and do like him; but the world is askew, he comes to learn. the want of dignity/recognition drives his obsession. That, dostoyevsky suggests, is the sad and tormenting fate of all human life.
    Last edited by jon1jt; 12-07-2006 at 05:50 AM.
    "He was nauseous with regret when he saw her face again, and when, as of yore, he pleaded and begged at her knees for the joy of her being. She understood Neal; she stroked his hair; she knew he was mad."
    ---Jack Kerouac, On The Road: The Original Scroll

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    society's murder of human instinct? but isn't the stranger the alienated one in society - because he's so different and stuff - doesn't care about anything

    while the main character in the underground man thinks too much of himself - everything should revolve around him

    so, is that like almost opposite personalities? what can I relate to themes in the two novels?

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    i wouldn't say he's alienated so much as he's disinterested. he has a f/t job, apartment, girlfriend, and he speaks when spoken to. but does that make him fully human? he doesn't "care" about anything in particular, which is why the novel's first line starts with, "my mother died yesterday." it's cold, uncaring, impersonal. but i wouldn't call him withdrawn because there requires intentionality and here we have a man who merely exists.

    The Underground Man's whole existence rests on the degree to which others acknowledge him, respect him, even revere him. but notice in the final scenes his conversation with the shop girl; he gets her attention and she opens up and in turn he has loathsome thoughts and lashes out. later she shows up to his apartment to find out he lied. he gives her money as a way to degrade her, but she leaves it behind. what makes him so unique is that he wants to believe that on some level he's like everyone else. but he's a nihilist of the highest form. the world holds up a mirror which allows him to see his true ugly nature.

    that's all i have time for at the moment.
    Last edited by jon1jt; 12-08-2006 at 08:14 PM.
    "He was nauseous with regret when he saw her face again, and when, as of yore, he pleaded and begged at her knees for the joy of her being. She understood Neal; she stroked his hair; she knew he was mad."
    ---Jack Kerouac, On The Road: The Original Scroll

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    Hello!

    What an interesting discussion here!

    I'm afraid that I can't contribute very much.
    In my opinion Notes from Unterground are a very terrifying look into the mirror. Dostoyevsky is looking for self-knowledge (and in association with this the confict with other people can't be overseen).
    The Stranger is looking for a sense of life, but he only finds absurdity.
    I would say, that while Camus concentrates on the absurdity of life, Dostoyevsky concentrates on the suffering of people (maybe on the necessity of suffering?).

    Alienation can be found on both sides: The man in the Notes is thinking that he is different from all others - but he notices this difference only in his thinking (so it seems only to be a personal impression). The Stranger (as far as I remember) seems to be confronted with alienation in real life.

    Greetings

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    great points loe. to add to what you said about camus's absurdity theme; he also aclknowledges that "it" matters----insofar as we derive meaning in the absurd (life in itself).
    "He was nauseous with regret when he saw her face again, and when, as of yore, he pleaded and begged at her knees for the joy of her being. She understood Neal; she stroked his hair; she knew he was mad."
    ---Jack Kerouac, On The Road: The Original Scroll

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    alright, after reading a little into notes from underground, i see what you mean..

    what about this as a comparison: something about they despise the world around them - they despise life and don't really care they are living - as the common comparison, that leads them to their alienation from not only society, but also themselves?

    would something like that suffice... sorry if I am a bit of a newbie, but this is for a grade 10 english class that I have to write this comparative and I am just trying to gather some ideas from here...

    the themes in notes from underground are:

    The Fallacies of Rationalism and Utopianism
    The Artificiality of Russian Culture
    Paralysis of the Conscious Man in Modern Society

    and the stranger:

    The irrationality of the universe
    The meaninglessness of human life
    The importance of the physical world

    Now, since the comparative essay has to be a thematic comparison - it would be appreciated if you guys could give me an idea of what theme I would compare and how please :P. thanks for all your help guys, these notes you provided helped me understand the two novels a little bitter

    edit: also, can it be a comparison like how in court, people find mersault's personality very weird and the chaplain even says that he'll "pray for him"... something like that - Mersault doesn't think life is worth living, he doesn't actually really BELIEVE in anything - no god or anything, no love, and the way the novel is written, with the littlest detail for everything emotional - its unbelievable. also, at the end of the novel, what does mersault mean that to make everything complete, he wishes that there is a crowd of people showing hatred for him during his execution? does he finally realize his wrong doings and his mistakes and his bad personality??

    also guys, isn't alienation a good theme to compare - as both characters are alienated from society but for different reasons - the underground man considers himself better than everyone else, and mersault just doesn't believe in life - he is just living because he has no other choice, both characters are much different than anyone else in their society and do not represent characters, yet ideas within our own society?
    Last edited by aXis; 12-10-2006 at 08:08 PM.

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    anyone? i really need these ideas to base my essay on... it has to be a thematic comparison

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    i don't understand why you keep going back to this alienation theme as the basis of your essay, considering it does not apply to the case in the Stanger. mersault is the embodiment of a superinfantile being---the point is he's processed by the social machinery which "makes" him human. these are existential novels that grapple with the intersection of life and the world and proceed under a different set of assumptions. for dostoyev. the fate of human life is suffering, as adam/eve had it.

    To what extent does culture shape the ground of being (the "core" of the self). what is the ultimate purpose of human life?

    both books agree that human life is suffering. the world/life is absurd, but still it matters. for camus, meaning is superimposed on us, and human beings become receptacles for meaning, whereas for Dostoyev. meaning starts and ends with human beings. the world is a playground for humans to better understand their own predicament. Sartre's book, Nausea, has a wonderful image of a man, whose body is invaded by the roots of a tree, which ties into Mersault's predicament at the end. i think he might want to see human beings suffer at the end because he does. the underground man's burden is irreconcilable.

    there is/was a resident dostoyevsky scholar at this site---i'll see if i can locate him for you.
    Last edited by jon1jt; 12-13-2006 at 05:39 AM.
    "He was nauseous with regret when he saw her face again, and when, as of yore, he pleaded and begged at her knees for the joy of her being. She understood Neal; she stroked his hair; she knew he was mad."
    ---Jack Kerouac, On The Road: The Original Scroll

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    hmm thanks a lot - got a lot of great ideas, i think i can write my essay now , just might need to ask you guys for some examples... i am allowed to have a secondary quote in my essay, any ideas from any book i can get the secondary quote to try and support my point? if not, i don't really need it... thanks a lot for your help guy(s)

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    hey jon1it thanks a lot for all your help ... i was wondering if you could extend on this part of your post:

    both books agree that human life is suffering. the world/life is absurd, but still it matters. for camus, meaning is superimposed on us, and human beings become receptacles for meaning, whereas for Dostoyev. meaning starts and ends with human beings. the world is a playground for humans to better understand their own predicament.
    I don't quite fully understand, but I think this is a good think to base my essay on. Thanks once again for all your help So, both authors present their philosophies of the absurdity of life (thats my first paragraph), (how would I word the second part of my thesis statement)? Like, how can I have opposing ideas of exisentalism or the absurdity of life - it can also be cause - effect, so the absurdity of life leads one to what? Should I also focus on the idea of existenalism rather than absurdity of life - they kind of interconnect, but which one would be easier to find quotes for?? once again, I appreciate all your help

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