Sanctuary in "The Stranger" by Albert Camus and "A Clean Will Lighted Place"

Essay by eryka_sHigh School, 12th grade May 2006

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Many find sanctuary in order to run away from the world and to turn their heads away from their problems. A sanctuary is a place to hide where one can live a different life than the one they lead. Whether it be an actual place or a hobby to submerge themselves in a sanctuary changes their state of mind for the time being.

The deaf man's sanctuary is alcohol. With alcohol, he can intoxicate himself and leave into a different state of mind, taking a temporary vacation from reality. The bartenders argue what is wrong with him, ignoring the real issues he might have. The deaf man attempted suicide but the bartenders do not think much of it. They seem to ignore that he could have tried to kill himself for deeper reasons than a lack of money or a wife. The two bartenders exemplify shallow people who tend to ignore the real problems with reality.

In a sense, their denial is their sanctuary. They cannot be hurt by the harsh realities of life if they will not admit they are there.

Hemmingway never reveals the exact grievances within the three characters but their everyday lives are trying. The deaf man lacks a wife and cannot hear. The older waiter is lonely. The younger waiter works at a job he dislikes with terrible hours. Hemmingway shows that life itself takes a toll on oneself and that it is just not one grievance, which causes the characters to find sanctuary to forget their problems.

The characters also find sanctuary in the little things in their lives that they can look forward to. The younger waiter looks forward into going home to his wife. The older waiter looks forward to the customers that walk in to the café that are his only companions. The deaf man finds comfort in death because perhaps by now the drinks are not enough to cover his reality.

It is the older waiter who sums it up the best. What they really fear is nothing. That life is meaningless and what they are worrying about now really has no point in the end. They are just wasting time and energy finding sanctuary from things that do not matter either way.

Another man who finds sanctuary from nothingness is Mersault. Throughout the novel he seems to ignore that fact that nothing matters in the end and everything he was doing had no point, that he was to just die and that would be it. This angered him but he seemed to deny that it bothered him until his last day on earth when he confesses his feelings to the chaplain.

He faces these thoughts in prison by the constant questioning from the chaplain where he admits them but not with the emotional struggle, he faced with his last encounter. Mersault is tired of the chaplain questioning him on what he believes in and his last confession is his affirmation that all of his thoughts are real and true.

Marie and the beach is his sanctuary from prison and his existentialist thoughts. Even though he cannot be at the beach or see Marie while imprisoned he is plagued by the thoughts but quickly vanishes them confirming that he could never see those things anymore so why waste life by thinking about them. However, he does, time, and time again. It is almost as if he refuses to believe that his existentialist thoughts scare him and that he wishes to feel emotion for the Marie and the beach

Marie and the beach is Mersault's sanctuary because they remind him of a time when he was free and happy and living life the way he liked it. When he was swimming in the oceans water with Marie, he was simply living. He did not feel great emotion nor had deep thoughts on the meaning of life. That is the way he liked it.

The prison cell changed all that because he did not have his sanctuary of Marie to occupy his time. Therefore, he thought the meaninglessness of life confirming that when the court sentences him to death, nothing will change.

These are both examples of how people find sanctuary from existentialist ideas because they can be very intimidating. If everything comes up to nothing, then why do anything at all? That is what the deaf man decided and that is why he tried to kill himself. He knew that it would not matter if he died so why not get it over. Mersault knew the same, and he knew that when the town would execute him the next day that nothing would change in the world. Drinking and thoughts of happiness was just a distraction from that harsh reality.