Sagar Sood IB English A1 Yr.

1 Final Draft Due: 17th Nov, 08

Comparative Analysis: Meursault & Firdaus
In both the novels, “The Stranger” and “Women at Point Zero”, both the protagonists have a number of similarities as well as differences. In “The Stranger”, the author, Albert Camus, shows Meursault as a selfish and insensitive person who is psychologically detached from the world. On the other hand, Nawal El-Saadawi shows her character on the complete different side. Firdaus is an Egyptian woman who is struggling to live in the society where women have limited rights. This essay will prove that even though they both have similarities and differences, Meursault shows more of the negative characteristics in contrast to Firdaus.

Meursault is the kind of person who shows no feelings towards others and does not care what happens in his life. Events that usually have an impact or effect on a person’s life don’t affect him. “Maman died today or yesterday maybe, I don’t know……it doesn’t mean anything.” (Camus, 3)These lines are the first few lines of the novel. Here Meursault learns that his mother just passed away. His tone clearly explains that it doesn’t matter to him that his mother died, but instead he seeks to know the exact date of her death. In contrast to Meursault, Firdaus’ life changes with every new experience. Everything that takes place around her directly or indirectly has an effect on her life.

Firdaus fell in love with her colleague, Ibrahim. But later she learns that he is getting married soon. This made her realize that it is better to be a prostitute than be a normal woman, bearing all the pain. Throughout the novel, Firdaus is shown as an ambitious woman who tries her hardest to get what is needed. She tried her best to get what she aimed and when she achieved it, she set another goal. On the other hand, Meursault had no idea about his life. He was offered a job in Paris, but he simply refused because he did not like changes in his life even if they were for his own good.

Apart from that Firdaus and Meursault had some similarities as well. They both killed a man without any solid reason and both went to prison for it. Both the protagonists are honest. Meursault does not think of hiding his lack of feeling by shedding false tears over his mother's death. Firdaus on the other hand is honest too. Throughout the novel she spoke what was in her mind. There are some instances in “Women at Point Zero” where Firdaus wishes to be left alone. Meursault also spends most of his time alone smoking cigarettes. In both the novels, the protagonists have symbols/motifs which have an effect on there lives. Since childhood, Firdaus loved reading and learning. Even after she became a successful prostitute, she had her own library where she could calm herself by reading. Meursault like all other smokers couldn’t stay without his cigarettes. Even when in prison, the one thing he craved for was his cigarettes. He spent most of his time alone smoking. Plus he also liked being at the beach.

Along with that both Meursault and Firdaus were observant. Meursault was the kind of looking at things rather than involving himself in it. On the other side Firdaus

observed people, usually there eyes. She described people by there eyes in great detail. Throughout the novels, there wasn’t even one instance where both the characters thought that they were guilty of killing a man. Firdaus thought that what she did was right and Meursault never even thought about it.

One major difference between Firdaus and Meursault is that Meursault shows no feelings towards a human being, neither negative nor positive. When Marie proposed him he simply said that it didn’t matter to him. This is neither a yes nor a no. He doesn’t even know if he loves her or not. On the other hand, Firdaus in some instances is shown as sensitive and in some cases strong and bold. But unlike Meursault she shows feelings towards the people she meets. “My face was turned towards her, and my eyes looked into her eyes: two rings of pure white, surrounding two circles of intense black, that looked out at me.” (Saadawi, 29)She usually described people who she respected and had positive feelings for by there eyes, in this case her teacher, Miss Iqbal. And plus she actually fell in love unlike Meursault.

Another major disparity between them was that Firdaus had an idea of what is good or bad. She could point out what is right or wrong. Firdaus finds the truth, that everyman is hungry for a woman only for pleasures and nothing else. Meursault is neither moral nor immoral. All his life he couldn’t figure out what he was there for. He does not have the ability to make distinctions between good or bad. When Raymond asked him to write a letter that will help Raymond torment his ex-girlfriend, Meursault indifferently agrees because he “didn't have any reason not to.”

Even though Meursault and Firdaus are the protagonists of there novels, Meursault can be considered as a lost hero. His indifference towards the outside world ends up making him a stranger to the society. Meursault cannot be defined as a traditional hero, but rather as a tragically absurd one. His outlook on the irrationality of life, the choices he makes throughout the novel and the realization he makes in the end all promote the idea that Meursault is the absurd hero. Firdaus, on the other space, grew stronger and stronger as she experienced the struggle for survival as a woman in the Islamic society. She knew what she wanted, what was right according to her and learnt a lot from her experiences. By looking into these facts, it is clearly seen that even though they both had similarities and differences, Meursault’s character was far more negative and absurd than Firdaus’.

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