The Nihilist asks the Question: ‘what to rebel’. Yes, I rebel against the shit the shit that ejects. I rebel banging on walls. Why should I rebel against God? Should I? What is there to rebel? The body is absurd, even an intercourse and pleasure is fleeting. Going to whores, is that a rebellion? Camus said: ‘authenticate your existence’. Should I murder somebody to authenticate my existence? The laws of the State, how can I go against it? Should I sin more to rebel against God? If Camus said that we must rebel to authenticate our existence than rebellion itself is self defeating, an act of nihilism. I beg to disagree with Camus.
Death of a Sales Man by Arthur Miller is one of the prominent plays which won a Pulitzer Prize. The play depicts the life of an American Middle Class Family in pursuit of the great American Dream. Here I would like to analyze the play from various schools of literary thought.
The protagonist Willy Lowman can be compared to Albert Camus’ Myth of the Sisyphus where the Gods torture Sisyphus by making him roll a boulder all the way uphill to find that it rolls down again. Willy Lowman is forced to do a menial job for a selling company. The tragic hero of the play is a person in pursuit of the great American dream but fails to achieve and succumbs to suicide. Looking at him from Sartre’s existential point of view, we find him a bearer of existential angst. Plagued by the power of negative thinking, Billy relapses into existential solipsism. Billy’s character reveals an overarching narcissism.
Looking at the play from a Marxian perspective we find the play is littered with oppressive symptoms of a leviathan, showing the perils of a capitalist society. The proletariat are struggling workaholics. We find a society that is inhuman and dehumanizing. Society is fragmented and proceeds on bettering oneself with the forsaking of one’s neighbor.
I would like to introduce the Lacanian concept of the mirror stage. The mirror stage in psychoanalysis is a stage where the child enters the realm of language and becomes a self, a subject. The mirror stage is an arena where Billy’s psyche conflicts with the aspirations and goals set by him. The mirror becomes an absurd theater of life. From a Jungian perspective, Billy Lowman is an archetype of a fool. He is living in an illusory demented world. I would also like to make a comparison of Billy Lowman with Cervantes’ Don Quixote. The follies of Don Quixote at one point of time were denigrated as a fool’s conquest for utopia. Don Quixote in psychoanalysis can be considered as a narcissistic hero who creates the myth of existential anarchic living. Billy Lowman is a tragic, stoic hero who becomes a king of neurotic behavior.
Billy’s wife Linda Lowman is an essence of the sacred feminine. She can be compared to a mother Goddess who tries to balance with the realities of life and who strives to cope up with Billy’s dementia. She is an archetype of a classic American middleclass woman who tries to cope up with the realities of life.
Postmodernism and Post structuralism
Postmodern perspectives analyze how binary divide is created in language. Certain structures are privileged signifiers and others are marginalized. In Death of a Salesman we find capitalism and the bourgeoisie to be privileged signifiers where as Billy Lowman and the proletariats are marginalized. Capitalism and the bourgeoisie become structures that can be read as texts of interpretative deconstruction.
Albert Camus is a prominent French Philosopher noted for his philosophy of existential nihilism. Notable among his philosophical works are: The Myth of the Sisyphus. He has also published various works of fiction. The Stranger is a work characterized by his philosophy of existential nihilism.
The protagonist of the novel is Mersault. The novel begins with Mersalut being informed about the death of his mother in an old-age home. He travels by bus to the old age home and sees her body and takes part in the funeral proceedings. His feelings for his mother remain neutral. The inmates are allowed to watch the funeral proceedings.
He arrives back to Algiers and becomes engrossed in work. He has a girl friend named Mary with whom he has an affair. They go swimming in the sea. Then in the Stranger we come across a man who is a pimp. He gets arrested by the police for abusing a woman. Mersault has many friends and notable among them is Raymond. Later on in the novel we find Mersualt shooting an Arab and he gets arrested. The trial lasts for a long time and he gets imprisonment.
The novel does not deserve merit as a great aesthetic artifact. The novel is not a product of a literary genius. The philosophy of existential nihilism is interlaced into the novel. One is puzzled as to why the protagonist does not grieve the death of his mother. Why does he treat her funeral with cold indifference? Mersault’s relationship with Mary is also one of strange conjecture. When Mary asks Mersault whether he would marry her, he replies affirmatively no. When Mary asks whether Mersault loves her: he says there is no such thing as love. Mersault is only interested in making love to her. The narrative about the pimp is an interesting one. It is not sure as to why: Mersault has to kill the Arab.
Mersault is a character who experiences Camus’ Myth of the Sisyphus. Sisyphus is condemned by the Gods to roll a boulder all the way uphill only to his aghast to find that it rolls down. Sisyphus is forced to do the act again and again. There is very little usage of tropes in the novel. It’s a wonder to me as to why Camus names the novel: Stranger. Human relationships are so fickle. Existentialism is a philosophy of vanity. The novel does not carry much of philosophical content. Camus intellectualism does not pervade in the novel. One does not feel gratified when reading the novel.