The cure lyrics "Killing An Arab"

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Existentialism unit
We have four small works for this unit. The second is for your own enrichment. We will perform Godot and No Exit in class. You will not need a copy of Godot, but please procure No Exit.


What is existentialism? What are some central components? Who are some major proponents of existentialism?


The Stranger, by Albert Camus

Let’s sing a song, Killing an Arab, by The Cure 


"Killing An Arab"

Standing on the beach

With a gun in my hand
Staring at the sea
Staring at the sand
Staring down the barrel
At the arab on the ground
I can see his open mouth
But I hear no sound

I'm alive

I'm dead
I'm the stranger
Killing an arab

I can turn

And walk away
Or I can fire the gun
Staring at the sky
Staring at the sun
Whichever I chose
It amounts to the same
Absolutely nothing

I'm alive

I'm dead
I'm the stranger
Killing an arab

I feel the steel butt jump

Smooth in my hand
Staring at the sea
Staring at the sand
Staring at myself
Reflected in the eyes
Of the dead man on the beach
The dead man on the beach

I'm alive

I'm dead
I'm the stranger
Killing an arab
Who are the characters in The Stranger?
Each of these characters in The Stranger possesses at least one defining characteristic. These represent types.
Marie Cardona - the happy life
The caretaker - damning testimony, opinionated
Celeste - fatalist, believes in luck

Defense counsel- understands the silliness of the trial

Director of the home – matter-of-fact

Examining magistrate – the exact opposite of M. Encumbered by dogma and a need to know what others think.

Masson – carefree, lives simply

Meursault –the vehicle through whom Camus reveals his theory.

Monsieur Perez – witness, friend of M.’s mother

Raymond – a small-minded man who views the world in terms of possessions

Salamano – a key figure in daily routine and tedium

What is absurdity to the existentialists?
The idea of the absurd is a common theme in many existentialist works, particularly in Camus. Absurdity is the notion of contrast between two things. As Camus explains it in The Myth of Sisyphus:

The absurd is born out of this confrontation between the human need and the unreasonable silence of the world.

This view, which is shared by Sartre, is that humanity must live in a world that is and will forever be hostile or indifferent towards them. The universe will never truly care for humanity the way we seem to want it to. The atheist view of this statement is that people create stories, or gods, which in their minds transcend reality to fill this void and attempt to satisfy their need.

The philosophy that encompasses the absurd is referred to as absurdism. While absurdism may be considered a branch of existentialism, it is a specific idea that is not necessary to an existentialist view.

It's easy to highlight the absurdity of the human quest for purpose. It's common to assume that everything must have a purpose, a higher reason for existence. However, if one thing has a higher purpose, what is the reason for that purpose? Each new height must then be validated by a higher one. This evokes the common theological question: if humankind was created by God, who or what created God? (And, if God answers to a higher power, to what power does that answer?)

Søren Kierkegaard, although religious himself, declared faith in God to be absurd, since it is impossible to know God, or to understand His purpose. In The Myth of Sisyphus, Camus described suicide as the most appropriate and rational reaction to the absurd — but admitted that this is not a very rewarding or worthwhile reaction.

Critics of absurdism tend to focus on two areas of the philosophy. The first is the proposition, as Camus described, that life's absence of meaning seems to remove any reason for living. Camus answers this with methods of living with the absurd: through coping or through revolt — and by pointing out that this lack of purpose presents humankind with true freedom. Others consider the theory itself to be arrogant, stating that although the purpose of life may not be apparent, that does not confirm that it does not exist.

« Back to Existentialism
What are some themes in The Stranger?

  • key terms – repetitive/disruption(ex. mother dies, involved with Marie, Raymond’s intervention, Salamano’s dog, shoots a man, law’s demands)

  • hence, Meursault learns life is meaningless. Any other explanation leads him to theology. Theology is incapable of explaining the senseless things humans do (ex. war, murder, …)

  • so, one can at least be certain of life and death. And in doing so, one upholds human values (human rights). This is why M. accepts his punishment; he accepts the logic of a system that upholds human rights.


  • one observes racial tensions

  • set in Algeria and the date of publication is 1942

  • appears to happen to French people who happen to live in Algeria.

  • none of the Arabs receives a name (ex. the nurse, Raymond’s girlfriend, the girlfriend’s brother…)

Free will

  • free will is taken for granted

  • one might interpret this as M’s indifference

  • M. does not encumber his life with dogmas cf. the magistrate who clings to his belief in God.

  • M. is never worried and declares simple states – ex. hunger, a search for homeostasis, whether he feels well… M. is concerned with elemental factors.


What are the stylistic aspects of The Stranger?
1 Narrative style

a the protagonist does not detail his psychology. Rather, the reader must decipher it.

b M. refuses to justify himself to others.

c this indifferent person draws the reader to M’s perspective

d however, and because of this indifference, others are only too ready to condemn him

2 Structure and language

a Consider the Hemingway style of text without much description

b the work divides at the murder. The first half moves towards increasing chaos; the second half moves towards decreasing chaos

3 Setting:

a the environment profoundly influences the main character

b always day time. The sun is always out. No night (except the vigil), no darkness
4 Foreshadowing

the parallels between those around the coffin and those, later, sitting in judgment

5 Time

the novel does not establish time

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