The Stranger, Shawshank Redemption & Existentialism
The philosophy of Existentialism described in The Stranger by Albert Camus, and Shawkshank Redemption by Stephen King and Frank Darabont.What is unique about these two stories is the fact that the veiwer can view Existentialism in the lives of two men who are opposite in personality, yet do similar actions. Even though there are many varietes of existentialism can be categorized into six major themes: existence before essence, reason is impotent to deal with the depths of human life, alienation or estrangement, fear and trembling anxiety, the encounter with nothingness, and freedom.
Both stories contain much of this “existence before essence” which in simple terms means “we gotta live we can’t just is.” Like in the beginning of the two stories both characters expressed the same bland and dull emotion. When Andy Dufresne, Shawshank, was at his trial and when he arrived at the prison for being accused of murdering his wife and lover. The emotion that he expressed was as if at the time he was simply “ising” and not living. Similar to that of Monsieur Meursault or “M.” from The Stranger, who also showed the exact emotion for when his mother died and his trial later on.
These examples are probably the best because it clearly shows that at the time, they didn’t really care about anything in life which is what existence before essence is. Other prime examples would be when M. and marie are getting ready to leave for the beach, Marie is all cheerful and excited, while M. doesn’t look very thrilled (pg.47). For Andy, it would be when he was getting sexually assualted his first two years in prison. At the time even though he resisted a few times, he still didn’t know his purpose in life.
Even though they sound similar there was one thing that made them different and that was that when M. was to be executed he was fine with it because he had the mentality of “my life is now meaningless.” While for Andy, if he didn’t do what the warden said, he was going to the hardest of time than anyone else. Andy had much time to think about his next move. One day while speaking with ,Red his best friend, he said to him “get busy livin’ or get busy dyin'” Andy managed to escape that same day.
During the opening scene of the film, Andy was shown sitting in his car in front of what was believed to be his wifes lover’s house. At this time Andy was destroyed by the fact that his wife had been cheating on him and takes his gun and bullets out of his cars glove compartment. Without any thought we then see Andy get out of his car and smash a bottle of liqour and then see him make his way to the house.
After that the scene fades out and leaves us wondering if Andy really did shoot them both out of grief. This leaves us off that Andy’s emotions got the best of him instead of sitting down and reasoning with what approach he should take for his current situation.
Raymond friend of M, had done a similar action. Raymond too committed a crime of passion for when he beats his girlfriend for also believing she was cheating on him. Instead of confronting her about it, he instead beats her like a punching bag and pays the price. In my opinion this probably the greatest example for “reason is impotent to deal with the depths of human” because it happens so often and its easy to understand.
M. the perfect person to think of when talking about one who alienates himself. M. was an interesting fellow because he hated to be around people, but at the same time loved to watch society from hisbalcony with wine and a cigarette in hand. There were countless times when he just perfered to be alone, awkwardly enough that was one of the main reasons he didn’t mind being in jail.
Even at his own mother’s death, instead of sitting next to her friends from the Home, he sat across from them and just hated the idea that they were some sort of jury judging him. Andy too isolated himself from the other inmates when he first arrives to jail. Smart of him to do so. The last thing you want to do is piss someone off while you’re in the same place as them 24/7. But once he got the hang of how things worked, Andy was more social and interactive in his new home.
Old Salamano, friend and neighbor of M. was so scared for his dog who was missing. Salamano was scared and nevous for his old companion, he had no one else in his life besides his best friend. the thought of the police getting a hold of him made matters even worse, Salamano knew the dog was in terrible condition and if someone were to find him they would just kill him. Thoughts like these are what makes people go mad and end up committing suicide just like Brooks, from Shawshank.
Brooks, an elderly man who had spent most of his lifetime behind bars finally got the news he had been wanting for a very long time, his release date. When Brooks first got news of his release he feared of the outside world. He had been locked up for so long that he ended up depending on the walls themselves. With such fear and anxiety of the thought of him leaving everything he knows and loves, he gets a sharp object and about kills a man just so he can be there longer. Eventually his friends talk him out of it and ends up leaving. Later on we see Brooks depressed and ends up hanging himself in his apartment building.
The encounter with nothingness, people who feel that are left with nothing. The reason why M. was ok with his execution. M. had felt as if there was just nothing for him to be in the world and was ok with his death. Throughout the time of the death of his mother M. has this “what is left” attitude. Even Andy, pondering his thoughts while he was thrown in the hole for two months. Wondering what he would have left if he didn’t obey the warden. Throughout movie and part of the book it has that feel of once you’re in prison you don’t really have anything left, they practically own everything about you.
Freedom, the word that has many meanings. Freedom can mean a variety of things but for the movie it meant escaping jail for the most part. As for Brooks, freedom mean’t finally being at peace with himself. For Andy, it meant escaping that terrible place and following his long dream of going to Zihuantanejo and opening a small hotel. Even if it meant that he had to escape throught a 500 yard long sewer.
Red, the man who thought he would never see the outside world again, saw freedom when he walked out the gates of Shawshank and met up with long time friend, Andy. As for M. it meant dying also. M. felt that he was never going to be free until he took full responsibility for his actions and faced death.
For this Existentialism can be seen in many ways, fashions, symbols and through innovations in conventional form.
Courtney from Study Moose
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