Albert Camus' The Outsider Term Paper

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Priest and Chaplain

The characters of the chaplain, in Albert Camus' The Outsider,

and the priest, in Franz Kafka's The Trial, are quite similar, and are

pivotal to the development of the novel. These characters serve

essentialy to bring the question of God and religion to probe the

existentialist aspects of it, in novels completely devoid of religious


The main idea visible about these two characters is that they

are both the last ones seen by the protagonists, Mearsault and K., both

non-believers in the word of the lord. Whereas the chaplain in The

Outsider tries to make Mearsault believe in the existence of god, the

priest tries to warn and explain to K. what will happen to him.

The reason the chaplain is the last one to see Mearsault is

becasue it's his job to let the prisioners have a final shot at

redemption before they are executed. The reason that K. meets with the

priest is out of advice given to him by someone, and he is the last

character that he shows K. interacting with (although it might be true

that K. meets and interacts with other people after the meeting, but

they are neither mentioned nor visible later on). The priest doesn't try

and make K. confess or anything of the sort, he is mainly there to

converse with the character, his religious position is almost put to no


The existentialist view of religion is that humans have been

alienated from god, from each other, and so forth. In the novel Crime

and Punishment, by Fyodor Dostoevsky, the christian idea of salvation

through suffering is omnipresent throughout the novel. What is visible

with The Trial and The Outsider is that they don't touch on the aspect

of religion much throughout the story (The Outsider has bits and pieces

of it appearing in his cross examinations but they are used more to mock

than in an analitical sense). The presence of these two characters at

the end of the novel serves to cover all the existentialist areas known

to existemtialists (although it is doubtful whether the authors

consciously attempted to make the character's present because of any

existentialist rules they had to follow).

The characters are required to structure the novels, beside the

obvious existentialist areas. The characters are there to let the

protagonist's blow off some steam. In all the beaurocracy, confusion,

and incompetence these two remain as the only ones that understand the

predicament of the protaganists. They actually seem to understand what

the protagonists are going through. The priest is more direct, yet

symbolic, with K., telling him a story laden with symbolism and telling

him what he's about to go through. The chaplain tries to take advantage

of what he understands about Mearsault, and take control of his ideas in

his final moments.

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