Redemption In David Adams Richards' "Mercy Among The Children" And Albert Camus' "The Outsider"

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Redemption in David Adams Richards Mercy among the Children and Albert CamusThe OutsiderThe essential meaning of human redemption is to free oneself from sin and to find goodness in one's own nature. The novels, Mercy among the Children by David Adams Richards and The Outsider by Albert Camus, both explore the notion of human redemption. Sydney Henderson, the protagonist of Mercy among the Children, dedicates his life to the faith in God in hope of salvation. While Meursault, the main character of The Outsider, seeks redemption in an individual indifference to society and a belief that human life is worthless. Both Sydney Henderson and Meursault are redeemed when the truth about their lives is ultimately realized.Meursault is living his entire life without any kind of redeeming meaning. He is emotionally detached from the world and assigns no essential purpose to human existence, "What did other people's deaths or a mother's love matter to me, what did God or the lives people chose or the destinies they selected matter to me, when one and the same destiny was to select me and thousands of millions of other privileged people…" (Camus 115-116). Because Meursault is deeply convinced of the certainty of human death, he is indifferent to human life. Once Meursault is condemned to death, his thinking begins to deepen, "What interested me [Meursault] at the moment is trying to escape from the mechanism, trying to find if there's any way out of the inevitable… there was nothing to permit me such a luxury…I was caught up in the mechanism…" (104-105). Meursault recognizes the fact that once he is sentenced, society will not give him a second chance. To the world, Meursault is simply a criminal, as a result, people do not regard his feelings, thoughts, or any of his hopes for the future. Now, he understands that it is not only him, but the whole universe is indifferent to human existence, "I [Meursault] looked up at the mass of signs and stars in the night sky and laid myself open for the first time to the benign indifference of the world. And finding it so much like myself, in fact so fraternal, I realized that I'd been happy, and that I was still happy" (117). At the end, Meursault acknowledges this indifference of the universe and for the first time he feels like he is a member of society since they both share the common quality of indifference. Meursault finally accepts the idea that he is going to die because he realizes that people who condemn him are just like him.Meursault is also redeemed in the eyes of a reader. The reader admires Meursault's character due to his absolute integrity. He never denies his true nature, nor does he try to conform to the views of society, "He announced that I [Meursault ] had no place in a society whose most fundamental rules I ignored…" (99). In fact, society condemns Meursault for being brutally honest. Every time the court gives Meursault a chance to admit his faults and wrongs, he refuses to lie about his remorse, "…rather than true regret, I felt a kind of annoyance" (69). Unlike most of the people in our society, Meursault is never afraid to tell the truth or express his exact feelings. Meursault remains bona fide to his ultimate beliefs till the day he dies, because it is the only truth in life that he knows is real, "I [Meursault] might seem to be empty-handed. But I was sure of myself, sure of everything, surer than he [chaplain] was, sure of my life and sure of the death that was coming to me. Yes, that was all I had. But at least it was a truth which I had hold of just as it had hold of me" (115). In conclusion, the reader feels sympathy and admiration for Meursault because he daringly dies for the truth.On the contrary to Meursault's atheistic indifference, Sydney's salvation begins with his sacred covenant with God. At the age of twelve, he gets into a fight and pushes a boy from the top of the roof. Thinking that he is dead, Sydney Henderson makes a pact swearing to God that if he lets the boy live, he "would never raise his hand or voice to another soul". From that point on, Sydney always lives up to his vow and acts according to the agreement. His nature is admirable due to the moral quality of this pact, because this quality is utterly good and highly honorable trait of a man. However, people often take advantage of Sydney due to his righteousness and discriminate against his kindness, "…a grown man [Sydney] who was mocked by the community for being odd, and was considered strange" (Richards 102). Because Sydney Henderson is ethical person, he is considered strange by his community. Nevertheless, Sydney endures this terrible abuse with a belief that God will justify his life, "…we still have faith in God that everything will turn out" (103). His resolute faith is where Sydney finds his salvation.Sydney Henderson comes from exceptionally poor family. He lives in a shack in Arron Brook, New Brunswick with his wife, Elly, and three children, Lyle, Autumn Lynn, and Percy. Even though Sydney is surrounded by poverty and does not have a lot of possessions, he is happy with his life and never covets for more, "Our father [Sydney] taught us not to want anything, but to live just like we do" (224). In contrast, other people, like Mathew Pit and his sister, Cynthia, would perpetrate any kind of lie, fraud or felony in order to prosper, "…they [Mathew and Cynthia] also knew, especially Cynthia , how to use friends, and how to give them up in a heartbeat" (89). Human desire or cravings thrust individuals to engage into the world of sin and transgression. Sydney Henderson being satisfied with his life rejects personal desires, and therefore frees himself from the temptation of sin.Sydney possesses the ultimate power of will and self-determination that help him restrain from evil nature. He is always virtuous and helpful towards others, though he knows no one appreciates his effort, "Those man my father [Sydney] had done favours for, filled out application forms for, helped with their unemployment benefits, forgot him and remembered only a man who read strange books" (112). Even though people in the community treat him with impertinence and hatred, Sydney still shows them respect and solicitude, "…my father refused to hate" (123). Sydney Henderson does not allow other people and their attitudes to decide how he is going to act, "The men don't appreciate what you do for them, - Porier said. Sydney said that it did not matter what the men thought" (81). Sydney always follows his own conscience and does what he believes is right. As a result, he is never ashamed of his actions and has no regrets, "… Father had no guilt" (251). Sydney lives his life in respect to his moral values, therefore his conscience is clear. The reader admires his grand fortitude, nobleness, and his virtuous quality of a man. Sydney Henderson becomes an example of purity and goodness of human nation.Sydney Henderson does not believe in power of violence, "…father [Sydney] had drilled into me the vanity and falseness of violence" (99). Therefore, Sydney never fights back or protests to any false accusations made upon him. He believes that, "If they destroy us they destroy themselves - not one breath of air comes against us that does not harm them as well…" (202). With this idea in his mind, Sydney receives personal sentiment of redemption, "My father's [Sydney] one unshakable belief was that people could do him no harm him if he did not harm himself" (115). Sydney chooses to forgive instead of to vengeance because he knows it is the moral thing to do. He acknowledges that people who turn to evil will be destroyed by it. Hence, Sydney Henderson is confident that his righteousness will save him from hell and redeem him before God.At first, Lyle despises his father, Sydney, because he believes that, "…his [Sydney's] inaction had caused it all - all the misery forced upon us was caused because he elected to be passive" (186). Lyle is convinced that his father should fight back against everyone who insulted their family as a way to prove himself to the world, "I [Lyle] have thought only revenge" (109). What Lyle does not know yet is that people who pursue retribution, betray their own personal nature by letting their anger take over their humane spirit, "Mathew was mesmerized by his own nature, by his own self-aggrandized viciousness, the immense fear he instilled with his bellowing" (351). This dreadful feeling of wrath poisons and kills all of the human goodness, leaving no room for love and compassion in the hearts of those who are seeking revenge. Soon, however, Lyle realizes that "revenge was futile and did nothing for the soul". He understands that Sydney is right about the aberration of violence and the corruption it brings to the soul, "They who lift a hand against you do so against themselves. If only I [Lyle] had believed him [Sydney] just a little I might still be free" (252). Lyle regrets not listening to his father. Now, he recognizes Sydney's greatness "…I [Lyle] envied him [Sydney]. He had made his life in spite of poverty, scorn, and intolerance. He had made it what it had to be… He had done what men all over the world say men should do" (244). In the end, he forgives his father and approves Sydney's doctrine.Elly loves Sydney Henderson because of his purely candid nature. She admires his character and honors his beliefs. Elly is offered to be with other men more fortunate than Sydney Henderson is, but she turns them down in favor of Sydney's goodness and frank disposition, "Not one woman in a hundred as good looking as she [Elly] would be so loyal to a man like Syd" (118). She supports her husband at all the times because she knows that he stands up for something great, such as goodness of humanity. Sydney Henderson fights against the immorality and wickedness of human kind, "It was the cringing feeling of power of people like Mathew Pit… what my father [Sydney] had been fighting all his life. Not that power was not in him, but that, like all mankind, it was. But he fought it!" (211). Elly esteems Sydney for being able to oppose the malevolence of the world with his patience and resolute faith. For Elly, Sydney is a hero; he "is brave - good and kind". Sydney Henderson is redeemed by Elly's recognition of his genuine nature.Like Meursault, Sydney is being challenged by the society for being different, "You are allowed anything in this life - except the luxury of being different - this is why you [Sydney] are being tried" (137). Unfortunately, people do not appreciate Sydney's exclusive sincerity and effort to help others. Instead, they fear his power and insult his dignity, "All mocking is form of fear. Those who are most mocked are generally most feared. My father [Sydney] was mocked all of his life" (80). All of his life Sydney is suffering from the unjust treatment and false judgment of the society. However, he makes no attempt to prove them wrong or dismiss their accusations, because he believes that unfaithful people do not deserve such a respect, "Son, people have treated me unfair most of my life. To beg a truth in front of them is unconscionable, because truth gives them respect they might not deserve" (44). Sydney's great intellect and noble spirit give him endurance to survive public criticism. With time, however, people come to their senses, and begin to understand Sydney's true motifs. They realize that Sydney Henderson is a better man than most of the people among his community because he is sincere in his intention to help others, "I've never been able to do those things like help people… but your dad [Sydney] was a good man that way…" (345). Now, people recognize that Sydney Henderson's difference is, indeed, his prominence, and that they were wrong about him this entire time, "The men who had one time tormented him [Sydney] because he was different now held a place for him in their hearts" (309). Once the truth about Sydney Henderson's life is revealed, people realize that he is a great man.Both, Sydney Henderson and Meursault, are condemned by the society because of their individual greatness. They are aware of society's judgment and discrimination against their distinctive characters. Nonetheless, the opposition of society does not stop them from living their lives the way they believe is right. Sydney and Meursault are challenged throughout their life, yet they remain dedicated to their own values and beliefs. When the validity of their faith is understood, Sydney and Meursault are redeemed.Works Cited PageAlbert Camus. The Outsider. London: Penguin, 1983.David adams Richards. Mercy among the Children. Canada: Doubleday, 2000.OutlineIntroduction: The essential meaning of human redemption is to free oneself from the sin and to find goodness in one's own nature.Preview: Sydney Henderson, the protagonist of Mercy among the Children, dedicates his life to the faith in God in hope of salvation. While Meursault, the main character of The Outsider, seeks redemption in an individual indifference to society and a belief that human life is worthless.Thesis: Both Sydney Henderson and Meursault receive redemption when the ultimate truth about their lives is realized.Meursault's IndifferenceEmotionally detachedNothing matters more than anything else = absolute indifference to lifeKnowledge of ultimate truth = humans destine to dieAssigns no meaning to human existenceRealizes the indifference of the universeMeursault's GoodnessRedeemed in the eyes of a readerMeursault does not give in to the views of societyThe same person with a deeper meaning and understandingMeursault refuses to lieMeursault dies for the truthSydney's PactSacred agreement with god"would never raise his hand or voice to another soul"He always acts according to the agreementPeople take advantage of Sydney because of his kindnessSydney believes that "everything will turn out"DesireSydney is satisfied with what he has, even though it is very littleSydney does not desire more than what he can earnDesire, passion, temptation = sinSydney is happy with his family in povertyRejects desire and temptation to sinSydney's WillpowerSydney is self-determinedRespects everyone regardless to how they treat himDoes not let other people to decide how he is going to actDoes what he believes is rightHe is not ashamed of his lifeViolenceSydney does not believe in violenceDoes not fight backBelieves "that people could do him no harm him if he did not harm himself"Does not give in to the evilLyleAt first, Lyle despises his father for inactionBlames Sydney for family's sufferingWants revengeRevenge corrupts human soulRealization of falseness of violenceForgives his fatherEllyLoves Sydney for his candid natureStays loyal to himSupports him in his beliefsAdmires his patience and resolute faithSydney is redeemed by Elly's recognition of his genuine natureCondemnationSydney, like Meursault, is condemned by society for being differentPeople condemn him because they fear his powerUnfair judgment of societyPeople come to their senses and realize Sydney's true intentionsRealize that he is a great man


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