The opening lines of the novel, The Outsider by Albert Camus, set the tone for the book: “Mother died today. Or maybe yesterday, I don’t know” (pg. 9), it is a dreary and depressing sentence, so are the thoughts of a character by the name of Meursault. However, the circumstances that took place, plunged him into a spiral of events. Strangely, his thoughts stayed the same, yet his life changed dramatically. Conversely, the story “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” by James Thurber, is seemingly contrary to the novel The Outsider. In the beginning of the story, Lieutenant Burg was saying to the Commander, “We can’t make it, sir. It’s spoiling for a hurricane? The Commander’s brave reply was, “e’re going through!” (pg. 73) The story promised excitement, fast pace and interesting events full of heroism. There was one small detail; it was a daydream of Walter Mitty whose life was lonely and discouraging. It was his way of dealing with the reality of his miserable life. Even though these stories do not seem to be comparable, by examining them a little closer, is revealed that the characters have many things in common. Meursault and Mitty were trying to escape the realties of their lives; yet, they came face to face with them because of the decisions they made throughout their lives, which led them to their ultimate destruction.
Both characters wanted to shy away from society. They disassociated themselves from everybody and interacted with others only when they needed something. Meursault was a peculiar man who kept to himself. He never sought people, they always came to him. They were there for his pleasure and amusement, only if it was suitable to him. How Meursault felt, and the way he treated people, is clearly illustrated in his relationship with Marie, who was his sexual object. When he did not have any more need for her services, “?There was nothing left to keep us together or to remind us of each other. Anyway, from that point on, Marie’s memory would have meant nothing to me. I wasn’t interested in her any more if she was dead. I found it quite normal? (pg. 110). Sometimes, being around people annoyed him, because he could not understand their way of thinking. He showed apathy towards his surroundings and the world around him. He wandered through life with no emotions. Mitty, on the other hand, escaped from his hopeless situation, his nagging wife, into a fantastic imaginary world he invented. He put all his energy, hopes and fears into his dreams. He ran from his problems instead of facing them and invented this, almost comical, private world so he could escape the real one. In one of his fantasies, “Dr.” Mitty saved the life of a very important man. During the operation, two renowned specialists could not save the man, so they turned to Dr. Mitty for help. “If you wish,” he said phlegmatically (pg. 75). In every dream, Mitty was a hero, yet in reality he was a coward. He never challenged his wife, or defended himself. Meursault and Mitty were desperately trying to keep their singularity: Meursault by keeping a simple and unemotional life, Mitty by escaping into his private world of heroic dreams.
As hard as Meursault and Mitty tried to run away from the reality of life, it was inevitable to come face to face with the one thing they desperately tried to escape. Meursault’s beginning of the end came when he killed the Arab on the beach. He was put in jail and was charged with premeditated murder. He could not escape the society any more. At one time, the priest came to Meursault to tell him how he should behave in society. Meursault did not want to compromise his way of thinking just to make society happy. The harder the priest tried, the more annoyed Meursault became. “Then, for some reason, something exploded inside me” (Pg. 115). He started to shout at the priest and grabbed him by the collar of his cassock. The guards had to pull the priest out from the cell, and after that incident Meursault felt calm and a “wondrous peace?flooded into me” (pg. 116). Likewise, Mitty could not escape the reality of life. His wife was constantly nagging him and always demanded something, which he usually forgot. “e was always getting something wrong?But she would remember it” (pg. 76 – 77). At one point he got enough courage to stand up against her, after a long string of lectures, and defended himself. “I was thinking,” said Mitty, “Does it ever occur to you that I am sometimes thinking?” (pg. 80). Rebelliousness against his wife led to serious events. There was no escape for Meursault and Mitty; they had to face whatever came their way; they had to face the reality of the world that they lived in.
With every action, or lack of, Meursault and Mitty were pressing on to their inevitable death. Meursault’s came because he did not want to conform to society and was facing death penalty by the guillotine. The events that led to his execution were his deep beliefs – the obsession for the truth. This truth was a negative one; nevertheless it was the truth that he was willing to die for. Meursault was condemned to death mostly of showing lack of emotion, especially because he did not cry at his mother’s funeral. There is a question that arises. Is it that, “In our society any man who doesn’t cry at his mother’s funeral is liable to be condemned to death” (pg. 118, from Afterword)? In Mitty’s case he finally stood up and rebelled against his nagging wife, which led him in a different direction in his daydream. Outburst towards his wife spun him into the bravest act yet – he bravely stood in front of the “firing squad.” It appeared that none of his dreams ever had closure, none that is, except the last one, “Then with that faint, fleeting smile playing about his lips, he faced the firing squad; erect and motionless, proud and disdainful, Walter Mitty the Undefeated, inscrutable to the last” (pg.81). Is it possible that the dream of execution did not signify the death of Mitty, but in his real world the death of slavery to his wife? Perhaps he realised that he had to fight not only in his fantasies but also in his real world. Or, could it be that Mitty wanted to give up, and because he was a coward in the real world, he committed suicide in his dream instead real life? In both stories, all the events that led to final moment would enable one to believe it was a suicide wish. Tragically, Meursault’s death was the real punishment and Mitty’s, even though it was in his daydream, was real to him.