The Tragedy of the Hero Word Count: 1,038 Nicolas ParentIB Candidate number: 000307156 International School Bangkok May 2012
Albert Camus has always been known for his peculiar writing style. The best example of this canbe found in his greatest work: The Stranger. However, the novel is hailed as his best book not onlybecause of the way he wrote, but rather because of its protagonist, Meursault. He is easily relatable,and his love of the good things in life makes him a character many people idolize. Naguib Mahfouz hasalso been hailed as an amazing author, having been compared to Victor Hugo, Charles Dickens, andmany other leading authors of eras past. This is because of the character he writes. Said Mahran, theprotagonist of his novel The Thief and the Dogs, is an ex-convict bent on avenging his betrayal carriedout by his wife and his best friend, making him a sort of negative protagonist. The absurdity of Said’splight is enough to warrant the empathy of the reader, even though he is a convict. As can be seen fromthe above statements, these characters share a few features. In fact, the two have enough in common,be it their conflict with society; their interactions with others; and their end. This common ground willbe explored even more in the next few paragraphs. The first and most obvious thing both characters share is their seeming unwillingness toconform to the norms of society. This can be seen with Meursault, both in his unflinching devotiontowards his values and morals and in his apparent aversion towards expressing any of his emotionstowards Marie. In The Thief and the Dogs, Said also has a penchant to go against the establishment.This is most obvious in his career choice of thievery, but he is given opportunities to reverse the choiceshe made in his previous life and start anew. Instead, he decides to exact revenge on the people heperceives as the cause for his predicament. The reasons for their rebellions of sort vary with eachcharacter. In The Stranger, Meursault is willing to give his life in defense of the ideals he adheres to. Inessence, it is his need to maintain the truth which leads to his martyrdom. However, his lack ofemotions could have for origin a different cause. Throughout the book, Meursault seems to be unable
to express his love for Marie despite their extreme intimacy. Instead, he describes their relationship as alustful connection, even though she repeatedly hints at getting married. Sadly, the final state of theirrelationship is never resolved due to his death. In The Thief and the Dogs, Said is consumed by hishatred and driven to revenge. His drive, however, prevents him from seeing the opportunities that arepresented to him throughout the book. He ignores the possibility of an honest job from Rauf, anddismisses the affections of Nur, only realizing at the last possible moment that he could have beenhappy with her, which leads to the second point. The second thing Meursault and Said have in common is their interactions with the peoplearound them. The similarities can be seen especially within the relationships they have with their loveinterests. Both characters are seemingly adored by a female, and yet they do not reciprocate thefeelings. Said is constantly dismissive and manipulative of Nur, a woman who has loved him since hewas young. Although he was given the possibility of having a long and happy life with her, he decides tofollow the brutal path of vengeance that ultimately leads to his death. The same is seen in Meursault’sactions towards Marie. They go see movies, go swim at the beach, have meals together, and yet hedoes not believe he truly loves her. He never goes out of his way to please her, and yet she is still drawntowards him. She is so in love, or possibly infatuated, with him that she will wait until he has done histime and is willing to get married with him. This devotion, however, is not reciprocated by Meursault.In fact, his last thoughts in the novel are not about Marie, now the only person to truly care for him.Rather, he is obsessed with being greeted at the gallows by the cries of hate of the people thatcondemned him. This final point ties in with the third similarity.
As has been established before, both of the protagonists are met with untimely deaths. This isdue, in fact, to the reasons addressed within the first argumentative paragraph. Meursault dies for thepreservation of his ideals in a society that destroys them, and Said dies in a last bid attempt to kill thecause of his betrayal. Although the reasons for their deaths are different, their deaths are both causedby the same principle. The concept of a character dying for its ideals is known as the “tragic hero” and isone of the most used archetypes in dramatic literature. The best example that can be thought of is thedeath of the character V in V for Vendetta, a graphic novel published by DC Comics. In the novel, V is ananarchistic terrorist whose goal is to overthrow the totalitarian government that tortured and mutilatedhim into a scarred human being. When presented with the chance to live a happy and peaceful life withEvey (the book’s protagonist), he instead decides to exact his revenge on the establishment andeventually dies from the wounds he incurred in battle. This event is mirrored in The Thief and the Dogs.Said decides to forsake a relationship with Nur and instead chooses to attempt to murder both Rauf andIlish. Thus dying for his personal ideals much in the same way as Meursault, he assumes the position ofthe tragic hero. Ultimately, the characters of Meursault and Said undergo similar events even though they arefundamentally dissimilar. This is seen in their resistance towards the norms of society, their relationswith those around them, and finally, their untimely deaths. Undeniably, these characters share a lot ofcharacteristics and these similarities only serve to enforce the obvious connection between the books.A combination of situational absurdity and an unjust world are what draw these literary masterpiecestogether.
Works CitedCamus, Albert. The Stranger. New York: Random House, 1989. Print.Mahfouz, Naguib. The Thief and the Dogs. New York: Random House, 1984. Print.