“Since we’re all going to die, it’s obvious that when and how don’t matter.” These words were spoken on the eve of Meursault’s execution in Albert Camus’s The Stranger, when under the oppression of hopelessness, a realization brought itself to the forefront of his mind: if all men reach the same end—that being death—what was the point of any of their actions leading up to that end? “What difference could they make…the way a man chooses to live, the fate he thinks he chooses, since one and the same fate was bound to ‘choose’ thousands” (Camus 152). The evidence presented by Meursault’s reactions regarding his impending execution suggest that while the foremost part of the book focuses on an existentialist approach to the world, when faced with his death the main character takes a more fatalist view.
This is a striking contrast to the latter half of the book, which emphasizes the consequences of Meursault’s decision. This contrast deserved highlighting, so I incorporated the shift from existentialism to fatalism in the creation of my lit project. I thought about ways I could call attention to the seemingly predestined fate that Meursault believed was thrust upon him, and I thought this could be most impacting through the creation of a specialized deck of Tarot Cards.
Tarot Cards have been around for centuries as a method of divination— the divining of one’s own fate or of another’s. These cards are deeply rooted in ancient Egyptian rituals, and they show up in the history of other countries such as Italy, Germany, France and Portugal. In a traditional deck there are seventy-eight cards—four suits of fourteen cards and twenty-two symbolic picture cards. The twenty-two symbolic cards generally picture the Fool, High Priest or Priestess, Empress and Emperor, Lovers, Chariot, Justice, Hermit, Wheel of Fortune, Strength or Fortitude, Hanged Man, Death, Temperance, Devil, Star, Moon, Sun, Last Judgment, and Universe. Each card has its own set of meanings, and together all seventy-eight cards can be used to predict the readers future. I chose to create five cards for my deck, and each one is representative of a different scene or theme in the book—mostly the seminal events that lead to greater developments in the book. The cards I created were the Writer, High Priest, Death, Lovers, and Justice. The goal of my work was to create a deck that could be used to tell Meursault’s fortune.
The idea behind Tarot Cards perfectly encapsulate what I believe Meursault was feeling at his end, all while highlighting important antonymous themes. Meursault believed that, “from the dark horizon of my future a sort of slow, persistent breeze had been blowing toward me, all my life long” (Camus 152) and this breeze was the inability to escape the fate that was predestined for him. Divination cards lay out your future for you, in a way that holds weight in its spiritual mysticism—the same spirituality that Meursault rejects every day until the end of his days. In each card I created, I incorporated a sun, a symbol of the continual struggle Meursault faces with God. I am pleased with the outcome of these cards, and I believe they effectively represent the fatalist view that an existentialist man adopts on his deathbed, and how even in the face of death, the work of a higher power and inner spirituality cannot be repressed.
Camus, Albert, and Matthew Ward. The Stranger. New York: Vintage International, 1989. Print.