The Role of Religion in the Trial and the Stranger

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Sophomore (College 2nd year) ・Literature ・MLA ・1 Sources

Religion is described as the belief in and worship of a divine entity in both ancient and modern terms. Religion is relevant in both real-life cultures and literary texts. The aim of this paper is to explore the position of religion in two literal texts: Franz Kafka's "The Trial" and Albert Camus' "The Stranger." The paper illustrates and systematically analyzes elements used as theological allegories in both texts. Both writers use a variety of metaphors and images to depict religion, which plays an important part in their novels. In ‘The Trial,’ the court is used as a religious allegory, whose responsibility is to claim justice for the oppressed. One of the crucial roles of religion in the book is to warn the readers to look out for totalitarian ideologies. He reveals the war that was unfolding at the time and uses religion as a tool to suppress it. Kafka uses the voice of a priest to tell his story, and it upholds religious authority (Kafka 66). It is a representation of how religious leaders should be the ones to gain strength and command divine authority.

In his text, Kafka tells the parable, ‘Before the Law’ which has sometimes been known as the parable of the doorkeeper. It happens in the cathedral and is written in the context of a Jewish tradition. The passage is meant to help the victims find solace in religion. This brings out the fact that it is the responsibility of a religious denomination to console those that are lonely. One opening sentence in ‘the trial’ says, “Someone must have been telling lies about Joseph K., for without having done anything wrong he was arrested one fine morning.” Later in the book, there is a conversation between Joseph K. and the priest whereby K. claims that the doorkeeper has brought delusion on the man (Kafka 66). However, the priest denies the claim, saying there is no delusion in the story and that the listener is to respect the story. Based on these facts, one can deduce few responsibilities of religion, especially towards the general public. Since the priest demands respect for the words used in his narrative, - which was a parable- means that any congregation should respect parables among other religious doctrines in which lessons are learned.

Considering the time that the book was written leads the reader to think that there were conflicting ideas between leadership by the state and leadership by the church. Kafka wrote the book at a time when the country was undergoing different political reforms. Besides bureaucracy, Kafka wrote the text to bring out the similarities between the church’s leadership and that of the state. One element that he employed was that of leadership. The priest tells Joseph K. of a parable and receives a response that one of the characters is delusional. The priest claims respect for the story and the words used (Kafka 70). This can be compared to the law at the time. K. had been arrested for crimes unknown to him yet there was the inability to question what had already been written. Kafka not only brings forth the idea to respect the law but also the notion that it should be respected and does not deserve questioning. K., among other arrestees, were meant to feel guilty of a crime they were not aware of. It invites a new critical discussion of the ‘first (original) sin’ that the human species is accused of by the church and how individuals are to be cleansed of something unknown to them and those who make the judgment.

‘The Stranger’ by Albert Camus also portrays a key role of religion in the story. Meursault is tried for murder, and along the way, the case shifts from his crime and is geared towards his personality. He does not believe in God, or religion or any power of a supernatural being as society expects him to. He cannot comprehend emotions or feelings, and this leads him to lose faith and disconnect with society. Just like in ‘the trial’ religion is used as a gauge on an individual once they are accused in court. It is incorporated as an extra hand in giving the verdict to people who have done wrong according to the eyes of society. According to the book, one is tried before man and God. They are required to take an oath before the proceedings, and if one detests, they are likely to win the mercy of the people (Camus 26). However, Meursault challenges faith in God even before death. He claims that he would not waste any last minute on God or any being that he could not see or connect with. With these incidences, Camus brings out two aspects; the role of religion in the trial of man and the role of those courageous enough to challenge the existing doctrines.

Despite the fact that Meursault has lost faith in religion and God does not hinder society from trying to pull him back in. Even after he has clearly exhibited his lack of emotions and disbelief in humanity, he is still asked to take an oath during his trial. The author shows the reader that religion should be a resilient factor in trying to save humanity. Society uses religion as a tool to bring back on track those who have lost their way. The church is involved in Maman’s funeral and does not exclude itself from trying to restore Meursault’s faith. According to him, religion is a device used by man in creating meaning out of a senseless existence. Critically viewing his point of view, one can conclude he could be right (Camus 62). He has nothing that defines him as human, and the situation is hopeless. However, religion has faith in his restoration. They give him the bible to swear by it and ask him to tell the truth before man and God. All this turns futile because he is not restored. Not even death has moved him enough to have faith. However, the church is not deterred from its role.

Camus tries to draw the relationship between humanity and Christianity. Society in the reading has attached the two as mutually unexclusive events. They believe that one that does not believe in God is automatically an inhuman person (Camus 56). However, Camus challenges this notion by showing his audience that the two can be dependent. The initial villain in the story, Meursault, eventually depicts a humanistic nature and sticks to his original ideas about God claiming he does not exist. The role of religion in this regard is to encourage society to have the values of gentleness, kindness, and ability to feel with people. It is to instill the spirit of being apologetic when need be and to help people coexist peacefully.

Works Cited

Camus, Albert. The Stranger. New York, Dover Publications, 2012.

Camus, Albert. The Stranger. 2016.

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