Compare and Contrast Two Characters Essay Example - Phaedra and Meursault

Passion is considered a strong and an uncontrollable emotional condition expressed by individuals. It does not necessarily have to be a positive expression such as love or desire. It could take a negative turn to express hate or anger in the society. Meursault and Phaedra are characters who both express the presence of passion in their worlds (Homer 2014 and Camus 2014). Though they both express it, they portray different circumstances under which their passion becomes a barrier in relation to social expectation.

Their passion is distinct in the way they choose to express it. While Meursault is expressing pain, anger and hate (Camus 2014), Phaedra is expressing compassion and love (Homer 2014). Though these are different, a hindrance is provided that does not allow them to express their passion openly until they cannot do it any longer. Overall, these two characters find a way of truthfully expressing their passion despite the consequences.


Meursault expresses passion in all sorts of negativity whereas Phaedra expresses passion in positivity but is fought by the wants and preferences of the society. The one thing that brings people together in joy and happiness is what he wants to express. He is willing to go up to the mountains and get away from all the negativity and embrace the passion of love even though it is a forbidden act for passion to grow from a god to the human world. The passion of love does not harm anyone per se in the society despite the restrictions attached to it.

Meursault negativity is portrayed in his lack of remorse. However, he does not seem to regret the concern (Camus 2014). This goes to the extent to which he would prefer death in an effort to take away the pains of the world. Due to his actions as given by the courts, he is found to be nonconforming, cold-hearted and of course a detached humankind hater. The jury finds the character of Meursault not suitable for the society and decides that it is punishable by death. Such a solution would save the society from the inhumanity portrayed by the character.


These two characters both understand that it is important to have the expression of passion regardless whether the expressions are out of good will or not. They understand that it is what the society expects of them. Thus, they are willing to portray the image of passion based on what the general society is hoping to relate to. This is clearly portrayed by Meursault when he makes the decision to attend his mother's burial. Despite being known for his distant behavior, he goes out of his way to attend though he shows no signs of remorse or sorrow (Camus 2014). The society expects that during a burial of a loved one, those close to them should attend the burial. This expectation is no different from that of which Meursault goes by.

Phaedra on the other hand is a victim of what the society expects of her. She has long been in love with a man the "mother" has no regards for (Homer 2014). She knows and understands that the harm in accepting the passion she is dying to have will not be accepted and acknowledged by her parent. She therefore, keeps the passion of love to herself. She goes to the extent of offering a sacrifice in an effort to plead with the gods to take away the passion she is growing for Hippolytus. Love between a god and the human world is considered an abomination. Another similarity comes with the expression of passion once an individual is carried away after the effort of trying to hold it back for so long. Despite trying to hold back and giving the society what it expects, these two characters eventually narrow their issues down before announcing what they are holding back. This is evidenced by Meursault as he finally acknowledges the bitter pain of what he thinks about the world. As he awaits his death, he finds comfort in it thinking of life as ridicule. All the bitterness is now left free to roam the world. According to Meursault, the world has no rational and denouncing Christianity and that helps him find solace. This is a man with no remorse at all and he does not intend to be even as he is in prison awaiting death.

Phaedra also breaks down into confessing the love for the man the mother will not want to hear of. It started as a hidden passion but it is no-longer the same when she cannot hold it back (Homer 2014). She goes ahead to express it in the presence of her mother. She expresses the suffering she has undergone and hopes that it does not turn out to be like that of her sister who also suffered in the name of love and passion after loving a bull. She seizes to hold on to her passion in secrecy. Under pressure, she also ends confessing her passion to her nurse who is trying to heal what they thought was an ailment or sickness.

Characters that Shed Negative Light on Passion and their Function in Life

Passion is difficult to control despite how much the characters try to control such feelings. Trying to control passion eventually leads to a negative outcome. This is because victims eventually go out of their way to express their passion at the slightest of minimal provocations. Just by the thought of not being allowed to have the choice of expressing what haunts them down. Such feelings make individuals feel like they are being imprisoned although they enjoy physical freedom. However, negativity develops because of societal rejection of the expression of one's passion.

Phaedra expresses a negative light on passion, as her passion for love is not meant to harm anyone. It is her source of pleasure yet she is restricted by the society. The thought of even talking about it drives her crazy. She is willing to go away to the mountains rather than open up and express her passion and is afraid that her love for Hippolytus will cause more harm than good.

After telling her nurse about her predicament, the nurse offers a solution in which she provides a love charm. Phaedra agrees to take this advice despite her concerns. Even with this solution on the table, Phaedra makes the nurse promise not to reveal her secret to anyone, not even to Hippolytus (Camus 2014). In Phaedra's world, this kind of passion has caused so much harm, whereas it is an act of love. This is supported by the view that Heracle's wife lives in misery as she ends up not being able to express her love. Semele dies because of forbidden love.

Phaedra tries to overcome her passion for Hippolytus which is seen in her effort to leave for the mountains. She goes wild and uncovers in herself something that is not expected of her and her status (Homer 2014). Though she is calmed, she goes down to open up by talking to the nurse. Even then, she maintains her morals as a woman and does not go out to tell the world. Rather, she chooses to keep it a secret as usual in an effort to keep her honor.

This shows that love can make an individual bare all sorts of disappointments in life. It is evident that the victims are the ones affected the most. However, such disappointments act as tests that are difficult to conquer since individuals are willing to put all other things and people into consideration ahead of personal feelings. This is an attempt to satisfy others rather than carry on with self-desires. It is therefore, an act of sacrifice just as Phaedra tries to keep her passion of love for Hippolytus to herself.

Meursault on the other hand sheds negative light on passion because of losing hope in everything (Homer 2014). Even with a small disagreement, he went to the extent of taking someone's life. He did not find it difficult to take the life of an innocent man but due to his anger, he could not control it. His friend did not get into the fight despite being present at the scene.

Meursault's passion for hate and anger leads to absurd actions. At his mother's funeral, he does not even show a single sign of pain or sorrow. He kills a man without an excuse, denounces Christianity and religion as a whole, and expresses death as relief from the irrationality of the world. Meursault later joins an absurdist camp from where he declares that the world and everything it stands for are meaningless, lawless, and has no form of rationality or order. In addition, he finds his claims justified as he is not afraid of the consequences.

A man eager to have his execution over and done, with the view to get away from pain and gain pleasure has accumulated negative passion which is expressed through anger and detaches the human soul from being referred to as "human". Individuals end up giving up life and what it is.

Works Cited

  1. Camus Albert. The Stranger. Shmoop University, Inc., 2014. Print.

  2. Homer. The Odyssey Summary. Shmoop University, Inc., 2014. Print.