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Cross Purpose


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AT: The Misunderstanding A: Albert Camus Pf: 1944, Paris Pb: 1944 Tr: 1948 G: Trag. in 3 acts; French prose S: Inn in central Czechoslovakia, 1930s C: 2m, 3fA mother and her daughter Martha yearn to escape from their impoverished and miserable life in an isolated inn. Their chance of breaking free appears to come when a wealthy traveller stops at the inn. They are unaware that the stranger is in fact their son and brother, Jan, who has made his fortune after an absence of many years and is planning to surprise them with a sudden revelation. The two women murder him in the night in order to steal his money. Their dreams of wealth and freedom are dashed when the mother discovers her son's identity and commits suicide. When the son's wife Maria arrives in the morning, the daughter tells her that ‘in the normal order of things no one is ever recognized’, and she too kills herself. The distraught wife pleads for divine mercy and turns for help to the inn's old manservant, who simply answers: ‘No!’

AT: The Misunderstanding A: Albert Camus Pf: 1944, Paris Pb: 1944 Tr: 1948 G: Trag. in 3 acts; French prose S: Inn in central Czechoslovakia, 1930s C: 2m, 3f

Based on an old folk tale, which Camus retold in The Stranger, Cross Purpose was, according to him, ‘an attempt to create a modern tragedy’. It shares with Oedipus the King the terrible accident of the unrecognized identity of a son, but in Sophocles it forms part of a divine plan. In Camus, it is merely a cruel twist of blind fate in a world deaf to human suffering.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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Albert Camus (1913—1960) French novelist, dramatist, and essayist


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