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Meursault in “The Stranger”: A Novel by Albert Camus Essay (Book Review)

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Updated: Jun 15th, 2022


In The Stranger, Meursault is portrayed as detached and unemotional character. Meursault does not care much about consequences of his actions. He does not reveal his feelings during emotional times (Corbert 1). He exhibits indifference all through the book. For instance, he sheds no tears after his mother passes on. He reveals limited emotions for Marie Cardona, his girlfriend and does not regret at all after his murdering an Arab. The manner in which he treats people and events around alienates him from his feelings and close relationships with other people. He is therefore referred by the author as the stranger (Anderson 1).

Meursault is expressively separated from the world around him. He does not react to sensitive events (such as the death of his mother and marriage proposal) that would spur a swift response from anybody. He simply does not care whether Maries loves him or her mother is dead (Spark Notes 1). Meursault goes to the nursing home where his mother is to be laid to rest. He however baffles his mother’s friends and the staff when he fails to show his emotional feeling to her death. He neither cries nor asks to see his mother’s body and takes off without delay after the burial ceremony.

As the day come to an end, he says, “it occurred to me that anyway one more Sunday was over, that Maman was buried now, that I was going back to work, and that, really, nothing had changed” (Ward 1). This turns him into an existential hero, a person who is familiar with the vainness of human existence, but moves on even in the face of its elementary absurdity. Meursault is amoral-he is neither moral nor immoral-he simply cannot distinguish what is good from bad. When Meursault is asked by Raymond to write a letter that the latter can use to torture his mistress, he unsympathetically consents to the request because he “didn’t have any reason not to.” He does not care about the consequences of his actions, writes the letter chiefly because he is able, and has time adequate time (Spark Notes 2).

The relationship between Meursault and Marie Cardona

Although Meursault’s behavior seems odd, there is a young lady who seems interested in having a relationship with him. There is also a neighbor who wants to befriend him. Meursault appears satisfied to be unmoved. He remains emotionless even in circumstances that would compel any ordinary person to elicit strong feelings. He never sheds a tear when his mother dies and during the burial ceremony. He goes to the beach the next day after burying his mother and comes across Marie Cardona.

They go for a dip, watch a movie later then sleep together. As their relationship progresses on, Marie asks him if he wants to marry her, He answers “I said it didn’t make any difference to me and that we could if she wanted to. Then she wanted to know if I loved her. I answered the same way I had the last time that it didn’t mean anything but that I probably didn’t love her” (ward 2). Thus Meursault seems to be casual and insensitive to people and events around him Although he does not reveal deep affection, Marie still wants to have a relationship with him, possibly because she is attracted by his aloofness (Anderson 1).

Both Meursault and Marie take pleasure in physical contact. Marie kisses him several times in public and enjoys making love to him. Nonetheless, whereas Marie’s physical attraction to Meursault mirrors a deep emotional and sentimental attachment, Meursault is only physically attracted to her. Although Marie is disheartened when he conveys his lack of concern with respect to love and marriage, she does not call off the relationship or reevaluate her wish to marry him.

On the contrary, Marie seems to be attracted by Meursault’s apparent odd behavior. She confesses that she is in love with him due to his strange behavior. It appears there is an element of expediency in Marie’s resolution to marry him. This is due to the fact that the relationship affords her much freedom as Meursault is least bothered with her private life whenever they are apart (Spark Notes 4).

Irrespective of her reason for dating Meursault, Marie stays loyal to him when he is detained and put on trial. Within the framework of Camus’s absurdity philosophy, her loyalty mirrors an assortment of blessing since her feelings of hope and faith forestall her efforts to reach the level of understanding that Meursault achieves as the novel reaches its climax. Maries is unable to understand the lack of sympathy of the universe, and she never grasps the emancipative value of discarding hope. Camus posits that Marie is less “enlightened” than Meursault because she lacks an in-depth knowledge of the universe that Meursault has achieved (Spark Notes 5).

Meursault and Raymond Sintes

The author uses Raymond as a catalyst to the plot. After he beats and mistreats his mistress, Raymond starts an argument with her brother, an Arab. Meursault is drawn in to the conflict by Raymond and later on, Meursault kills the Arab. Raymond also used as a foil for Meursault because his traits differ significantly from Meursault’s. Whereas Meursault is amoral, Raymond is obviously immoral. The latter treats his mistress in a violent and cruel manner and almost slays the Arab before Meursault to convince him not to. The relationship between Meursault and Raymond is ambiguous. For example, Meursault is used by Raymond to attain his goals.

He easily tricks Meursault to assist him write a letter to punish his mistress, and to give a testimony on his behalf at the police station. However, Raymond appears to be loyal to Meursault. He declares that Meursault is innocent at the murder trial and attributes the events that led to the murder of the Arab as “chance” (Spark Notes 6). It appears that Raymond befriends Meursault merely to use him and then becomes attracted Meursault strange behaviors, just like Marie.

Meursault during the trial

Meursault is put on a murder trial for slaying the Arab. Everyone, including Marie, his lawyer and the judge is bewildered by Meursault’s lack of interest to his own deeds and to the case that will decide on his fate. As the prosecutor was making his closing remarks, Meursault contemplates:

I was listening, and I could hear that I was being judged intelligently. But I couldn’t quite understand how an ordinary man’s good qualities could become crushing accusations against a guilty man…I stopped listening to the prosecutor until I heard him say, ‘Has he so much as expressed any remorse? Never, gentlemen. No once during the preliminary hearings did this man show emotion over his heinous offense’ (Ward 9).

The court finds Meursault guilty of the murder and sentences him to death. Thus, Meursault’s meekness and his apathy to the outcomes of his actions, including the murdering of the Arab, are the expected conclusion of the existential philosophy. For example, if nothing we do matters, why should we control our actions? Camus has attempted to recreate morality on a Godless foundation. Meursault’s absurdity is also In The Myth of Sisyphus, where life without aim and hope permits the absurd man to live the current moments of his life. Meursault, who does not care about the present and the future, is only concerned about his present happiness (Bay19).

Camus argues that before a man stumbles upon absurdity, he establishes personal goals and he instinctively limits himself towards his goals and ethics. Meanwhile, he develops a self image that requires him to act in a particular manner.

Nevertheless, after he learns about the absurdity of life, he become conscious to the fact that he has been enslaved by his liberty (Bay20). Meursault’s is apparently interested in the present pleasures of life. He is physically drawn to Marie but does not love her. He eventually kills the Arab and does not care about the consequences of his crime. It is only after he is sentenced to death that he regains his consciousness and regrets about his past actions (Anderson 2).

However, experience reveals that this mission is impractical as it replaces the concept of absolute with the relative one. When morality is perceived to be a set of relative rules, no one has the basis to question actions of another person. Thus, the philosophy of existentialism as expressed in this novel is a total failure. The novel has only succeeded as a though experiment whereby the author envisions how an individual might behave if he is allowed to apply these beliefs to their rational extremes. On the other hand, as we ponder on the outcome, we are in utter concurrence that Meursault, the exemplary existential hero, deserves his pending execution (Ward 9).

Works Cited

Anderson, Phil. “Albert Camus’ The Stranger: Summary & Analysis.” St. Rosemary Educational Institution. 2011. Web.

Bay, Hatice. “.” 2008. Web.

Corbert, Bob. “The Stranger: Poverty of an Anti-Hero. 2002. Web.

Spark Notes. “Analysis of Major Characters.” 2011. Web.

Ward, Mathew. “Brothersjudd.com. 2000. Web.

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