The Stranger is a novel written by Albert Camus that was published in 1942. It was first written in French before it was translated into English. Meursault is the main character in the book; he is a young man, who is narrating the readers about the things that have happened in his life. He lives in Algiers, the capital city of Algeria. He started to understand and perceive events in life from the time of his mother’s death. The mother died while Meursault was working in town. She had been living in the retirement home in Marengo.
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Meursault’s behavior during the funeral is distinct from his ordinary one. He feels sleepy throughout the journey on his way to Marengo. On arrival, he refuses to view his mother’s corpse despite pleas from the attendants; he is only concerned with his selfish interests. For instance, he dozes in the night while keeping an eye on his mother. His strange behavior continues when he complains of the heat during his mother’s burial ceremony; people wondered why he was not mourning at his mother’s death.
Meursault tries to distance himself from the everyday troubles in his life; in other words, he does not want to get involved in the course of life. His behavior at the funeral characterizes him as an escapist that is a person, who does not want any of life’s troubles or events disturb his world. Actions similar to those at the funeral shape most of he believes and thoughts regarding life, which is clearly evident when he refuses to view his mother’s body before burial and does not try to remember the events during the funeral despite the fact that he attended the burial ceremony.
He refuses to commit himself to his lover, Marie. When Marie asks if he is going to marry her, he retorts that he would marry if it pleased her. Furthermore, Meursault refuses to abide by the standards and moral ethics set by society. He goes ahead and kills for no clear reasons. By doing this, he challenges the conventional standards of society. Such behavior disappoints his lawyers because he refuses to be remorseful over his actions during the trial.
Meursault shows noncommittal characteristics, which make him see the world objectively. He is indifferent to the sufferings of others. It seems that his life has been destined. During the trial, the focus shifts from the murder case to exploring his attitudes and beliefs towards many things in life. The jury and the audience find it unacceptable that Meursault never grieved during his mother’s funeral; what is more, after the trial, he went out on a date and watched a movie. The prosecutor, in the end, fails to comprehend this behavior.
Meursault does not have faith in anything; he is an atheist. He presents himself as a man who is interested in the physical world, meaning that he does believe that there exists life after one’s death, which in turn may be the result of his lack of social and emotional attachment. For example, he complains too much of the heat during his mother’s burial, yet he does not grief. He did not wish to see the corpse of his mother at all. The other indicator is his explanation as to why he killed an Arab man.
He claimed that the sufferings of the world made him kill that man. This means that such trivial things as heat are more important to him than people’s sufferings. The prosecutor calls him a monster, being cruel and inhuman. This was the prosecutor’s opinion confirming the fact that it was Meursault, who was indifferent, but not the world.
Meursault’s actions are overwhelming. He successfully restrains Raymond from killing his girlfriend’s brother, the Arab. At this stage, it can be concluded that he understands the value of human life and society respecting it. However, this changes immediately because he returns to the beach a day later, and kills the person he saved the previous day without a particular reason. In order to illustrate his amorality, his conscience does not see any reason as to why he cannot help Raymond write a letter to help to get his girlfriend back so that he could torment her again.
One might pose a question as to why he begins to see life from a human perspective only after his death sentence was passed and after meeting with the chaplain. His controversies persist even in prison when he asserts that human actions and life have no meaning. Meursault makes such an assumption after failing to give an explanation both to himself (in his mind) and the outside world (the court). He had no reason to kill and could not commit himself to marriage.
The lawyer and the prosecutor made him understand that events in life can be changed. This is when he thinks of an appeal to get free and, as a result, avoid death. However, his irrational mind convinces him otherwise, and he realizes that death is an inevitable thing for him; it does not matter to him whether he would be hanged or he could die because of old age. His irrational mind is what shapes his perception of the world.