Meursault’s Meaningless Existence

Throughout The Stranger, there is a crucial theme that underlies every passage; existentialism and the meaninglessness of existence. This theme and Camus’ opinions on it are demonstrated in many ways in the book, but in particularly, through Meursault’s character, his words and his actions.

Camus’ background of being a existentialist writer, who believed that humans must make their own meaning in a world that is essentially without meaning, paved the way for Meursualt’s character. Meursault is a detached figure who views and describes much of what occurs around him from a removed and distant position. He is emotionally dispassionate to others, including his own mother and Marie.

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There are many times throughout the book, where Meursault demonstrates existentialist views. The point of the book that stood out to me in this regard was when the magistrate was waving the crucifix is his face. Meursalt’s only response to this powerful scene was, “I was hot and there were big flies in his office that kept landing on my face” (page 68). This complete disregard for a moment that would typically evoke emotion from someone further illustrates his existential beliefs.

Even the murder that Meursault commits is meaningless in his eyes. He provides no reason for killing his victim aside from being bothered by the sun. His actions are without reason. He feels as though he lives in an absurd world in which nothing is governed by reason. 

The whole basis and frustrating reason behind Meursault’s character is the fact that it demonstrates existentialism, which can be both very interesting and complicated to understand.

2 thoughts on “Meursault’s Meaningless Existence

  1. Alex Y

    Thanks for your post Mira! I’m agree wholeheartedly with the idea that Meursault personifies the existentialist philosophy. Like you said, he doesn’t really seem to care about love, family, interrogations, and even murder. However, one point I disagree with is that Meursault acts without reason. Meursault gives a reason for his actions; ultimately, Meursault confesses to the crowd that he shot the Arab man because of the heat. Although this reason isn’t at all satisfactory or wholly rational, it’s a reason nonetheless and an example of how Meursault experiences the world. Another example would be Meursault’s indifference to being married or getting a promotion, he reasons that they’re all the same to him, none better than another. Meursault isn’t necessarily a rational person from our point of view but he does act according to his own line of reason.

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  2. Jordan SD

    Meursault doesn’t do everything without reason. Throughout the book, it seems as though the heat is the real problem that Meursault has to face. He killed the Arab because of his annoyance of the heat, he didn’t have a reaction when the magistrate raised the crucifix on him because he was too busy focusing on the heat. I agree that Meursault depicts Camu’s belief on existentialist and that’s what makes him such an annoying character to deal with in the book but his actions do somewhat have a reason behind it. Still enjoyed reading your post. 🙂

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