Meursault’s Realization on Life

Throughout his novel, The Stranger, Albert Camus portrays the idea of existentialism. Camus exposes the true self and cold nature of human beings in order to show Meursault’s realization of the meaningless of life.

Existentialism is a philosophy that emphasizes the freedom to choose and make decisions without trying to achieve someone else’s standards. Existentialists acknowledge the dangers and outcomes of their decisions and take responsibility if future outcomes.

The Stranger provides several examples of analyzing and revealing the true self and cold nature of human beings. When Meursault shoots the Arab and one of the Arabs draws his blade and holds it up to Meursault, Meursault is not annoyed by the Arab’s undermining activity, he was disturbed by the extreme heat and light from the sun that reflected at him. Meursault describes his feeling of discomfort from the sunlight when he says, “The scorching blade slashed at my eyelashes and stabbed at my stinging eyes” (Camus 59). Meursault was not afraid of being attacked by the Arab, he felt uncomfortable in that situation. As a result, Meursault shot him even though he did it due to his feeling of annoyance. Later, Meursault gets arrested, but he does not realize the severity of his actions. Meursault shows this when he says, “Then he wanted to know if I had hired an attorney. I admitted I hadn’t and inquired whether it was really necessary to have one” (Camus 63). Meursault is ready to move on and accept his punishment. His actions expose how existentialists take actions into their own hands, dealing with the consequences later. 

Death is a common idea among existentialists, which is shown when Mersault expresses his actual affections for Maman’s death, those of distant and dislike. The investigators were aware that Meursault had shown insensitivity the day of Maman’s funeral. He explains his feelings towards Maman by saying, “I probably did love Maman, but that didn’t mean anything. At one time or another all normal people have wished their loved ones were dead” (Camus 65). Meursault displays his anger towards his Maman when he sent her to a home, losing their connection. This reveals that people often get too involved in their lives, wanting them to distance themselves even more. Meursault demonstrates this characteristic during Maman’s funeral service where he did not show any sympathy and when he decided to not visit her anymore at the home.

2 thoughts on “Meursault’s Realization on Life

  1. Micah D

    It never crossed my mind to think that existentialists understand the possible consequences of their actions and agree that they should have them. But that is true, and I agree with you that the book displays that. Several times throughout Meursault’s trial he agrees with the criticisms given to him (although he does combat it at times with his odd, pragmatic logic). He simply just continues to choose what he wants to do regardless.

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  2. Natalie S

    I like how you highlighted the unique view that existentialist have on death. It is very focused on the fact that we will all die at some point so it is what it is. Although Meusault shows traces of this ideology at the start, it is especially evident in the last few pages of part two. As he is in his cell prior to his execution he begins to think of his mother again. He realizes in that moment that she must have felt free prior to death. He feels that he can understand her because in that moment he too felt free and ready to leave the world in peace. This is almost the ultimate moment of not caring. This is shown because he is at such a point of enlightenment that he provokes others to come and hate on him at the execution. He could care less of the hatred because he knows he is above others.

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