At the start of part two of The Stranger Meursalt states, “I probably did love Maman, but that didn’t mean anything… he asked me if he could say that that day I held back my natural feelings. I said, ‘No, because it’s not true’ (65).” Once I got to this point of the story it really got me thinking, Is Meursault a psychopath? Or is he just living life correctly? I was sure that he exhibited similar characteristics, but here I will take time to analyze his behavior and determine whether he is a psychopath or not.
Psychopaths have what is called antisocial personality disorder. According to the encyclopedia Britannica, “Antisocial personality disorder is characterized by a pervasive pattern of disregard for the feelings of others and often accompanied by violation of the rights of others through negligence or overt action.” I feel that upon first glance it is easy for readers to make this connection. Meursault throughout the story shows a lack of empathy for others, especially when considering how he acted at his mothers funeral. He does not seem to care about much other than physical disturbances and he did not even feel remorse for killing the Arab. This is jarring, considering that most people would feel quite the opposite in all of these situations.
However, after thinking more about it, antisocial personality disorder is not only a matter of lacking empathy, there is far more too it. For example, people with the disorder have issues maintaining social norms, causing them to have difficulties with employment. Although Meursault does not care much for social norms, he seems to be perfectly fine at work. He does not show any instances of challenging his boss or the people around him, he is simply indifferent. Additionally, people with the disorder tend to use charming mechanisms to manipulate or treat others badly with harsh indifference. Meanwhile Meursault is indeed indifferent in many of his relationships, he does not try to manipulate people close to him or treat them poorly. Finally, I wanted to highlight that most people with antisocial personality disorder lie in an excessive amount. However, it is evident that Meursault is quite the opposite. There has never really been an instance in which he has lied after being asked a question. This is especially seen when he was questioned by his lawyer. When the lawyer asked whether he held back his natural feelings, Meursault answered honestly, no. This is only one case of Meursault answering with pure honesty despite consideration of how the truth will impact others’ outlook on him.
Therefore, upon initial glance of Meursault’s character in the story, it is easy to label him as a psychopath. However, his lack of empathy is the only strong psychopath characteristic he exhibits. Other than that, he does not exhibit the other symptoms enough to label him with the disorder and instead is simply indifferent. I would like to conclude that Meursault does not have antisocial personality disorder, he just has a different view on life and how to live it. He is an existentialist.