Guilty as Murderer, Convicted as an Existentialist

Throughout The Stranger, Meursault is attacked by society for not valuing family, love, kindness, religion, and friendship as highly as they think he should. Whether it was the death of his mother, his relationship with Marie, or his opinion of neighbors, Meursault’s indifference was, as best, met with scrutiny from the other characters and often from the reader.

This is taken to the extreme when he is on trial. He admits to having killed the arab, but this isn’t enough to sentence him to death. The Prosecutor consistently focuses the jury on Meursault’s reaction to the death of his mother rather than the murder he committed and is on trial for. The death of a close family member is supposed to be something that is important to people and there is an expectation of what the right way to react is.

The court is disturbed by his apparent lack of interest and more ready to find him guilty of murder. As he writes on page 92, it was “a crime made worse than sordid by the fact that they were dealing with an monster, a man without morals.” The murder itself is not what sentenced him to die, but his personal beliefs. Raymond, the only witness who had insight into to the actual murder, was only brought up to establish Meursault’s connection with an unsavory character in an attempt to further establish his character.

In some ways, the trial scene seemed to be a literal representation of the feelings that someone with existentialist beliefs would face everyday in society. People like Meursault make them uncomfortable because they don’t understand his perspective.

One thought on “Guilty as Murderer, Convicted as an Existentialist

  1. Karim A.

    I 100% agree that Mersault was prosecuted not because of the murder that he was first charged with but for something else. But I do not think it is only because of Mersaults beliefs that he got executed but for his horrible actions behavior and attitude. No matter what he believes, it is not acceptable to kill someone for no reason and almost choke someone who is wishing you the best.

    Like

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