If Meursault is an existentialist, then he is missing some of the key points

What I got from the discussion on existentialism was that the true meaning of life was life itself, that everyone could decide how they live their own lives and what else they would give meaning to. I would argue that Meursault has existentialist qualities, but he lacks some that are very important.

By killing the Arab, Meursalt doesn’t give the Arab the chance to have a meaningful life. If Meursault believed that life was important, then I think he would have restrained himself. How I see it, an existentialist would understand that other peoples lives have value, even if there is no value to the existentialist. Furthermore, at the end of the book Meursault says, “But everybody knows life isn’t worth living.” (page 114) If Meursalt was a true existentialist then he would have found meaning in the fact that he was alive.

7 thoughts on “If Meursault is an existentialist, then he is missing some of the key points

  1. Lauren d.

    I never even thought of this but it seems very true. Existentialism is about living but Meursault always seems indifferent about life whether it be his own or other people’s.


  2. TAKUMA K.

    I agree that Meursault is not a true existentialist but that he is a nihilist. He does not care about other people’s lives and shows no remorse after killing the Arab.


  3. Paige M

    I agree. I think existentialism is about recognizing that while there is no true/definite purpose to our lives, so it is important to find your own meaning. I also think Meursault is so indifferent about life that he does not even look for any meaning, and I definitely agree that he lacks some existentialist qualities.


  4. Lizzy L

    I was puzzled when I read that Meursault could hear the cries of Salmano’s dog at night and feel nothing for it. I felt even more conflicted when Meursault said he didn’t care that Raymond beat his mistress. I was not sure how having a lack of empathy was an existential characteristic. I think that you are right in that Meursault might not really be an existentialist, after all. Simply because this is deemed a piece about existentialism does not necessarily mean that the protagonist has to be a true existentialist himself.


    1. JOHN V

      This is a very interesting way of looking at it. Despite the claims of Meursault being an existentialist, I too was shocked at his lack of empathy. He seems to be past existentialism to a point where he simply has no values or morality.


  5. Logan G

    Meursalt shows a lack of empathy throughout the whole book, starting with his mother’s death to killing the Arab. He is missing points of being an existentialist because he simply doesn’t care.


  6. Zack T

    The point of existentialism is not to find meaning in social constructs like wealth and power. So I think the argument that saying that existentialism means protecting life is a bit inaccurate. When Meursualt kills the man, it does not matter that the other man is dead since the only one that is important is how Mersualt sees meaning.


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