The Importance of Ambition

Throughout the entire first part of The Stranger, the thing that sticks out to me the most is how Meursault views each situation he is placed in with what I would describe as nonchalance. I have found that, in most stories, there is almost always an end game for the protagonist; there is always some ambition that is striven for, whether it be based on personal gain, the defeat of a greater evil, emotions, or the betterment of society. However, in this story, it would appear as though Meursault has no end game. When his boss offers him a job in Paris and he says he doesn’t care either way, his boss tells him that he has no ambition. To me, this indicates that Meursault’s lack of ambition is part of the theme of the story. To have an antagonist who doesn’t have an ambition, who doesn’t truly desire anything, makes for an intriguing read because you can’t see the ending. When you have a main character like Mearsault, who isn’t driven by any one thing, it can be almost impossible to predict his actions. For instance, when he shot the Arab man at the end of Part 1, it wasn’t an act of revenge, but rather a kind of instinctual response to his exhaustion and disorientation. As the narrator says, “everything began to reel”. What I think Part 1 is trying to express is the danger of the unpredictability that occurs when a person has nothing to drive them, or to ground them.

Why Doesn’t Meursault Care?

In chapters 1-6 of The Stranger, the main character, Meursault, is indifferent about life. In the first sentence of the book by Albert Camus, Meursault says, “Maman died today. Or yesterday maybe, I don’t know” (1). This quotation illustrates how Meursault doesn’t express emotion at the death of his own mother. It also alienates him from society because most people would be very sad if that happened to them, and he doesn’t express their typical shared emotion. Another instance where Meursault shows indifference can be found on page 41. Meursault says, “That evening Marie came by to see me and asked me if I wanted to marry her. I said it didn’t make any difference to me and that we could if she wanted to. Then she wanted to know if I loved her. I answered the same way I had the last time, that it didn’t mean anything but that I probably didn’t love her.” When Marie asks Meursault if he loves her, he says no and it doesn’t mean anything to him. This is super sad for Marie and she is confused as to why he answers this way. From these two quotations, we can conclude that Meursault doesn’t care much about life, but why? On page 41, Meursault reflects, “Looking back on it, I wasn’t unhappy. When I was a student, I had lots of ambitions like that. But when I had to give up my studies I learned very quickly that none of it really mattered.” The previous quotation doesn’t fully explain Meursault’s attitude, but it helps us to understand his position. After his studies, he became less ambitious and was unmotivated at work. This is not a full explanation, but it helps the reader to better realize why the protagonist is indifferent.