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.

6 thoughts on “The Importance of Ambition

  1. Najda HSJ

    Yes, I found this interesting too. It is interesting to see Mersault’s nonchalant reactions to very big milestones and pivotal moments in someone’s life–moments like when Marie asked Mersault to get married, when Maman died/at Maman’s funeral, when he killed a person, when he was in a life-threatening fight, and other various moments. It is fascinating to see those very emotion-provoking moments to be told so emotionless. I wonder if his emotions or nonchalance will change throughout the book. As a reader, it’s definitely intriguing to read with all of Mersault’s unpredictability.

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  2. Molly H

    I agree with you because in the story, the text states, “He looked upset and told me that I never gave him a straight answer, that I had no ambition, and that that was disastrous in business” (41). The quote illustrates how Meursault lacks ambition and he doesn’t really care. This story is different from other books I have read for school because usually the protagonist is way more involved, yet Meursault is nonchalant about life.

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  3. Mirabella V.

    I really like the idea that because of Meursault’s laid back actions, we can’t really predict what he is going to do next. When discussing the first couple of chapters in class, we thought of Meursault as the kind of guy that would go along with whatever anyone said to make it easier for him. This made him seem very predictable and boring. While reading more of the book, I found the laid back behavior of Meursault to make him more complex because it is so intriguing to read about someone care as little as he seems to. You never really understand the entire meaning behind his behaviors, and hopefully by the end of the book we can learn more as to why Meursault has this approach to life.

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  4. TIARA O

    I really like how you identified how Meursault does not have ambition because I also agree with that point and think that it makes the story even more complex. I also want to go even further and question why he has that lack of ambition. In the story, it briefly mentioned that after he quit his studies he lost his ambition. It makes me wonder why he quit his studies, and if we will ever find out why in the story. I can’t imagine lacking ambition because then there would be no point or meaning to life and life would be extremely boring.

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  5. HANNAH R

    I think Meursault’s lack of ambition shows how passive his character is. The majority of where the story takes is not caused by Meursault’s decisions. He only takes up a relationship with Raymond because Raymond needed his help and his interest in Marie is only surface level. I think this makes Meursault interesting, not exactly 3-dimensional but enticing. His character shows the passive element that can’t control life’s absurdity.

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  6. Zoe H

    I agree that this is a very unusual way to develop a character. You don’t realize how jarring Meursault’s character is until you begin to compare him to every character that you have previously read about. Although every character is unique, I think that I can somewhat trace them all back to fit into certain archetypes. And there is always overlap between these characters, and I feel that I can relate them to each other, but Meursault is a complete curveball to this system.

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