Meursault’s Lack of Emotion Results in Divergence From Society

From the beginning of Albert Camus’ novel, “The Stranger”, the main character Meursault demonstrates a distinct lack of emotion towards typically moving events such as death and relationships which leads to a distinct separation from society. After attending his mothers funeral services and returning home, Meursault’s deepest thoughts are about finally going to sleep. The next day, although boring, results in him reflecting that, “…anyway one more Sunday was over, that Maman was buried now, that I was going back to work, and that, really, nothing had changed” (24). Meursault’s apparent lack of grief towards the death of his mother divides him from the typical societal response to death. He continues on with his daily activities such as going to breakfast at his favorite restaurant, going to the beach, and returning to work after a weekend instead of the archetypal actions such as reconnecting with loved ones, evaluating ones feelings, or reviewing fond memories of the deceased. Meursault further demonstrates his nonchalant view of life after his girlfriend Marie asks him if he loves her. Marie questioned Meursault about his true feelings to which he responds, “…she asked me if I loved her. I told her it didn’t mean anything but that I didn’t think so. She looked sad” (35). Meursault’s clear lack of acknowledgment of typical feelings shared in a romantic relationship makes his character appear disconnected from the world around him. Meursault even recognizes that Marie reacts negatively towards his indifferent response, however his unemotional perspective on life renders him incapable of understanding her sadness. Meursault’s uncaring and dispassionate attitudes of generally important events of his life cause a downfall in his relation to society.

Can Meursault experience deep emotions?

Whether it is mourning the loss of a loved one, evaluating right vs. wrong, or opening up about love, Meursault tends to respond in an unusual way.  In The Stranger by Albert Camus, the main character Meursault does not seem to be capable of having a deep, meaningful relationship with the people around him. His supposed romantic relationship with Marie is passionless, and when asked about marriage Meursault responds in a lackluster way, “It didn’t make any difference to me and that we could if she wanted to” (41).  Providing no emotions or thoughts on the idea of something as important as marriage shows insight on Meursault’s ideas on love or relationships. His descriptions of Marie also focus on her body, as of now, the reader does not know much about Marie as a person other than when she was wearing a striped dress, Meursault could observe, “The shape of her firm breasts, and her tan made her face look like a flower” (34).  When talking about Marie, it is always in a sexual way, Meursault talks about her in a surface level way.

Is this casual approach to relationships a way to ensure that Meursault does not get himself hurt? Or is there something else behind his detached approach to life?

Emotions During Loss

In The Stranger, we see how emotions change when you lose a loved one. The book introduces Salamano and his dog, and readers quickly believe that Salamano is aggressive, violent, and shows immense hatred towards his dog. In the book, Salamano calls his dog a “Filthy, stinking bastard(27)” and constantly yanks the dog, beats the dog, and swears at the dog. From Salamano and the dog’s daily relationship, you would think that Salamano has no emotion and care towards his dog. However, when Salamano’s dog was lost, he showed different emotions. When his dog was missing, Salamano was anxious to find his dog, talking to Meursault about ways to find him(45). Salamano even said that when he hears other dogs bark, he thinks it is his own dog(36). Salamano’s actions show care and compassion towards his dog, which is a stark contrast from how he acted towards his dog during everyday life. This was confusing to me. It made me wonder if our true emotions and feelings are shown in our everyday life, or if they are shown when we lose the people/animals that we love the most? I don’t know the answer to my question, but it was very interesting to think about.