Throughout Albert Camus’s novel, The Stranger, Meursault displays his lack of emotion and drive through his words and actions. In the beginning of part I, Meursault’s lack of emotions can be seen in his behavior during the time of his mother’s death. The day after his mother’s funeral, Meursault went to the beach and asked out his former coworker Marie. When she discovered his mother had passed, “She wanted to know how long ago, so I said ‘Yesterday.’ I felt like telling her it wasn’t my fault, but I stopped myself… it didn’t mean anything. Besides you always feel a little guilty”(20). Meursault told Marie his mother had died only a day before as if it had no significance whatsoever. Later in Part I, this same lack of emotions is seen when Marie asks Meursault if he wants to marry her and if he thinks marriage is serious. Meursault states “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”(41). Even for a notion as big as marriage, Meursault didn’t seem to care at all if he did or did not marry Marie which is very out of the norm for a typically human being. For most people, their mother’s death and their marriage/engagment are two very significant and emotional events however in Meursault’s case, he did not experience any strong opinion or feeling. This trait of Meursault could be caused by his experience in school where he states “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”(41). Due to this experience in his life, Meursault no longer has strong ambitions which provides some reasoning to his lack of emotion in the events occurring in his life.
The Stranger, a novel by Albert Camus, focuses on a strange relationship between Salamano, an old man, and his dog, who suffers from mange. People say that dogs often look like their owners, this is one of those cases. In the story, Camus explains, “They look as if they belong to the same species, and yet they hate each other” (27). This comes as a bit of a shock because you would expect them to have a great bond, especially if they look similar. But as you later learn, Salamano beats and swears at his dog (27).
However, this relationship of terror, from the dog, and hatred, from Salamano, is flipped upside down in the following chapters. Later, the dog is lost and the reader learns that Salamano got the dog to cure his loneliness after his wife died. He would rub his dog with ointment every day twice a day and said, “He was a good dog” (45). This gives the reader more insight into their relationship and spins the perspective from an abusive and negative relationship to a loving and caring one.
Whether Salamano connects his dog to his late wife or as a life long companion, we do not know. But, Salamano does care greatly for his dog and is heavily concerned when it is missing. Although, Salamano shows his affection in a non-healthy way, abuse.
In the The Stranger, by Albert Camus, Meursault appears to be indifferent to many situations he faces throughout this story. Does this mean he truly does not care?
An example of this indifference is present when Meursault overhears Raymond beating his wife, while accompanying Marie: “Marie said it was terrible and I didn’t say anything” (36). Another example from the story is when Raymond asks how Meursault expected him to react to the cop, and Meusault replies, “I wasn’t expecting anything” (37).
It appears that Meursault’s indifference is present when he does not say, do, or think “anything” regarding a subject. I think that it is interesting how Meursault does not care about anything and wonder if it is him actually not caring, or him hiding or burying his true feelings because he is content with everything that he has. Part 1 briefly describes that Mersault grew less ambitious after he gave up his studies. It leads to reader to wonder why he gave up his studies and question whether there is a chance that his ambitions may reoccur and cause him to care again.
How would you react if you heard that your mother passed away? Would you be saddened? Devastated? Shattered? Meursault, the protagonist of Albert Camus’s novel The Stranger, reacts in a way that defies expectations: apathy. He shows no emotion to news that many would never want to hear. When he shows to her funeral, everyone else is confused or offended by his lack of remorse. Why does he act in such a way? Why would Camus put such a character in his work?
Meursault’s indifference to the world is the trait that separates him from everyone else. He has asked with similar detachment in other scenes. In Chapter 2 — the day after the funeral, he runs into Marie, and old coworker of his, at the beach. After some playful swimming and flirting, she asks him about his mother’s funeral and is shocked to hear that it was yesterday, most likely because of Meursault’s calmness about it. They then see a movie and spend the night together. The following morning, Marie is gone, and Meursault decides to not go to his usual place for lunch, lest he be asked about his mother’s funeral again by her. He spends afternoon in his apartment, thinking about how his life has not changed at all. Despite falling in love with someone, he forgets about it quickly. He acts as if it never happened at all. However, I believe that there is a reason to his apathy. Meursault is written as such because he represents the author’s own opinion of life.
In 1942, the same year he published The Stranger, he also wrote an essay called “The Myth of Sisyphus”. In it, he introduces his idea of the absurd, which is formed by the conflict between the human desire to find purpose and order in life and the universe’s indifference of creating it. Meursault embodies this philosophy, with him accepting every action in his life without much care. He is indifferent to his mother’s death because the universe is also indifferent to it. The same can be said for his date with Marie, with him seeing it as just the world’s carelessness in action. Meursault is apathetic because he has become indifferent of the universe.