Harmony and Happiness?

When reading the last few sections of part one of The Stranger, I was alarmed as to how some of the last few sentences were phrased.

After pulling the trigger of the gun on the Arab man approaching him, Mersault states “I knew I had shattered the harmony of the day, the exceptional silence of a beach where I had been happy” (59). This immediately caught my attention. Mersault’s decision to use the word “harmony” to describe the day is not something that I had expected. Sure he had had some good experiences on the beach that day with Marie and their friends, yet, the whole last few pages of part one of the novel were dedicated to Mersault complaining and fussing about the heat and how miserable it was making him feel.

He describes pulling the trigger and shooting the man as “Knocking on the door of unhappiness”(59), and this is the last sentence of this section. This also was interesting to me because it seems that Mersault was never happy as it is. When he does express that he is experiencing happiness, it seems forced, or fake, none of his emotions ever seem true to him. He doesn’t really seem to ever be genuinely happy. This is why it struck me when he acknowledged the killing of the Arab man as the insinuator for the unhappiness starting, when in reality it seemed to just catalyze the misery he’s already experiencing.

Throughout the whole last few pages of part one, Mersault never fails to let the reader know that the sun and the heat emanating from it were literally killing him. He then ties the experiences he is having in the beating sun on the beach to the sun on the days that he buried his mom. “The sun was the same as it had been the day I’d buried Maman, and like then, my forehead especially was hurting me, all the veins in it throbbing under the skin”(58-59). This immediately had me questioning how Mersault could attach and associate the word harmonious, claim that he was happy, with something so painstaking and sad. Granted, he did mention that he never shed a tear at Maman’s funeral but the scorching heat of the day he buried her definitely could have been a motivator for his misery under the sun that he makes sure we, as readers, feel like we are experiencing with him.

Because of all of this, it just leaves me in a bit of a confused state at the end of part one on the mention of the beach where he “Had been happy” (59), when it seems to me like the whole day was really just soaking in complaints.

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