Parallels Between Sherlock Holmes, High Functioning Sociopath, and Mersault, Potential Psychopath?

In Albert Camus’ novel The Stranger, the main character Meursault appears to be very nonchalant and detached. He shows little emotion even at very major events. When his mother dies, he doesn’t cry, he doesn’t wish to see the body; the only thing occupying his mind is how he has a headache and wishes to take a nap, have a smoke, and drink some coffee. When he gets offered a job in Paris, he doesn’t show any emotion, only stating that he already has a job, why should he need a promotion?

In the TV show Sherlock, based on the famous novel series The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Sherlock describes himself as a high-functioning sociopath. A sociopath is defined by Oxford as “a person with a personality disorder manifesting itself in extreme antisocial attitudes and behavior and a lack of conscience”. Sherlock is capable of communicating and making connections with people just as John Watson, hence the high functioning, however, he is nonempathetic towards societal norms.

Meursault is similar to Sherlock in the sense that he acts on his own accord, societal norms not influencing his behavior or decisions in the slightest. However, I believe Meursault exhibits behaviors more synonymous with a psychopath. Sociopaths are seen more as “hot-headed” and have a “rules be damned” mentality, while psychopaths are cold and calculating, and have violent tendencies. Meursault killing a man certainly falls under violent social behavior. Psychopaths are also more personally driven to act the way they do, while sociopaths are still impacted by society and are compelled to act not according to the unwritten rules. Meursault is detached from society in the sense he doesn’t even care about its existence. He simply exists.

Losing Hope

In The Stranger by Albert Camus, the reader follows Meursault on his journey through a multitude of different situations and relationships. But, what I find the most interesting about this story is how Meursault responds to these situations. He is very analytical in nature, and seems almost emotionless. This ultimately results in Meursault getting himself into a lot of trouble and even leads to him being sentenced to execution. Throughout the story he tries to make some sense out of his odd behavioral habits and by the end, is able to connect his own personality to the meaning of life.

For me, the most striking line that embodies this realization is on page 122 when Meursualt is waiting to be executed. Meursault states, “As if a blind rage had washed me clean, rid me of hope; for the first time, in that night alive with signs and stars, I opened myself to the gentle indifference of the world. Finding it so much like myself–so like a brother, really–I felt that I had been happy and that I was happy again”(122,123). I believe that this is one of the most important quotations in The Stranger and that it provides a realization that does a very good job of bringing the story to a close. Prior to this, but after his sentence, Meursault was contemplating ways to evade his execution. He quickly became consumed and very stressed. But, he eventually loses all hope and it is only then that he is able to be happy and at peace. He realizes that the indifference he shows to the world is mutual and reflects right back at him. With this, he no longer felt “alone” and no longer feared his certain death. Death comes eventually anyway, why stress about when it will come.