Coffee, Coffee, Coffee!

During the first few chapters of the novel, I felt like Meursault was constantly drinking coffee. Looking back at part one, I realize it’s only mentioned on three or four different occasions, but it definitely stood out to me. In addition to coffee, he talks about smoking, eating, and washing his hands more often than I feel like most narrators do. All of these things are part of many people’s daily routines.

Routines are very important in The Stranger. Maybe it’s just a coincidence that Meursault talks about coffee a few different times in the first three chapters, but it is not a coincidence that the concept of routine keeps popping up.

Routine is mentioned for the first time on the first page of the novel: “I ate at the restaurant, at Celeste’s, as usual,” (3). When Meursault is at the old people’s home for the vigil the caretaker says “As is usually the case, the funeral is set for ten o’clock in the morning” (6). The vigil and funeral are obviously routine for the nurse and caretaker; Meursault even says the funeral seemed to happen “so deliberately” (17), which also made me think of routine. Meursault describes a Sunday morning, finishing by saying “It was Sunday all right” (22). The old man and his dog have a routine of abuse, as do Raymond and his girlfriend. The “strange little woman” described has an odd and specific routine that she’s done so many times she seems “robotlike” (43).

I don’t really know yet what the importance of routine is to the story. Meursault’s entire life seems like a routine. I think that in part two of the novel we’ll learn what Albert Camus is trying to say about routine. I’ll definitely pay attention to coffee and other symbols of routine while reading the rest of the story.

Is Meursault Really All That Bad?

When I read the first few infamous lines of The Stranger by Albert Camus, I took Meursault for a boring character. I stated in my thesis, only based on the beginning four pages, “In Albert Camus’s novel, The Stranger, he depicts the narrator, Meursault, as lackluster and having a dull approach to society.¨ A Lot of my stance prevails, he’s not expressive or very interested in others, but today as my classmates argue his nature negatively and almost describes him sociopathically, I had trouble not intervening. 

My newest interpretation of the narrator is that he struggles to feel comfortable confronting his emotions and avoids the vulnerability it brings. He is not the cold man others see him for.

  His reaction to his mothers’ death is the basis for much of his negative connotation and the first impression the reader gets of him.  However, there is a hidden emotion in this relationship. His resistance to opening the casket is because he earlier states “For now, it’s almost like Maman weren’t dead. After the funeral, though, the case will be closed, and  everything will have an official feel to it,”(3) and so he didn’t want to see her, to dodge the weight of her death. He later demonstrates signs of missing her that were neglected in the discussion amongst my classmates, ¨It was just the right size when Maman was here. Now it’s too big for me…¨(21) and he  “ate standing up,” (24) which I interpreted a being uncomfortable without her presence. 

Additionally, the Sunday after he got back home he sits the entire day watching the passersby, he alludes to the fact that this is how his Sundays are but the next Sunday he is much more active. This can be interpreted as an indication of mourning.  

We see a more lively bit of Meursault’s nature, with Marie at the beach, it is the first time we see him initiate human interaction. As the novel progresses we watch him become more opinionated and care for others (or be less indifferent)  in the internal dialogue about Marie  Stating “Marie told me I hadn’t kissed her since this morning. It was true, and yet I wanted to” (51) and other statements along those lines. He also follows Raymond to the beach, exhibiting concern for his new friend. 

While he is not very opinionated, it is clear that he is not as odd as he is depicted. This is only my perspective now, considering the ending of part one of the novel, I am almost positive my views on Meursault as a character will change again as his character adapts to his new circumstances.

Meursault: A Severe Case of Depression

The main character in The Stranger is a peculiar character for many reasons. The story is written in the perspective of Meursault which adds various facets to it because Meursault is unlike everyone else in the story. A crucial part of the human experience is emotional feeling and expression. Meursault defies this natural principle of life by showing indifference and apathy in almost every situation he is confronted with. Throughout the story, readers face the challenge of depicting what kind of person Meursault really is because he often fails to display any interest or preference for anything. This leads me to question Meursault’s reason for emotional detachment and the most logical answer I can come up with is a case of severe depression. A symptom of depression is loss of interest in hobbies or in daily life activities. My personal theory leads me to believe that Meursault’s emotional detachment serves as a defense mechanism, or at least is a symptom of mental anguish. Something as major as as his mother’s death barely provokes emotion. His immediate concern is his boss’s annoyance with him taking time off work (3). In addition, when his boss offers him an exciting job offer, Meursault has no reaction or yearn for the opportunity. His boss even gets frustrated with him because he feels Meursault has no ambition, which is true (41). I also think his choice of allegiance with Raymond is alarming. It’s clear in the story that Raymond isn’t a great person, yet Meursault chooses to entertain him when he asks him to write the letter (32). The end of Part I was really what convinced me that Meursault’s state of mind may be unstable. In any book or movie, when a character shoots or stabs someone excessively to murder them, it mainly always signifies a deep anger within the character. In the scene where Meursault shoots the Arab that attacked Raymond, he shoots him a total of five times (59). Besides the first shot, he fired 4 extra times that were very unnecessary, but I interpreted this instance as a turning point for the character. This scene showed a snap within Meursault that the reader had not yet been exposed to and I can’t help but think that there is way more to Meursault than the reader knows at this point.

Does Real Love Involve Hatred?

Displays of love in The Stranger are not the kind I typically see in literature, and it makes me wonder what actually constitutes as love. It could possibly be argued that Meursault loved his mother or loves Marie, but it seems to me that he seems to have very little feeling for them, regardless of positive or negative. I

t’s generally assumed that one has love for their mother and that, upon her death, one would be distraught. Meursault does not show any sign of missing his mother, other than a passing mention of his apartment feeling too big since she’d gone (21). Similarly, Meursault shows very little sign of affection in his internal dialogue about Marie. He does mention wanting her (34) and that he “had a thing for her” at one point (19). His response to her asking to marry him (41) is more of an indifference than an agreement or confirmation.

The only relationship in which I see some semblance of love is between Salamano and his dog. They, undeniably, have a mutual disdain for each other, but that disdain means they carry strong feelings. And in contrast to their violent outbursts of supposed hatred (27), they also have moments of tenderness that, though they may not correlate directly with stereotypical tenderness, make it quite plain that they care for each other. Just the fact that Salamano, an elderly man, elects to take his dog for a long walk twice a day (27) shows some care. Additionally, Meursault describes Salamano and his dog as “inseparable for eight years” (26). The instance I feel shows Salamano’s love for his dog most clearly is his response to his dog going missing. He says, “but they’ll take him away from me, don’t you see” (39). Once this conversation had finished, Meursault and Salamano both returned to their rooms, and marked that, “from the peculiar little noise coming through the partition, I realized he was crying” (39).

As aforementioned, there is certainly a strong notion of frustration between Salamano and his dog, but in no way, shape, or form does Meursault display frustration or adoration for the characters in the story we might expect him to love. It makes me wonder if hatred is necessary for love.

No Interests?

The Stranger, written by Alex Camus exemplifies the complex dynamic between a man and his lack of interests in just about everything. The main character goes about life as if nothing he says has an impact on future events nor does he care if it does or doesn’t. As a result, this leads him into gruesomely killing a man.

Exhibited behaviors

The story starts of with the passing of his mother, in regards to this he’s incapable of showing any type of emotion to her sudden death. He experiences a lot of climatic events that any other person would react to but fortunately enough, he just goes with the flow. He maintains this careless attitude throughout all of part one, whether its testifying the unjust actions of his friend or whether he does or doesn’t love the woman in which he decides to marry. His way of life sparks much curiosity as to why he is this way he is and why he exhibits these behaviors. ” I knew that I had shattered the harmony of the day, the exception silence of a beach where i’d been happy. Then I fired four more times at the motionless body… (59)” There was no justifying the fact that he shot and killed this man unprovoked, he’s aware of how bad and unjustifiable it is but what was his train of thought leading him into murdering this man?

Morals and Emotions of Meursault

Meursault’s morals are misplaced because of his lack of ability to display and feel emotion. It is evident to the reader throughout the first six chapters that Meursault has little to no emotion. This is clear from the first moment in the story, where he is unbothered by his Maman’s death. It is later confirmed as not a weird occurrence when he is unable to know if he loves Marie or not, despite mentioning that he had previously had a crush on her.

Meursault’s lack of emotion leads him to have questionable morals in many circumstances. An example of this is his friend Raymond. When he first talks to Raymond over dinner at Raymond’s apartment, Raymond describes to him how he beat up his mistress. Raymond understands the stranger’s viewpoint on why he did so and decides to befriend the man, saying that he had no problem with being friends with him. A person with emotion in this situation would have felt bad for his mistress, leading them to dislike Raymond for beating up his mistress, even if she had cheated on him. However, because Meursault has no emotions, he is unable to make a correct moral decision and realize that Raymond is not a good person.

Additionally, Meursault displays this again when he shoots someone. The situation had already de-escalated and he was in little to no danger. He describes his urge to shoot him as a burning pain in his forehead that made him move forward. When he shot the man there was no emotion involved except him being slightly annoyed. After he killed the man it was clear it effected his morals, as he had no reaction and shot the man 4 more times.

A Little Shot Never Hurt Nobody

In part one of the novel The Stranger, the main character Meursault shoots one of the Arabs that followed Raymond to the beach house for no apparent reason. I was left completely perplexed as why he would do such a thing. However, after thinking about Meursault’s lack of care for the world or the people in it, I realized that shooting or not shooting really made no difference to Meursault.

Throughout the previous chapters of The Stranger, Meursault never shows any inclination that he actually attaches meaning to the events that occur around him or the people he sees. When his neighbor Raymond says that he wants to beat up his ex for cheating on him, Meursault sees no issue with this and even ends up writing a letter to the ex for Raymond. From this interaction, I think it is quite obvious that Meursault does not feel or think of things the same way that most people do. I think that he detaches events from the effects they could have on other people.

I believe this detachment is what led Meursault to killing the Arab. Meursault didn’t have a reason for killing the Arab because to him, the question ‘why would you shoot’ and ‘why not shot’ have no real meaning or difference. Meursault even says “It occured to me that all I had to do was turn around and that would be the end of it. But the whole beach, throbbing in the sun, was pressing on my back. I took a few steps toward the spring”(58). Meursault understands that a conflict will occur if he gets closer to the Arab but still does it because he’s hot and wants to cool off at the spring instead of at the house. He doesn’t actually care about the consequences, because he already believes life has no meaning, so what does one little fight really mean. And using Meursault’s logic, if one fight means nothing, then why not just shoot the Arab, since that doesn’t mean anything either.

Inevitability and Meursault

At the end of the first part of Albert Camus’s novel The Stranger, Meursault, the narrator whose lens we view the world through, shoots a man five times. He describes the encounter as being “where it all started”, feeling as if the final four shots he fired had knocked “four quick times on the door of unhappiness” (59). This shocking event seems to disrupt the relative calm of the previous part and shift every aspect of Meursault’s life in a new direction.

I would like to examine if this event was inevitable – does Meursault’s established characterization in Part I of The Stranger ensure that Meursault’s reactions and actions lead him to the fatal encounter between himself and the Arab man at the end of Part I? Was there any other path for him to take?

In Part I, Meursault can be easily characterized as emotionless and heartless in his reactions to his mother’s death and his relationship with Marie Cardona.

However, I think that his character may be a bit more complex than that. The dry syntax of Part I seems to present an emotionless Meursault, as he does not seem to feel any grief or shock at his mother’s death, but rather viewing it as “one of those things that was bound to happen sooner or later” (33). Despite this, Meursault still seems to hold some level of affection for his mother after her death, consistently referring to her as “Maman” and attending her vigil and funeral, if not without some difficulty.

I believe Meursault’s emotionless tone stems from a notion that things “didn’t matter” no matter how they resulted (8). Although he acknowledges the value others might place upon immaterial goods such as relationships and traditions, to Meursault they represent something extraneous and unnecessary. This is epitomized with Meursault’s conversations with Marie about if he loves her, to which he responds, “I told her it didn’t mean anything but that I didn’t think so” (35). He is simply apathetic about the world, and this apathy acts as a large contributing factor to Meursault’s actions in the final pages of the section.

The main conflict of Chapter 6 is the continuing strife between Raymond and the brother of one of Raymond’s ex-mistresses, who he had accused of cheating on him and beaten. Meursault considers the conflict concluded after a brief scuffle between Raymond, Meursault, Masson, and two Arab men, one of whom was the brother previously mentioned, as well as a second encounter where the two Arab men backed off while Meursault and Raymond were deciding whether or not to confront them.

As stated above, Meursault’s final encounter with the brother of one of Raymond’s ex-mistresses occurs when Meursault goes for a walk by himself, and sees the man sitting with his head underneath a rock. Meursault steps towards him, the man pulls out a knife, and Meursault shoots him.

Meursault has several opportunities to avoid the encounter – once when he could climb the staircase back to the house, and once when he could turn around once he saw the Arab man. However, to him, “To stay or to go, it amounted to the same thing” (57). Meursault’s apathetic attitude ultimately meant that although he did not necessarily wish to kill a man, his actions – or rather, a lack of active decision-making – led inexorably to the final event in the chapter.

What Does Life Mean to Meursault?

Meursault manages to go through his life without a care in the world, but not in a free spirited way. He doesn’t seem to feel any importance for anything or anyone. The simplest things he should immense emotions for don’t seem to phase him. Something as heart wrenching as losing a beloved parent only made him feel tired and annoyed with the people around him. Not once did Meursault show any kind of grief or even a small hint of sadness in losing his mother. The only thing Meursault seemed to care about was how good his coffee tasted as well as things such as the sun and lights bothering him. His mother was dead right in front of him and all he had to say was, “I like milk in my coffee” (8). He couldn’t even show empathy to his mother’s closest friend who came to her burial and fainted from exhaustion.

Secondly, something that was so blatantly wrong, such as abusing living things didn’t seem to affect Meursault one bit. The senseless beating of a dog and the way his friend bragged about beating his ex were like comments about the weather to Meursault. At least it appeared that way from his reaction. Not only did he completely ignore the savage beating of his neighbor’s innocent dog, but he greeted him with a good morning as he was doing it and kept on walking. His friend also mentioned how aggressive with his ex and the abuse that he was responsible for as well as intimate details of their relationship, to which all Meursault had to say was that he agreed. “He’d beaten her til she bled” (31), Meursault thought and he never gave his input, he just listened. The way Meursault almost subconsciously ignores all the important conversations and events that happen in his life, tells a lot about him. We don’t know much about his past but we know enough that his future is going to start getting rough if he doesn’t face things as they come.

The Black and the Blinding Sun

Meursault is, in a word, straightforward. He says things as they are, ignoring (or perhaps, is unable to perceive of) the emotional elements of a situation and instead focusing on the visually obvious. Take, for instance, his mother’s funeral procession — rather than reminiscing on his mother’s life, he instead observes his surroundings and feels lost in “the monotony of the colors around me — the sticky black of the tar, the dull back of all the clothes, and the shiny black of the hearse” (17). However, Meursault’s description of the visual setting is not solely a description for the sake of painting a picture — it sets the stage for color and brightness to subtly communicate to the reader the emotion of a situation (in this instance, the gloominess and general feeling of mourning that is associated with the color black) that Meursault is unable to perceive directly and thus is unable to relate to the reader directly.

Camus also uses the visual appearance of a situation, and brightness in particular, to show Meursault’s capacity to reason. It seems that both the darkest and brightest extremes of light leave Meursault with a weakened capacity to reason and remain coherent. During the funeral procession, for instance, he complains of “blood pounding in my temples”, and the events that followed “seemed to happen so fast . . . that I don’t remember any of it anymore” (17). Elsewhere in the story, rather than monotonous dark colors, Meursault is in a setting of “blinding” bright light and contradictory details that Meursault imagines in the light despite being blinded. These are perhaps the few times his imagination goes further than reality in this story, because he believes that his imagination is reality. This is most notable at the end of Part 1 as he kills the Arab in a blinded stupor, but this interpretation of imagination as reality is first explored nearer to the beginning of the story as Meursault sits next to his mother’s casket in a room so white “it made my eyes hurt”. He watches his mother’s friends come in to pay their respects, and he sees them “more clearly than I had ever seen any one, and not one detail of their faces or their clothes escaped me” — yet, he says “it was hard for me to believe they really existed”, as if they were angels (9). His imagination leads him to see the impossible, and his otherwise lack of creativity leads to him believing his hallucinations, because he interprets what he seems as the absolute reality.

It seems that only with color is Meursault coherent. Throughout Part 1, he describes the sky as taking on “a reddish glow” (23), blue (24), and even green (26), the last of which makes him feel “good”. But as color fades and is replaced with the “thick drunkenness” of the bright sun or the “dark mass” of shade (57), Meursault is blinded into disorientation, revoking him of his characteristic straightforwardness.

Emotional breakthrough or instinctual feelings of pain?

In his novel, The Stranger, author Albert Camus develops the characterization of Meursault by implementing a dramatic contrast in the intensity of diction by the end of part one. Readers quickly learn that Meursault is unconcerned with the decisions and events in his life through his indifference to his mothers death, his girl-friends marriage proposal, and the violence exhibited by his neighbor and friend. After Marie asked him if he loves her, he describes his feelings as though “it didn’t mean anything” and that he “didn’t think so” while noting that “She looked sad”(35). The reader understands from this neutral diction that Mersaults emotions are never extreme and Mersault is consistently content and uninfluenced throughout chapters 1-5.

Although this carelessness seems to be permanent, Camus employs a moment of extremity for Meursault at the end of chapter six. For instance, Meursault details his emotions and suffering as “cymbals of the sunlight crashing on [his] forehead”, “The sea carried up a thick fiery breath”, “The scorching blade slashed at [his] eyelashes and stabbed at [his] stinging eyes,” and that it seemed as if “the sky split open from one end to the other to rain down fire”(59). This is the most expression readers receive from Mersault thus far and Camus exposes Meursaults intense emotions through the symbollically detailed expression of his pain and the hell like world around him. Moreover, through the words, “crashing”, “fiery”, “scorching”, and “slashed”, Meursault exemplifies strong emotions. Even if it is just a result of physical pain, the detail in emotion Meursault conveys is a strong development from the surface level thoughts he expressed in the beginning chapters.

Meursault: Indifferent and Indecisive

Throughout part 1 of The Stranger, Meursault’s actions have reflected his detachment from society. It is clear that his mother’s death has affected him, as he is distant and not completely there in his interactions with the people around him.

In Chapter 6, on the beach, Meursault’s indifference to his surroundings and actions is evident. Camus writes, “We stared at each other without blinking, and everything came to a stop there between the sea, the sand, and the sun, and the double silence of the flute and the water. It was then that I realized that you could either shoot or not shoot” (56).

Meursault’s reaction during this event that many would consider to be traumatic is emotionless. Clearly, he is detached from society to the extent that he does not care if a man is shot or not. This also demonstrates Meursault’s indecisiveness in important situations like this. He believes that it does not matter what he does, so he cannot make a calculated decision. Later on, Meursault describes that “To stay or to go, it amounted to the same thing” (57). Meursault is extremely indecisive, and cannot make rational choices.

At the end of part 1, Meursault’s actions further demonstrate his detachment from societal ideals and normalities. Camus writes, “Then I fired four more times at the motionless body where the bullets lodged without leaving a trace. And it was like knocking four quick times on the door of unhappiness” (59). Undoubtedly, Meursault has emotional problems, as he fires 4 more shots into a man who is already dead. He shows no emotion while doing this, not even anger or hatred. He does it with a blank face, and compares shooting to “knocking… on the door of unhappiness,” clearly demonstrating his detachment from society and his indifference when doing many actions.

No Tears?

The first line of The Stranger, written by Albert Camus is “Mother died today. Or yesterday maybe, I don’t know. ” The initial reaction to this is to assume Meursault is a cold man, who had an estranged relationship with his mother. Which, is a bold assumption to make only two sentences into the book, however as the book narrates through the events leading up to the funeral and after the author makes it clear that Meursault isn’t as cold as he appears.

Meursault lost his mother but on the day of her funeral all he could think about was the sun. He thought about the location of the sun and the heat beating down on the funeral party. Meursault didn’t cry or shed a tear on the days leading up to and after the funeral which some people find strange but I don’t think you have to cry if something is sad. It is clear that he is not the traditional man as the book continues, but I think him not crying isn’t something that makes him cold. There are many different ways people grieve lost ones and there is not right or wrong way to do so. When Meursault arrives home he says “I wander around the apartment. It was just the right size when Maman was here. Now its too big for me,” this thought shows us that he did enjoy life with his mom and feels that there is a sort of emptiness in his life with her absent. Despite all of his coldness and little knowledge of his mothers life in the home he stilled loved her and was divested when she died, which shows the reader a soft side to him.

Who is Mersault Anyway?

“The Stranger” begins with a long, drawn-out summary of Mersault’s mother’s (Maman’s) death and the days that followed it. It’s not an anecdote, it doesn’t have any emotional detail. Mersault sees the death of his mother as more of an inconvenience than anything – he seems apologetic when he tells his boss that he needs time off work, telling him “‘It’s not my fault'” (1). During the procession, he seems more focused on simple grievances like the heat and how long the walk is than anything else. He returns from his trip, checks another thing off his to-do list, and returns to his normal life as if nothing significant has just happened. He acts like an outlier, simply an observer of the raw emotion around him even though the death holds the most significance in himself.

Even throughout the first part, Mersault has no characteristic of his own; when he is alone, he just sits by his window and observes. He is truly the embodiment of who we would consider a “stranger:” someone who exists and has his own life outside of his little interaction with us that we can’t imagine or understand, because we simply don’t know him.

The detail that stuck out to me most was how after his late mother moved into a home, he packed his entire apartment into one room. “It was just the right size when Maman was here,” he says. “Now it’s too big for me … I live in just one room now, with some saggy straw chairs, a wardrobe whose mirror has gone yellow, a dressing table, and a brass bed. I’ve let the rest go” (21). Another object that Mersault has kept in his tiny room, however, is a “notebook where I put things from the papers that interest me.”

Mersault describes putting an advertisement for a salt company into his notebook. And every other worn out object in his little room has one everyday use that helps him in his survival.

We don’t know anything about Mersault’s life. The salt advertisement that he puts into his notebook gives us absolutely no clue as to what his interests actually are. He has no forms of recreation or entertainment in his apartment – it’s all just basic necessities. Why is he showing no emotion or sense of reflection at his mother’s funeral?

In short, the first part of this novel gives us no insight into Mersault’s past. The reader cannot connect with him on a personal level, or make inferences as to why he lives the way he does. Evidently he had a strained relationship with his mother, but I want to know why. All I can say is that so far, the title has fit the character.

Living in the Absurd

In Albert Camus’ The Stranger, it is clear from the beginning how disengaged Meursault may live. Although many see this behavior as a dissatisfaction with one’s present condition, I believe Meursault is actually fine with how he experiences his life.

]Similar to Camus’ Myth of Sisyphus, Meaursault has accepted the inevitable absurdity of life. He realizes that as an individual we confront binary choices, “It was then that I realized you either shoot or not shoot” (56), and points out the futility in it all, “To stay or to go , it amounted to the same thing”. As Meaursault welcomes the idea that his actions become meaningless it allows the complete unpredictability and peculiar elements of life to seem perfectly normal. This is shown a bit through the encounter with the woman who was eating at Celeste’s.

This brief anecdote is placed randomly within the text where it becomes a total tangent from what Meaursault was previously talking about. Meaursault was first describing a physical connection with Marie when he immediately transports himself to Celeste’s, “I had dinner at Celeste’s. I’d already started eating when a strange little woman came in and asked me if she could sit at my table” (43). Throughout the paragraph, Meaursault depicts the odd behaviors of the woman as she computes her bill, writes down the radio programs of the week, and displays robot-like movements during dinner. Meaursault, in total observation, decides to follow her out of the restaurant then says, ” I thought about how peculiar she was but forgot about her a few minutes later” ( 44). The book then takes the reader back into the flow of the story as Meaursault encounters Salamano. However, going back to the experience with the woman, what was the point? What does this encounter mean and is there any significance to the story as a whole? I’m not sure. Though, I do know it says something about Meaursault’s acceptance of the oddities of life.

The Therapist

In Albert Camus’s novel The Stranger, the main character is portrayed as an emotionless, bland man who makes little human connections. However, multiple characters vent to Meursault about their problems or thoughts. For example, Raymond enters Meursault’s apartment to discuss his thoughts on his mistress. Similarly, Salamano goes to Meursault’s apartment after losing his dog and says, ”What’s going to happen to me?” (39). Also, Meursault’s boss discusses a plan of the business with Meursault because, “He (the boss) just wanted to have my opinion on the matter” (40-41). 

By the end of “Part 1,” it is clear to the reader that characters venting to Meursault is not a coincidence. Despite the potential issues of being emotionless, Meursault’s ability to listen to others’ is valued by three separate characters, making him a pseudo-therapist. Furthermore, these interactions reveal how people can be valued in relationships; the ability to genuinely listen to another person about things that are completely unrelated to one’s own life strengthens relationships. Meursault checks this box, despite him being portrayed as emotionless. 

Where’s the Emotion?

In The Stranger, Albert Camus portrays Meursault, the book’s narrator and main character, as detached, and unemotional. He does not think much about events or their consequences, nor does he express much feeling in relationships or during emotional times. He displays an impassiveness throughout the book in his reactions to the people and events described in the book. After his mother’s death he sheds no tears; seems to show no emotions. He displays limited feelings for his girlfriend, Marie Cardona and when asked if he wanted to marry her, he answered with no care at all saying things such as it didn’t make a difference to him and that they could if she wanted to.

Meursault is a very emotionless person, even when it’s serious events such as his mother passing where you think he should show some emotion to that. He has no care for his emotion nor the people around him, making him a dull person.

Meursault’s People: Beautiful and Brutal

I have been thinking about the kinds of people Meursault associates with in The Stranger.

First, I shall examine his love interest, Marie. She seems like someone too impactful for Meursault, considering his cold nature. I would not be certain he would be available to fall in love, but here we go. Of course, the two have some previous history, so I will dismiss my questions. She is the traditional romantic archetype in many stories, and yet this story is such an oddity with regards to emotional capacity that it seems odder still.

Now we move on to some of the sinister characters. Raymond and Salamano spring to mind. Raymond beats women and Salamano his dog. These two are not very upstanding, and yet Meursault associates with them, just like he would with any friend.

In a book defined by solemnity, why would Camus give us such provocative characters? Why would they do what they do? Do they symbolize anything?

You know what, I would say yes. Marie is certainly a juxtaposition to Meursault insofar as she invites him to express his emotions. The two enjoy intimate moments in the water and in the bedroom, and are on course to marry, even if Meursault is somewhat apathetic about it (41-42). Perhaps she is bringing something good out of him. Raymond and Salamano, however, represent Meursault’s darker streak. Meursault is no angel himself–he commits murder and covers for Raymond when he is caught slapping a woman. As such, these two are definitely a negative influence. The two of them personify his self when he shoots the Arab, once to kill him and “four quick times on the door of unhappiness” (59). What is more, this Arab is not even a nemesis of his. He adopted Raymond’s violent disposition.

Does He Care?

In “the Stranger” by Albert Camus, we are met by an extremely complex character. The story starts off with the character, Meursault, experiencing the death and funeral of his mother. As the story moves along, we start to see more depth in his character and are witnesses to how he goes about life. One thing is evidently clear as we continue to read. Meursault simply does not care.

Even in simple interactions with other characters in the story, Meursault has a facade of a laid back persona that is almost alarming. His response to events, that most people would have more reaction or opinion towards, is met by a cold response of disinterest. When asked if he wanted to marry Marie, his girlfriend, Meursault simply responded by saying, “It didn’t make any difference to me and that we could if she wanted to” (41). This brief response was one of the many time Meursault has illustrated his true disregard for other and his own emotions. It seems as though Mersault cannot make a decision for himself when concerning important matters such as marriage, love, sticking up for an abusive man, and even helping hurt the abusive mans girlfriend by writing a hurtful letter. Time and time again, Meursualt continues to show sociopathic tendencies that are hard to miss. Although at the end of the story we can see some emotion in Meurault and regret from shooting a man, it is clear that it takes a lot for him to show this and react to it.

The Poor Dog

I find the unusual relationships between Salamano and his dog and Meursault and his mother very interesting. There are many surprising similarities between the two. 

Meursault and his mother seemed to have a rather distant relationship. While Meursault did seem to have some concern that his mother was taken care of when he couldn’t do it himself, after her death, he doesn’t seem to be emotional in any way. At her funeral, Meursault was distracted by the heat and his exhaustion and he never understood why his mother’s friends were crying at the vigil. Even when he gets home and has had time to process his mother’s death, he still doesn’t seem phased at all. “It occurred to me that one more Sunday was over, that Maman was buried now, that I was going back to work, and that, really, nothing had changed” (24).

Unlike Meursault’s indifferent relationship with his mother, Salamano and his dog seem to actively hate each other when they are first introduced to us. Salamano abuses his dog and doesn’t seem to have any emotional connection to it until later in the story. 

Salamano and Meursault both neglect the things they are supposed to be caring for. Salamano assumes that Meursault had a lot of love for his mother despite sending her to a home, just like Salamano loved his dog even though he beat it. 

The main difference between these two relationships is the reaction Salamano had when his dog ran away. “He shut his door and I heard him pacing back and forth. His bed creaked. And from the peculiar little noise coming through the partition, I realized he was crying” (39). Salamano clearly is grieving and despite his previous statements about not wanting to pay the fee to get the dog back, he clearly doesn’t like the idea of the dog being all alone in the pound. Conversely, Meursault never seemed to really grieve his mother’s death. He never expressed or implied any regret about the relationship he had with her and overall, had a general indifference towards the situation. 

While the dynamic between Salamano and his dog was much more violent and harmful than that of Meursault and his mother, Salamano seemed to have a stronger connection to the dog than Meursault ever had to his mother.