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.