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.