What Does Love Mean to Meursault?

The meaning of love is something that humans struggle with, and trying to find it usually results in one person in the back yelling out “42!” to end the discussion. But, in Camus’ The Stranger, Meursault takes a different approach.

“…she asked me if I loved her. I told her it didn’t mean anything but that I didn’t think so.”

The Stranger, Page 35

He appears to reject the concept of the discussion altogether, describing it as meaningless. In other words, he does not debate the meaning of love, instead he argues that there really is no meaning. Meursault describes the world with a flat, blank, tone, and this is the same approach he takes to love.

“…Marie came by to see me and asked me if I wanted to marry her. I said it didn’t make any difference to me and that we could if she wanted to. Then she wanted to know if I loved her. I answered the same way I had last time, that it didn’t mean anything but that I probably didn’t love her. ‘So why marry me, then?”…Then she pointed out that marriage was a serious thing. I said ‘No’.”

The Stranger, Page 42

Expanding on what he said earlier, Meursault continues to avoid discussing love at any length, simply staying noncommittal. He pins the decisions on Marie instead of contributing his own input.

The real question is “Why?”. Why does Meursault believe the way he does? I believe that something happened to Meursault earlier in his life to make him the way that he is: noncommittal, perpetually neutral, an “outsider”, and appearing to be devoid of emotion and love. An event in his life made him commit to a person or a relationship for a long period of time, and then that person betrayed him. That left Meursault emotionless, cynical, and afraid of commitment.

I think that even though Meursault appears to the other characters and to the reader as a neutral body, simply going through life on one note, he has emotions that he has simply buried (and continues to bury as they come up). To Meursault, love means self-reflection and digging up his old memories and reliving them. Therefore, expresses to others that love is foreign and meaningless instead of confronting his true feelings.

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