A few chapters into the book, a thought, or rather a question, occurred to me. What if Meursault is a relatively normal character who is just written more truthfully than others? To put it more clearly, maybe Meursault is the only sane character in the story. As this isn’t the kind of topic with a definitive answer, I find it difficult to argue my point. Nevertheless, I will try.
Meursault seems, at least to me, to have a strong grip on or acceptance of reality. He tends not to complain about the cards he is dealt, as he realizes quite early on that he cannot do anything about them. For example, Meursault accepts his prison punishment relatively fast. One of his prison guards even points this out to him, saying, “[Y]ou see, you understand these things. The rest of them don’t” (78). We see this again in Meursault’s response to his problem of “killing time” (78). He mentions that, “apart from these annoyances,” by which he means his punishments, “I wasn’t too unhappy” (78). He cured his boredom by traveling back to his apartment by way of his memories, remembering, “every piece of furniture; and of every object, all the details; and of the details themselves–a flake, a crack, or a chipped edge” (79). This recollection process keeps him quite occupied and brings him to realize that, “a man who had lived only one day could easily live for a hundred years in prison” (79).
To me, what others see as Meursault’s disconnection from reality, is just his acknowledgment that life must be taken as it comes, and that one must make the most of their given situation.
One thought on “Meursault’s Moments of Sanity”
I thought this same thought while reading The Stranger. I found that the way that Meursault was admirable, how he never got upset at the little things. Yes, it is atypical to be ‘okay’ with tragedy, but it is true that the past cannot change. Meursault is able to not let troubles like going into prison discourage him, and I think that is impressive, not inhumane.