In The Stranger, a novel written by French author Albert Camus and translated by Matthew Ward, the main character is on trial for the murder of an Arab by multiple gunshot wounds. This character, Meursault, is ultimately found guilty, which is no surprise to him as he confirms the accounts of his murder. However, the verdict of the death penalty comes to him with complete shock, shaking him more than the murder itself. As he waits in his cell for his death, he finally begins to feel intense emotions that are absent in the rest of his narration. Though one would expect a dead man’s emotions to be that of remorse, sorrow, or fear, Meursault’s first intense emotion is regret over having not prepared for this situation.
“Then I blame myself every time for not having paid enough attention to accounts of executions. A man should always take an interest in those things. You never know what might happen.”(Camus, 108).
This line provides inquiry to the question: Should we all prepare to be guilty? No ordinary person would live their life expecting to find themselves in a trial of this sort. Clearly, Meursault did not either. But he claims a valid point, ” You never know what might happen”. People are caught up in unlucky situations all the time. To be clear, I do not intend to say that committing murder is an unlikely situation. Is it true that an ordinary person could be in the wrong place at the wrong time, and commit an offense? If one were to be on trial, how would preparation for that moment really change one’s emotions? Meursault seems to think preparing for being guilty would be benefited him, but then again, Meursault does not seem to have emotional reactions that are entirely aligned with those of any ordinary person.
One thought on “Should We All Prepare To Be Guilty?”
I really do agree with this. Personally, and in this specific situation, I don’t particularly think preparation for something like this would make any difference. But maybe to Meursault it makes all the difference. Based on the character development throughout the novel, all I could really understand about him was that he was very present, and did not use a lot of effort in order to make sense of the things in front of him. Therefore something foreign like this could absolutely confuse and distract him.