Meursault and His Mother

Meursault, throughout The Stranger by Albert Camus, is characterized by having very little emotional connections with anyone. The prosecutor portrayed him as soulless, failing to even cry at his own mother’s funeral. In fact, the prosecutor happily pointed out that Meursault was “swimming, starting up a dubious liaison, and going to the movies, a comedy, for laughs” the day after his mother had died (94). While Meursault may have not outwardly displayed affection or traditional grief towards his mother, he clearly listened to her and took her words to heart while she was alive.

In part 2, Meursault mentions the words and advice of his mother that help him get through prison. Meursault after acknowledging Maman’s often repeated philosophy “that after a while you could get used to anything,” concedes that he too could have gotten used to living in the trunk of a dead tree (77). During his time of thought he chooses to remember his mother (which is significant since he barely thinks about other important people in his life such as Marie) and ponder her expressions. Meursault thinks of his mother again when he contemplates her death and his own. He can relate to the sense of freedom and finally understands that even “where lives were fading out, evening was a kind of wistful respite” (122). Impeding death, when accepted, is a sense of freedom that allows an individual to be ready to live all over again. Meursault realizes that “nobody had the right to cry over her” (122).

Meursault was able to commemorate his mother in a way that felt authentic to himself. Thinking of her during meaningful times allowed him to keep her alive in his mind. Meursault finally comes to the conclusion that while everyone was telling him that he was “weird” and “different” for not crying, he may have been the one doing the most appropriate thing by not being sad and continuing to live his own life.

3 thoughts on “Meursault and His Mother

  1. LILY MANNING

    I really appreciate your insight into his relationship with his mother. Everyone experience’s grief in different ways, and I don’t necessarily believe that Mersault didn’t care that his mother died. He mentions her often throughout the book, as you say, in times when he is in distress. If Mersault is an existentialist, I think his response to her death is entirely appropriate. Society expects us to grieve in a certain way to convey respect for those that have passed – but Mersault’s commemoration of his mother is honestly more respectful and meaningful than crying just because it is what we have been taught to do when we are sad.

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  2. Caitlin C.

    It’s interesting: I had gone through the novel thinking that while Meursault didn’t dislike or resent Maman, there was a sense of obligation in their relationship like Meursault wanted a life separate from his mother but felt obligated to take care of her. I think this is false now. Because Meursault seemed to have acquired his philosophy from Maman, I think the two people were very close. Maybe not on a traditional familial level, but definitely on an ideological level (and since their ideology rejects a dogmatical emphasis on family relationships so it makes sense that they wouldn’t be close on a familial level anyway).

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  3. MADDOX N

    The way Meursault remembers his mother and copes with her death is very fitting for his character. I liked how you went into how Meursault’s reflection on his mother at the end of the novel was the best way for him to remember her, and that the fact he was even doing so is significant because of the lack of reflection he has shown otherwise. I agree that Meursault thinks he did the most appropriate thing by continuing on with his life.

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