Should we imitate Meursault’s mindset?

While Meursault may be happier than most with his emotional indifference, there are elements of his mindset that are not the best to mimic. There is one specific thing I hope to emulate from Meursault’s mindset. Meursault views everything as if he is removed from the situation. This skill adds to Meursault’s happiness because he observes natural beauty and lives in the moment. When looking out on a rainy day Meursault finds it to be, “a beautiful afternoon. Yet the pavement was wet and slippery, and what few people there were were in a hurry” (21). Even when others don’t seem happy, or the day itself isn’t actually that beautiful, Meursault is able to see the best in almost every situation. I hope I can take after Meursault and learn how to do this, because appreciating every moment I have would only add to my happiness.

However, Meursault also has habits that I would not want to replicate. While removing himself from situations adds to his happiness, it would diminish my own. Meursault is too distant. He is distant all of the time instead of when he should be. For example, at Maman’s funeral one of Mamans friends is crying. Instead of showing support to his mothers friend, he “[wishes he] didn’t have to listen to her anymore” (10). This tactic may work for Muersault, but if I felt this way it would add to my guilt rather than happiness. Meursault’s lack of empathy allows for him to feel happy because he doesn’t feel any guilt or remorse. But the average person does feel these emotions, which is why Meursault’s mindset is not one that I would conform to.

The Fall of Meursault

Throughout the reading of The Stranger, the idea of absurdism has been scattered throughout the text. Reading part one of the book, Camus focuses on the main idea of Meursault and lets the reader get to understand him. Describing him as a detached man, absurdism is connected deep within the text. Focusing on the big details and events that occur in his life, Meursault just seems to be an odd one in the bunch. Meursault’s failure to mourn over his mother’s casket and instead noticing details such as, “the screws on the casket had been tightened and that there were four men wearing black in the room”(14), shows that he lacks true human emotion. 

Meursault, lacking true human emotions, ties into the ideology of absurdism. Absurdism is the belief that humans live in a purposeless, chaotic universe and Meursault follows along with that idea mainly in part two of The Stranger. Part two mainly focuses on the repercussions of Meursault killing an Arab man and how the world reacts to such an unusual man. Society is not the absurd part of the story, Meursault the character is the absurd part of society. Since Meursault shares no emotions, no meaning for his own life, and the only certainty that he has in his life is a guarantee for death. For instance, when he knew of the death penalty that was to come of him, instead of repenting or acknowledging emotion he only, “to wish that there be a large crows of spectators the day of my execution, and that they greet me with cries of hate”(123). At this point, Meursault could care less about what is to come for him and only wishes that his death is filled with people. 

The Trial of Meursault

On page 63, Meursault goes on trial for murdering the Arab man. But during the trial and the period before it, little, to no investigation of the crime itself is done. Meursault is asked to provide details of what happened and he says everything, including confessing to killing the Arab man. What people take the most interest in is Meursault’s character, especially his reaction to his mother’s death.

The trial then begins to become an investigation of Meursault himself, instead of a trial of his actions. The lawyer is puzzled by his lack of concern over his mother’s death. The lawyer becomes so frustrated with the situation that he waves a cross at Meursault screaming to him that he must repent. Meursault has no reaction to this and simply agrees with the lawyer, as to not have to listen to his speech about God.

After this confrontation with the Meursault, the lawyer and judge both accept that their efforts to change Meursault are futile and simply acknowledge that: “I have never seen a soul as hardened as your’s”. The judge also refers to Meursault as Monsieur Antichrist showing that they have lost all hope for him and perceive him as evil.

Does Meursault Care?

Throughout The Stranger by Albert Camus, it is implied that Meursealt is indifferent to his mother’s death. In the opening chapter Meurseault shows a lack of knowledge of his mother’s death, stating “Maman died today. Or yesterday maybe, I don’t know”. During his mother’s funeral he observes things such as; the weather, the screws on the coffin, and what the other people at the funeral are wearing. But throughout the funeral Meursault does not reflect on his mother’s death and does not even mourn. This leads the reader to believe that he does not care that his own mother has died.

However, in the final chapter when Meursault faces his execution, he has a true understanding about his perceived indifference to life. He thinks about all of his friendships and all his romantic relationships and realizes that they hold no inherent meaning to the universe. After doing this he thinks about his mother for the first time in a while. He relates his impending death to what Maman was feeling in the nursing home. He feels a sense of freedom as his death approaches and realizes that his mother must have felt that same comforting indifference of impending death. After realizing this he declares that; “Nobody, nobody had the right to cry over her.”

To me this shows that Meursault did love his mother and that a part of him was affected by her death. His lack of emotion was due to his indifference to the world but not because he didn’t care. He did not show emotion because he knew that his mother was at peace on her deathbed and therefor nobody should be sad for her. He realized that death is something and Maman was at peace in her final days. This gave Meursault the comfort to know that his mother did not suffer so neither should he.

Meuraults Take on Death

During Meursault’s trial, the death of his mom is brought up many times, and his reaction to his mother’s death is used against him. Witnesses are called to question how Meursault acted at his mother’s funeral and was described by many as being cold and disinterested.

People noticed that he did not cry at the funeral and did not want to see his mother’s body. It is also held against him that he went on a date and saw a funny movie with a woman the day after the wedding. Meursault expresses confusion as to why this is being used against him. He does not understand how this has any connection to his case. He also illustrated when his mother passed away that he was not too distressed as nothing had changed. Based on his reaction to his mother’s death and how it was being used against him at trial, it does seem to me that Meursault is not afraid of death or feels sad about anyone that dies.

Meursault seems to only care about a person’s death of it significantly changed his life and how he goes about things. For example, when Meursault shot the Arab man, he was not guilty or sad that he had done so. Meursault realized he had made a mistake as he was now going to go to prison but did not have remorse for the man.

By the way that Meursault reacted to his mother and the Arab man’s death, I believe Meursault does not care about the death of others, and only about the impact and undesirable effect it could have on him. 

What is Happiness?

What does it mean to be happy? What makes people happy? Most people will say that their family or their religion makes them happy but where did we get this attachment to these things? Does our family really make us happy or are we obligated to see them? Does our religion make us happy or are we obligated to worship something? Our society attaches value to our objects and relationships that really mean nothing because they simply make our limited lifespan more manageable for our brains, in terms of avoiding the inevitable. But by having all of these relationships, we do complicate our lives by having to navigate all these other people when in reality, these inevitable squabbles are pointless just like our relationships.

Meursault exemplifies this perfectly though his absolute lack of friendships or relationships. When Raymond asks Meursault if he would like to be “pals” with him, Meursault responds with “‘Yes’. I didn’t mind being his pal, and he seemed set on it,” (pg. 33). Meursault responds the same way when Marie asks him if he would like to marry her, always responding “We could if she wanted to,” (pg. 41). Meursault understands that he is here on this earth for a good time, not a long time so he doesn’t distract himself with useless relationships, unless they give him pleasure.

The Stranger and Post-Colonialism

The Stranger, at it’s core is an examination of human personality, consciousness, and how we understand life. The characters are therefore, incredibly complex and unique, because each of them approaches the circumstances in the book differently. Meursault is indifferent to the disturbing elements of his life, Marie is a woman willing to marry a criminal who does not love her, Raymond and Salamano are abusive but share complicated relationships with the creatures they abuse. Each major character is a complexity, as long as they are white. The Arab that Meursault kills is fundamental to telling the main character’s story, and presumably would also be complex and unique. But he is not named or otherwise acknowledged as a thinking being. He is a monolith. He, like the other Arabs throughout the story, does not speak, only acts in violence. They all present a burden to the narrator and his friends throughout the story. Whether they are following Meursault, attacking him or lying in the shade and blocking him from getting out of the sun.

In the second part of the book, Arabs are presented again as one body and mind. He describes the first prison cell he is placed in. “The day of my arrest I was put in a room where there were already several other prisoners, most of them Arabs. They laughed when they saw me. Then they asked what I was in for. I said I’d killed an Arab and they were all silent.” Meursault never mentions any individual. It’s implied they all asked together and laughed together and went silent together. There was no acknowledgement of an action beyond what every other Arab person was doing. It appears again when Meursault is visited by Marie. When he enters the visiting room he mentions how most of the Arab families were all doing the same thing. “Most of the Arab prisoners and their families had squatted down facing each other.” Meursault implies the existence of one Arab woman being an anomaly from the rest because he registers her yelling to her white husband through the visiting room bars. The ethnicity of this woman is never confirmed, and even if she was intended to be non-white, her only purpose is to be a burden to Marie and Meursault’s conversation. This attribute mirrors the burden the man Meursault killed created for him.

A post-colonization society often creates monoliths so they do not have to acknowledge individuality, and therefore humanness of the people they invade, rape, kill and oppress. We see an enormous post-colonization monolith in the form of the American Indian. The savage, whooping Indian warrior with feathers in his hair and little clothing on his body was created by white guilt. It is easier to imagine the colonization of mindless savages then the colonization of culturally unique, politically and socially organized societies in which each person plays a role and has individuality. I suspect this theme arises in The Stranger, either intentionally or unintentionally by generalizing the actions and person hood of the Arab community in Algiers.

A Healthy Observer

Throughout the first part of The Stranger Meursault plays the role of the detached observer. In my eyes, I feel many overlook the fact that Meursault is living a healthy lifestyle. When discussing The Stranger many feel the need to judge Meursault by giving him a diagnosis of a disorder because of the way he interacts. That is straight up the most wrong thing you can do to a character at the beginning of a novel. They try to judge him without giving him any empathy. Readers will judge him for not crying at his mother’s funeral without knowing the true relationship he and his mother shared. I feel there is an abstract point of view no one touches on and that is that the way Meursault lives his life in such organization and normalcy, that in his way is healthy.

Throughout the first part of the book, Meursault will go into this deep Rome of observation. Whether it is a character he meets or just how he feels the temperature in the room is too hot, he is very self-aware about how he feels the world around him is going. There are many points where his brain will go on random sprees of feeling the need to go into great detail about such a little event. Some examples being, when he was randomly observing the movie watchers he noticed things like “They look more serious. They were still laughing, but only now they seemed tired and dreamy.” Another time is when the “robot” lady sat with him at dinner and he was able to describe her every move from the exact tip to the way she was eating. When most analyze his observations they explain them as a way of weirdness and obsession but in my eyes, they are a great skill. I am amazed by the way he can keep in his brain one thing at a time so precisely that he can think and observe for as long as he can.

Another way readers judge Meursault is how lack of care for the world around him. While I agree yes the way he doesn’t seem to care about his mother’s death is very odd to me, I feel there is more than the reader does not know so I won’t be focusing on that piece of it. More of the way he interacts with his peers. Most readers think of it as anti-social ness but I think it is the very opposite. An anti-social wouldn’t follow a lady on a walk after he was interested in the way she ate, an anti-social wouldn’t listen to an abusive boyfriend and be able to not go off on him, and anti-social wouldn’t be able to have a clear structure to the way he feels in his sexual relationship. I feel rather than this showing he is anti-social it more shows how amazing Meursault is at controlling his feelings. I feel that isn’t talked about enough. Every decision he makes in the first 5 chapters he does so easily. He knows he doesn’t love the girl, he knows he is only going to listen to Raymond and not go too far for him, he knows how he feels the lack of need to worry about his mom’s death.

In many ways, while this may not be the popular viewpoint on how to take in the first part of the novel it is a viewpoint that had to be talked about. Just keep in the back of your mind as a reader that maybe he isn’t just weird and uncaring but instead so ahead of his thoughts and feelings that he does not feel the need to barge into anyone’s business but his own.

Grievance: Who Are We To Judge?

Initially, when we began reading “The Stranger,” many of us commented on Meursault’s robot-like, emotionless demeanor. However, as the story continues it is clear that he is grieving in his own unique way. Through the notation and description of weather it is evident that he is expressing some emotions and thoughts. 

Specifically, on his mothers funeral day, Meursault uses the weather as a reason to be irritated. However, it is not a coincidence that the weather and sun are scorching and unbearable on an emotionally taxing day for any human being, bearing a loved one. “All of it-the sun, the smell of leather and horse dung from the hearse, the smell of the varnish and incense, and my fatigue after a night without sleep-was making it hard for me to see or think straight (Camus, 17).” Was it truly the sun and smells making it all too bearable for him, or was it the reality of having to deal with his mothers death?

Many times it is easy to criticize someone and their actions as a reaction, but in the context of the death of a loved one, every person deals with it in their own way. While it may be typical to express sorrow, others bottle it up, potentially releasing it in unconventional ways. In the case of Meaursalt, his emotions come out in quite a disturbing way. There was no real rhyme or reason for him killing the man, making it plausible that it was an emotional breakdown stemming from his mothers death. Furthermore, it is important to note he was alone in her death, with no other family members there to comfort him. 

(Blog Post #1)

A Changed Man?

The first lines of The Stranger seem to be very well known in the literary world and rightfully so; “Maman died today. Or yesterday, I don’t know” (3). This is how the reader is introduced to Meursault and throughout the first half at least and even 3/4ths of the book this same indifferent and detached person is what we get. He through life with the understanding that whatever he does, doesn’t matter because it doesn’t really change his life. I think it’s important to note that before going to prison he really only thought about HIS life and how it really didn’t matter how it turned out to be. Because when he does go into prison he starts to have trouble accepting his inevitable death. All he cares about is “escaping the machinery of justice, seeing if there’s any way out of the inevitable” (108).

But soon into chapter 5, We see that Meursault in fact does realize deep deep down under all that hope and contradictory thoughts that “since we’re all going to die, it’s obvious that when and how don’t matter”(114). Only then can Meursault accept that there is no need for hope for his appeal. Yet I don’t think he fully understands and fully accepts his death.

I think it’s his outburst with the priest, when we finally get to see Meursault’s beliefs and thoughts come together. From this encounter he finally understands that the universe and world is also indifferent and that no one persons actions changes anything because the world keeps living without a worry about anyone. He is able to recognize that whatever happened to him, he would be in the exact same position as now. Meursault feels free at the end by his death. He likes that he lived his life his true authentic way without the standards of society influencing anything, as a stranger.