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.
5 thoughts on “A Changed Man?”
I agree, I think that Meursault’s outburst with the priest is almost a unique moment for him, nowhere else do we really see him angry or passionate about anything, not even when he killed a man. When he sees the priest I think he recognizes the opposite of his view of the world and is forced into conflict with those who see the world contrary to him.
I agree with what you wrote. I found it interested towards the end of the book how he goes from wanting to appeal his death to accepting it. As you said, his death does free him. He knows that his life would go on cyclically and that his actions do not have a huge impact. This realization is freeing. I also really like your last sentence, incorporating “stranger.” I think it was really clever.
I think that yes, when faced with the fact that he will die, he does become freed from hope and ultimately accepts it, but I think for a different reason. I don’t think that it is death that causes his anxiety and ultimately, his epiphany, but rather the inevitability and proximity of it. At first, he still clings to remnants of hope that he can find, but as his execution crawls closer, those bits of hope become infrequent and eventually, nonexistent. I believe that he snaps at the chaplain when he has nothing left and is forced to come to terms with his situation.
I agree with the idea that Mersault’s outburst with the Priest is where his beliefs come together. This was the first time in the novel that Mersault showed any emotion. But when presented with an opposite worldview his beliefs reach their final form. He finally realizes that the certainty of his situation is more important than what his situation actually holds. He knows what the world holds for him is of no importance, but his certainty of what the world holds for him is what matters.
I agree with everything you’re saying, but especially your points in the second paragraph. It is interesting and intriguing to think about how little Meursault actually understands. Since we really only get his perspective on life, we only know what he does and make judgements based on that, we don’t know if what he is saying is correct or not. It is hard to challenge the idea that Meursault is correct in his view on life, but I think it is important to do so to truly understand his predicament.