Is Prison Meursault´s Real Home?

Throughout that book its clear that Meursault is a very down in the dumps type of person. He is completely emotionless, soulless, heartless, etc. It almost seems as if he really does´t want to be on this planet. Now when he winds up in prison he finds himself bored and confused on what to do with his time. To me I feel as if prison is maybe a good place for Meursault. In the outside world he always finds him self complaining or not wanting to do something, or simply just wanting to be by himself. The consistent emotionless and soulless persona of Meursault really makes it seem to me that maybe prison is right for him. Throughout the book he makes it known that not much is needed to make him happy. For instance when he said ¨I told him I was quite prepared to go; but really I didn’t care much one way or the other. He then asked if a “change of life,” as he called it, didn’t appeal to me, and I answered that one never changed his way of life; one life was as good as another, and my present one suited me quite well¨. It is clearly shown here that he really does not care what happens to him. Although prison is a very scary place and a place where nobody ever wants to end up its almost as if Meursault just does not care. Prison will be right for him and will teach him how boring life can get when you have endless amounts of time to do almost nothing. Yet it will also fill his way of life and leave him in a dark emotionless place just like himself.

Freedom vs Moral Rights

In the story The Stranger by Albert Camus the main character Meursault goes to jail for killing a man. For the first few months that he is in jail, he thinks about all of the freedoms he is missing. When he has a desire for women he complains to the guard that this was an unfair treatment. He responds by saying, “‘Well, yes-freedom, that’s why. They’ve taken away your freedom'”(78). Meursault agrees that this is makes sense and now understands. However, this raises the question on what should be considered a freedom and what should be considered a right. The law decides what is considered a right, but what makes the line the law draws correct? There is some question of funding, as the state can only provide a certain amount of things without going over their budget, but the main question is of morality. One could argue that prisoners deserve the bare minimum rights because they are horrible people, but not all prisoners commit morally incorrect crimes. There is a serious argument, and evidence to back it up, to be made that prisons do not help rehabilitate or change the viewpoint of prisoners, and that once they are released, they are more likely to commit another crime. If the rights in prison’s were improved it would cause less problems in prison and the rate of re-entry in prison would drop.

Existentialism in Monty Python’s “The Meaning of Life”

The Monty Python world is always absurd and not necessarily full of meaning but that is particularly prevalent in their last moving The Meaning of Life. 

In The Meaning of Life, the Monty Python cast attempts to discover the meaning of life. In the film, the stages of life: birth, growing up, war, middle age, organ transplants, old age, and death, are told through sketches and songs. 

In one scene, two tourists are having a conversation about philosophy and eventually give up, stating there is no point. In another scene, corporate executives attempted to discuss the meaning of life but eventually decided it might have anything to do with people not buying enough hats. 

Additionally, throughout the film, there is a recurring theme of the pointlessness of death. In one scene, soldiers yawn as a violent battle is occurring all around them. In another scene, soldiers try to celebrate their captain’s birthday but keep getting shot in the process. 

At the end of the film, they finally reveal the meaning of life to be “Well, it’s nothing very special. Uh, try and be nice to people. Avoid eating fat. Read a good book every now and then”.

The overall theme of the film seems to be the pointlessness of life and death and the absurdity of even trying to figure it out.

The Ideal Mother/Child Relationship

In The Stranger, Meursault has a strained relationship with his mother and people cannot fathom the fact that maybe he has a right to not be upset about his relationship with his mother. Anybody that feels as if Meursault is in the wrong must have the ideal mother/child relationship which is a privilege that tends to go unknown. Those who aren’t blessed with the type of relationship I alluded to can probably sympathize with Meursault and understand why he may not have had the “ideal” reaction to his mother death. There’s this notion that you’re supposed to respect and care for your parent but it goes forgotten that it goes both ways. You cannot shit on someones existence and expect them to not have any underlying feelings surrounding it. The nature of their relationship goes unknown which is why it is unfair to judge him so harshly especially when people are dealing with grief.

What’s In A Soul?

In part 2 of The Stranger, Meursault is on trial for murdering the Arab man. The government prosecutor tells the jury about how Meursault did not cry at his mother’s funeral, went out with Marie to see a comedy movie the next day, and also helped Raymond beat up his ex. I have no issue with all of these points that the prosecutor brought up, in fact I think they all make a great case against Meursault. However, it is later that I have an issue when the prosecutor states that Meursault lacks a soul. The prosecutor tells the jury that they cannot complain he has no soul, however they can punish him for it “Especially when the emptiness of a man’s heart becomes, as we find it has in this man, an abyss threatening to swallow up society” (101). I find an issue with this argument because who is to determine which people do and do not have a soul. Additionally, a soul is an abstract concept that has many different definitions. Although his argument was effective with the jury, I do not believe the prosecutor should have been allowed to use the idea of a soul as part of his judgement. Yes, Meursault seems to have great indifference to many things in life and does things most “normal” people do not, I do not think that means he has no soul.

Really, what is a soul? Why should the government prosecutor be allowed to use it in his argument against Meursault? I think that if the prosecutor had defined his definition of a soul, I would not have had this big of an issue with it. Then the audience would have had a more concrete idea of what the prosecutor was actually accusing Meursault of. From there, the prosecutor could have provided specific examples of Meursault’s lack of soul that fit into his definition. That way, the concept of a soul would not have been such an abstract argument against Meursault.

Character On Trial

Throughout the back-and-forth between the prosecution and defense, I noticed how odd the trial seemed.
Full disclosure, I am not a lawyer, but even still, something about this trial seemed atypical, unbecoming of a murder case. First of all, only a page or so is dedicated to prosecution of criminal activity (87-88). The diversion to non-criminal affairs is imminent around page 87, when the prosecutor “had to turn to some questions that might seem irrelevant to [Meursault’s] case but might in fact have a significant bearing on it,” whereupon Meursault thinks, “I knew right away he was going to talk about Maman again, and at the same time I could feel how much it irritated me” (87). Later on, there is more discussion that is actually relevant when Raymond is called to the stand. He recounts the relationship between the victim, Meursault, and himself. All the same, take note of the following dialogue between the prosecutor and the defense lawyer.

Prosecutor: “The same man who the day after his mother died was indulging in the most shameful debauchery killed a man for the most trivial of reasons and did so in order to settle an affair of unspeakable vice” (96).

Defense: “Come now, is my client on trial for burying his mother or for killing a man?” (96).

Prosecutor: “Indeed, I accuse this man of burying his mother with crime in his heart!” (96).

The focus on morals in place of criminal activity makes for a strange trial. What is the crime here? The prosecutor may be reaching towards premeditation in his charges. That would make sense, especially considering Meursault was sentenced to death. Chapter 4 better represents a murder trial. Meursault’s motives are discussed. All told, I just can’t get around this oddity.

The Stranger and The Moviegoer: Detachment and Acceptance

In The Stranger, Meursault is very detached from his life and his experiences. He is often indifferent to what happens around him. This is evident when Meursault describes his altercation with the Arab men on the beach, stating that “it was then that I realized that you could either shoot or not shoot” (56). Meursault is clearly demonstrating characteristics of indifference, even in an important moment in his life like this one. This is very similar to the experiences of Binx in the novel The Moviegoer. Binx often daydreams and wanders the streets without a destination, clearly detached from society and his life. Furthermore, Binx uses movies as a way to escape from the trauma and hardships in his life. Clearly, there is a parallel between Meursault in The Stranger and Binx in The Moviegoer.

In addition, both Meursault and Binx only reach satisfaction and a sense of fulfillment once they accept their fates. In The Stranger, Meursault is able to accept his fate, despite being sentenced to death and in jail, stating that, “for the first time, in that night alive with signs and stars, I opened myself to the gentle indifference of the world” (122). Similarly, in The Moviegoer, Binx finds joy by not dwelling on the hardships and things wrong with his life, but by watching movies as a form of escape. There is clearly a link between Binx and Meaursault, as they both are detached from society around them and they are happy once accepting their fate.

How societal detachment can lead to violence and harm

At the beginning of The Stranger, Mersault had no friends, family, and had a job he hated. Though it seemed like Mersault didn’t mind being isolated and enjoyed spending time alone, this disconnection from the world really harmed him in ther long run.

In the first chapter, we learn that Merault’s mother died, yet he feels no emotions towards her death, and the realtionship between Mersault and his mother was strained before her passing. Mersault is so impartial to this death, that as soon as he gets back home from his mothers’ funeral, he meets up with a girl Marie, and Marie instantly feels connected to him.

Though Mersault and Marie end up spending a lot of time together, when Marie proposes to Mersault, he remains very casual and disinterested. Receiving a marriage proposal is obviously something that most people would get very excited about, so Mersaults reaction, or lack thereof, proves that he is detatched.

All of this emotional disconnection from the world ends up being a bigger deal when Mersault kills a man and feels no remorse. The prosecutor ended up bringing Mersaults disinterest towards his mothers death and other examples of his emotional detatchment to convict Mersault guilty enough to receive the death penalty. When Mersault finds out that he will be sentenced to death, he still has no reaction, which proves his extreme detachment from society and the dangers that come with being disconnected.

happiness in horror

there is no happy ending in the stranger. this is not a thing you really have to dig into. In fact, I m pretty sure anybody who reads the book once can tell you that the story is actually very sad. Not only is it sad because of the fact that he dies in the end, but it is sad because of everything else that he goes through emotionally. One of the main themes of the stranger is the fact that he does not have any attachment to anything in his life. However, I´m telling you that he does and he shows it several times through the weather. In the beach before he kills the arab he mentions the weather as well when he says “I had the whole sky in my eyes and it was blue and gold” (20). He also connects the weather with the death of his mother when he says “The sun was the same as it had been the day I’d buried Maman, and like then, my forehead especially was hurting me, all the veins in it throbbing under the skin. It was this burning, which I couldn’t stand anymore, that made me move forward” (59). however, he does find happiness later in the story toward the end. Even though i said this is not a happy story, which it isn´t, he still is able to find peace with his emotions when he is finally able to express them without the weather.

Has Meursault Always Been Like This?

After finishing The Stranger, I couldn’t help wondering how Meursault had gone so long without realizing how different he was from most people. He mentions that he could tell everyone in the courtroom hated him, and he said this with such surprise as if he has never been critiqued on his behavior or outlook towards life. If Meursault is viewed by the prosecutor and the jury as being soulless and lacking of all moral principles, then how has he gone on living his life as just another functioning member of society.

It is almost as if the moment the book begins, is the moment Meursault starts behaving like an existentialist. Meursault killed a person for almost no reason at all, and felt little to no remorse for his violent actions. How are we to believe that this is the first pointless/reckless malevolent action. In other words, how can a man who was deemed horrible enough to be put to death also live among other “normal” people undetected as a sociopath. Did nobody notice that Meursault literally does not feel empathy or emotional attachment to those around him? So the question becomes: has Meursault always been living as an existentialist regardless of whether or not he is aware of it? The question certainly seems open for debate, but I argue that yes, he has always had an aptitude for being present and accepting his current situation. As for his childhood, I imagine he was not as verbal about his views and did not commit any reckless acts that would cause others to notice his differences the way they do in the novel. Maybe he was able to stay out of trouble because “it just happened that way.”

Physical Confinement Frees the Mind

At the beginning of the book, Mersault is solely focused on physical desires and stimulation, without much regard for internal reflection. However, towards the end of the book, Mersault is forced to use his thoughts to stay content, and therefore enters a period of reflection, a process we have seen to be very limited and most of the time nonexistent for Mersault. Specifically, when Mersault is in his jail cell, he comes to a realization that life and time are meaningless. Although readers have made inferences on this attitude Mersault has on life even from the beginning of the book, this seems to be the first time Mersault himself realizes why he doesn’t care and has reflected and fully come to the conclusion that life is meaningless.

“For the first time in a long time I thought about Maman. I felt as if I understood why at the end of her life she had taken a “fiance”, why she had played at beginning again…For the first time, in that night alive with signs and stars, I opened myself to the gentle indifference of the world, Finding it so much like myself…”(p 122).

Here we see Mersault understand not only his Mom but himself. Given that this is the first time we see Mersault reflect on his mothers death, this understanding shows growth, also seen through his self-reflection that follows.

Meursault: Cold and Heartless, or All-knowing?

Throughout the novel, The Stranger, we are often presented with the idea that Meursault is unfeeling and doesn’t really confront his emotions. He often comes off as cold, closed off, and unable to love. When he attended his mother’s funeral, he didn’t want to see her body and never so much as shed a tear for his dead mother. Despite this, he felt as though he “was able to understand Maman better”(15). While he didn’t have an outwardly expressive legubious reaction to the death of his mon, he was able to foster a deeper connection and understanding of her even afer her passing. Towards the end of the novel, he states that she “must have felt free and ready to live it all again. Nobody, nobody had the right to cry over her”(122). He obviously has found peace in her death, maybe due to the fact that his own is impending. He is able to find comfort in the fact that she has died and is reliving her life elsewhere. I found it immensly interesting how right at the end of the novel Meursault brings up the fact that he feels no one should be allowed to cry over her. Is this beause of his own guilt about not being sad at her funeral, or because she is happy and free now in death. He was simply ahead of his time, not crying for her at any point, because he new she was free, and that death had offered her this freedom.

Retributive Justice, Cancel Culture, and The Stranger

Under the policy of retributive justice, any harmful act is punished by an act of equal harm to the perpetrator; this policy is often summed up in the biblical phrase, “an eye for an eye” — if someone stabs another person’s eye, their own eye is stabbed as punishment. Retributive justice can be found throughout The Stranger, most notably when Meursault’s murder of the Arab is found to be punishable by death.

Yet, much of the prosecutor’s argument against Meursault stems from his complete lack of emotion, particularly with regards to his mother’s death, stating during the trial that “‘Tomorrow, gentlemen, this same court is to sit in judgement of the most monstrous of crimes: the murder of a father . . . I suggest to you that the man who is seated in the dock [Meursault] is also guilty of the murder to be tried in this court tomorrow” (101/102). In essence, Meursault is sentenced to death for a lack of emotion — clearly, this punishment is significantly disproportionate to the charge.

To continue the analogy of “an eye for an eye” punishment, this sort of disproportionately retributive justice would be as if someone breaks another person’s glasses, and as punishment has their eye stabbed.

In the modern day, this is comparable to cancel culture, in which people are essentially blacklisted from society for relatively minor offenses. One notable trait of cancel culture is that all individuals are punished equally through societal exclusion, regardless of the severity of their actions, and this is portrayed in a similar fashion in The Stranger in the two drastically different reasons provided for Meursault’s execution.

The Punishment of Committing an Emotionless Crime

Mersault enters a hearing with press capturing every every movement he dares to make. He is sitting their having a prosecutor depict every part of his personality and relate it back to the crime he committed. Throughout the book we constantly hear the complaints about Mersault not showing any sincerity whatsoever, and in the trial we hear it again. The prosecutor hits Mersault where it hurts and brings up his indifferent response to the passing of his maman. The prosecutor asked if maman passing “had been hard on [him], [he] Maman and I didn’t expect anything from each other anymore”(88). Prior to the prosecutor’s nagging questions Mersault even mentioned how much these never ending questions about her bothered him. This was one of our first glimpses into a chance that he could be vulnerable. His response again shows he chose not to be vulnerable and instead gave an answer that left everyone else in the room doubtful for the future of Mersault. A question that did occur to me was “What if?”. What if Mersault was vulnerable and admitted that all these things were hard on him. Would this trial have gone smoother? I personally doubt the prosecutor wouldn’t have gone any easier and instead use these feelings against him. To everyone else especially the press I think these raw emotions could have helped his case and portray to everyone that he does care about things.

During the actual murder, thoughts feel rushed and emotions feel blocked. “Than i fired four more times at the motionless body”(59), Camus seems to be purposely leaving out any emotions and showing us his actions causing a downwards spiral. This spiral ensues chaos and the last sentence had the word “unhappiness”. It was the first time we were given a name of a feeling by Mersault. We finally see after something grave happens to him, he releases his first emotion of unhappiness. Prior to the maman and dog situations we see little to no regard for any negative emotion, we see an indifferent man ready to continue his life. After him murdering an arab and shooting him four more times we are left with someone who will most likely dwell on this for the next part of the novel. The trials finishes with us knowing he will be executed for his crime, in his last moments we the reader see some sincerity. From the readers perspective it feels “too little, too late”, I do wish that Mersault expressed himself more in the trial. Us knowing he will be executed and not seeing it I think was a good choice by Camus. It leaves us with an imagination of what happened. I think that the brusque unknowing ending really fits Mersaults lack of expression and idea of life.

Sensitivity and Discomfort

One of the most intriguing aspects of The Stranger, is the amount of discomfort the story exudes. Simply put, it is not a happy story. While Meursault seems to be relatively secure in his outlook on life, an outlook that is inherently strange, he also is in a constant state of discomfort in one way or another. Throughout the entire story he is, in a way, targeted by the sky and its heat. The differing sensations from how hot it was or what color the sky was seems to play a huge role in his decision making. Even at his happiest, like when he is at the beach with Marie, the color of the sky sticks out to him, representing his emotional state, “I had the whole sky in my eyes and it was blue and gold” (20). Somehow, the sky seems to be the reason he attacks the Arab man in the first place, “The sun was the same as it had been the day I’d buried Maman, and like then, my forehead especially was hurting me, all the veins in it throbbing under the skin. It was this burning, which I couldn’t stand anymore, that made me move forward” (59).

Meursault feels some sense of comfort being around women like Marie, however he gets uncomfortable when she shows any emotion, he doesn’t know how to respond. He feels comfortable around his friends, such as Raymond, but he gets uncomfortable with making his own, conscious, decisions. So, while Meursault seems content in his lifestyle and personality, he also expresses discomfort in so many situations (even unknowingly) that it makes it hard to agree with many of the decisions he makes.

Is it Possible For Meursault to Love?

At the beginning of The Stranger, I would have said that it was not possible for Meursault to find love whether it be within a person or an object. But now, having read the ending of the story, I’m not sure if that is quite the case. Or if it’s as simple as a yes or no answer. With love, comes many social constructs that the world has provided for people to make them feel happier about the life that they were born into. With Meursault, he strays away from ordinary societal expectations and doesn’t give into those ideas. 

When Marie asks him if he loves her and if he wants to marry her, he says if that’s what you want to do then we can, but it doesn’t matter. Meursault understands that there are social constructs built upon the world but he also understands that for himself to be completely content with what life is, he doesn’t have to play into those structures. 

At the end of the story, we find Meursault talking to the priest and becoming quickly enraged with what the priest is saying. He gets so fed up that he insults and grabs the priest and we are finally able to see Meursault act and react. Given this final picture of Meursault, I know that he can feel emotion and can allow himself to be overcome with emotion, so much so that he just reacts without thinking about it. With that, I think Meursault might be able to accept love into his life. 

So, maybe?

Living on his own terms

After Meursault receives the verdict of the trial, he his awaits execution with endless hours of contemplation. What I thought was interesting was his encounter with the chaplain who visits Meursault in his jail cell. The chaplain visits to instill faith into Meursault before his death, though, this causes him to lash out and insult the chaplain. I was intrigued by this piece of text because it contrasted the normal Meursault behavior we saw throughout the novel. He is usually nonchalant and collected but this time, we see him become physically agitated as he condemns the chaplain.

On page 120, The chaplain says “I am on your side. But you have no way of knowing it, because your heart is blind. I shall pray for you.” The chaplain pleads with Meursault to let him know that he is just trying to help but, Meursault immediately rejects this notion, “I started yelling at him at the top of my lungs, and I insulted him and told him not to waste his prayers on me,” (120). This response was a breaking point for Meursault and led him to really accept his opposition to religion and accept the choices he made. From this, we can tell that Meursault can really lose his cool when he is told what to do or how to act, instead of being an agent of his own choices.

We then see Meursault emphasize his satisfaction with the choices he has made. He says, ” I had been right, I was still right, I was always right. I had lived my life one way and I could have just as well lived it another.” He knows that some choices were better than others but he’s proud that he lived the way he wanted to live. So, as long as Mearsault lives by his own principles, he is content. When others attempt to suppress that freedom that he loves, he loses his composed manner that we are all used to.

Extremes, Dehumanization, and Alienation

I believe that certain aspects of Camus’s story may be a commentary on the danger of extremes and how a human taken to those extremes is viewed by society. This may be illustrated by the story through not only Meursault, but also through “the robot woman”, and Meursault’s observations on her.

The Robot Woman exhibits almost comical discipline, which acts in opposition to Meursault’s indifference and lack of ambition or drive. While Meursault “had no ambition” (41), The Robot Woman is described as, well, “robotic” (43) They are clearly meant to represent polar opposites of “internal drive.” However, this difference can also be said to be a reflection on their role of society and how they are viewed by that society. Meursault, during his trial, his accused of “having no place in society” and of “being a monster” (102). This, combined with robotic actions often being used as an antithesis to human actions, could serve to illustrate society’s discontent with extrememes. Despite being opposites, The Robot Woman and Meursault both exhibit traits that are taken to extremes deemed “inhuman” by the standards of society.

What goes against established norms of society is apt to be demonized by a society which adheres to those norms and blindly equates normalcy to goodness. And yet many people feel forced to adhere to those norms for fear of losing their societal label of goodness. However, by all accounts, we can agree that Meursault was true to his schema and belief system, and therefore himself. And therefore, it can be reasoned that, quite possibly, Camus believes society, as it exists, to be an attack on the individual. But I don’t know this just kind sounded cool in my head and makes a little bit of sense, but I still am not entirely sure of what to think of The Stranger or its themes, in all honestly.

The Verdict

After killing the Arab, Mersault is imprisoned while he awaits his trail. Before and during the trail Mersault is asked to recount the events that took place before the shooting including the funeral of his mother. While Mersault confessed to the crime, it seemed that his character was on trial and not the actual crime.

The prosecutor speaks in great lengths about Mersaults actions at the funeral of his mother. “It was then that he talked about my attitude toward Maman. He repeated what he had said earlier in the proceedings. But it went on for much longer than when he was talking about my crime-so long, in fact, that finally all I was aware of was how hot a morning it was” (101). The prosecution is more interested in his relationship with his mother than they are about the crime that Mersault confessed to committing.

This perception of Mersault being inhumane, a monster, and soulless is ultimately what sways the jury against him. The jury sentences Mersault to be beheaded in the town square. While Mersault did commit a crime, it is hard to believe that if Mersault had different beliefs and a different personality that he would have been judged as harshly.

Does Meursalt’s Emotionless mindset benefit his life?

Throughout the story “The Stranger Meursalt shows a severe lack of emotion and connection with society. We all deem it as a negative thing throughout the story, but is it really a bad thing?

The story wastes no time in showing Meursalt’s lack of emotion by starting off the story on the very first page with Meursalt receiving a telegram that his mother has passed away. Meursalt’s reaction to that telegram is that,”That doesn’t mean anything.” Any ordinary person with a heart would feel shocked and sad to his reaction, yet it might not actually be a mad thing. An ordinary person with emotion would receive this telegram and would probably go into a state of depression or something close to it that can severely negatively impact someone’s life. With Meursalt’s lack of emotion he is able to carry on life as normal and even goes out with a woman the next day.

While having no sense of emotion can take away a lot of the fruits of life, it certainly saves one from the deep valleys of life.