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.

2 thoughts on “Living on his own terms

  1. OWEN C

    I think you summarized this perfectly, the idea that he is aware that he made some bad decisions and some good is a step into his individuality. I think that the chaplain’s visit was one last hope to see if Mersault would persevere through this obvious tough time for him. I totally agree.

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  2. Gigi D

    I also found this interesting and out of character for Mersault. I also find it interesting that the Chaplain similarly lashes out before this. The chaplain “burst out, ‘No, I refuse to believe you!” and Mersault notices he “was talking in an agitated, urgent voice”. I think this can be explained by the fact that they are both so stubborn and extreme in their opposition that it causes the chaplain specifically to maybe even question himself, not something he is used to or likes, whereas this conversation seems to push Mersault even further towards his opposition of religion.

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