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.

One thought on “The Punishment of Committing an Emotionless Crime

  1. Tim M

    The question of “What if?” is a really interesting one to think about in this book. I largely agree with your prediction of what would have happened if Meursault had showed emotion during his trial — the prosecutor would not have gone any easier on him (it is, after all, his job to convince the jury that Meursault should be punished), but the prosecutor’s methods would have changed (perhaps using the emotion against him, painting Meursault as an individual who is mentally unbalanced and unhinged with wild swings in emotion). I think that in this was the case, the public would likely be convinced by the prosecutor’s new argument of emotional instability (and, the prosecutor may add, it would be a significant danger to the public if an individual with such wild and unpredictable swings in emotion were allowed to walk free). However, if the public is somehow convinced by Meursault’s emotion (perhaps by an overwhelming show of remorse and regret, since the prosecutor mentions on page 100 that Meursault had not “so much as expressed any remorse”, which implies that Meursault did not regret his actions and may be willing to kill again), I think the jury would have swung with the public opinion (after all, the jury is made up of members of the public).


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