Meursault shows his indifference towards any sort of relationship he has in his life that goes beyond acquaintances. He seems to not care about anyone in life other than himself, which he rarely cares about. This makes him look like a monster to the reader. This view of Meursault isn’t far from the truth. The end of the book shows that he chose to not take the advice of his lawyer. Meursault does not show any kind of remorse or seem apologetic at all therefore he is a monster. He does not deserve anyone’s pity or sympathy. Not only does he show his carelessness when it comes to his own life but also to his own mother and girlfriend. He views them only as shallow memories and “misses” them based on the things that they would do for him if they were still with him. This is ultimately why he faces the indifference of the world itself when he is punished for the killing of the Arab.
Coincidentally, I just finished reading two works that oddly relate. Written by Erika L. Sanchez, I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter directly references The Stranger. In a moment of betrayal, Julia (the protagonist) sits by the lake to read The Stranger in order to calm herself. Since she’s on a school field trip, her English teacher finds her to check if she’s ok.
It’s Mr. Ingman. ‘Hey!’ he says, and sits down next to me. ‘What are you reading now?’
I hold it up for him to see.
‘So, a light beach read?’ Mr. Ingman chuckles.
I nod. ‘I guess so.’
‘What do you think of it?’
‘It’s like nothing means anything. Nothing has a real purpose. I guess that’s how I feel a lot of the time. Sometimes I really don’t see the point of anything.’
‘Existential despair, huh?’
‘Yes, exactly.’ I smile.(Sanchez, 2017, p. 132)
Throughout the book, Julia’s biggest hurdle is her strained relationship with her mom. Her mom is an undocumented immigrant while Julia is a second generation American. Julia’s story spectacularly paints the struggle of a cultural divide between Mexicans and Mexican Americans. What does this have to do with The Stranger and Meursault? Meursault is a perplexing character for most readers. Readers are challenged to understand his way of thinking because his thinking is unlike the common person. I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter parallels with The Stranger because both of the central characters challenge the idea of “normal.” Throughout The Stranger, Meursault constantly proves to be different from every other character because his thinking and expression of emotions is different. He belittles every event to simplicity. Similarly, Julia is distinct from the other characters of the book because she is not the ideal Mexican, the ideal Mexican daughter. Be that as it may, Julia differs from Meursault because she challenges everything and she steps outside of conformity, while Meursault submits to conformity in almost every situation by being indifferent. I think this can still be leveraged to prove that both characters test the extreme ends of a spectrum on their societal norms.
“Since we’re all going to die, it’s obvious that when and how don’t matter.” (114)
What an interesting thought. What a dark one too.
I have heard people say before they enjoy watching documentaries on murder and psychopathy because the complete radically different nature of them is intriguing.
I would hold similar sentiments about philosophy, and today I am going to dive into this quote. I have been exercising my philosophy muscle quite ardently these past few months; I would hope I am able to pick apart this quote for the juicy undertones.
Let’s start by discerning the difference between subjective and objective value. Subjective value is value we assign either as a collective or individually, and objective value are things that are objectively valuable, no matter how one looks at it. I do not believe in objective value too much, I think most of all meaningful things in our lives do originate from us placing meaning in them. However, as you read this book, I bet you have thought that you and Meursault radically differ in values. I will touch on that more later.
We could also denote the difference between the descriptive and normative statements Meursault makes here. A descriptive statement is a statement regarding what the world is or things we consider to be facts; something that describes the world, and normative statements relate to what we should do about it or statements that invoke our values. One example of a descriptive, then normative, statement would be: “Dogs generally have four legs. We should give them five.”
Anyway, let us return to Meursault. The descriptive claim is that we are all going to die, and the normative is that because of that, nothing matters. He first discusses a factual statement regarding the seemingly inevitable force of death, but he then adds an opinion to it.
Another key thing to remember is that normative values cannot be proven to be correct or incorrect. You can fully disagree with Meursault, because you perhaps subjectively value life more than he does. One cannot prove life is meaningful or meaningless, because that is up to you to decide.
Finally, before we go, Meursault is also wrong that it is obvious that time and death doesn’t matter…because that is also subjective.
Today we broke down one of the most famous quotes from The Stranger, and we discusses its formation. I hope my walkthrough of the quote was satisfactory.
And remember, you’re more than entitled to disagree with Meursault. And…if we share similar moral values, I would say you should oppose this man.
Meursault is sentenced to the death penalty at the end of the story. Even so, he wishes that many come to his execution. In the closing line of the story he relinquishes, “I had only to wish that there be a large crowd of spectators the day of my execution and that they greet me with cries of hate (pg.123).” I find it in character for him as throughout the story Meursault does not care what others think. Even on his deathbed, he stays true to his persona, wishing people to hate on him.
For years, the death penalty and its legality have been questioned. With death comes no chance at rehabilitation or change. Current jail systems likewise have their flaws and need to be re-evaluated to follow a more holistic, personalized approach for prisoners. The guillotine is no longer used in France, they banned capital punishment in 1981, yet the death penalty is still used in various nations worldwide. While most would agree the death penalty is justified in extreme cases such as terrorism or school-shooting, what crimes qualify for the death penalty? Do you think Meursault deserved the death penalty? I personally do not.
Throughout the novel, The Stranger, Meursault is known to give bland and emotionless responses to the people around him that makes him look like he is not interested. But there are many times in the story where he is more interested in nature and the outdoors than the things going on in his life. For example, the trial he is going through towards the end of the story. Meursault is on trial for murdering a man, but as the trail goes on and with “all the long speeches”, he can’t help himself and starts to imagine a “colorless swirling” that wounds up making him dizzy.(104) Also during the trail, he states that the reason for the crime he committed was because of the sun. There are other moments in the novel where he brings up nature and mainly the sky and the sun, but I am still trying to figure out the significance. Or maybe there isn’t even a deeper meaning. But seeing how Meursault acts and how he is as a person, I’m not surprised if he would drift off and try to escape the situations he is placed in.
Groundhog Day, easily one of the greatest movies of all time, stars Bill Murray, also one of the greatest people of all time, in a modern take on the ancient myth of Sisyphus.
In Groundhog day, Bill Murray finds himself in a mystical time loop that has forced him to relive the same day over and over again.
At first, Murray is confused, but upon realizing his situation, he begins living his days as if there was no tomorrow, because there wasn’t. He does all the things most of us would do if we knew our actions didn’t have consequences: punch salesmen, drive trucks into quarries, endanger the lives of others, classic stuff.
Murray, like Sisyphus, probably doesn’t find his magical predicament very enjoyable at first. Murray tries to kill himself a number of times, only to find that he cannot escape the time loop.
But through acceptance of his situation, Murray, like Sisyphus, becomes powerful. “I’m a god”, as Murray puts it.
After acceptance of his situation, Murray finds purpose in the life presented to him, and tries to become a better person in order to help others. According to google, Bill Murray’s character spent about 33 years trapped inside of the time loop, practically an eternity to the average person. If Camus is right about Sisyphus, it might be that an eternity in groundhog day wouldn’t have been that bad.