The Meaning of the Sun in the Stranger

In the novel, The Stranger, there is the repeated usage of weather, more specifically, the sun and its heat. The sun symbolizes Meursault’s inner conflicts and overall battles. This makes sense because the sun’s appearance is during times of uncomfort and distress, for example, his mother’s funeral.

When we were first introduced to the story we took a questionaire that asked us “If you do not cry at your moms funeral, is there something wrong with you?” I said yes.

During the funeral for his mom Mersault had an overwhelming response to the heat but no response to his mothers death. Mersault desribed the sun as, “All around me there was still the same glowing countryside flooded with sunlight. The glare from the sky was unearable” (16). Mersualt repeats how the sun is bothersome.

Is there something wrong with Mersault for not crying at his mother’s funeral? I’m not sure yet. I think this is how Mersult shows his feelings. Instead of expressing outward expression the things around him feel more intense and he cannot focus. This happens later on in the novel when he kills Arab the man. He is experiencing something uncomfortable, so the sun becomes intense again.

The sun is negative in Mersault’s life whether you think he has feelings or not. It symbolizes his feelings but mybe later on in the novel it can show us when something bad will happen again.

Why is Meursault so emotionless?

The novel starts with Meursault preparing to attend his mothers funeral, a very sad time for any person, but surprisingly Meursault doesn’t seem to bothered at all. When I first read the opening pages, I actually had to re read them to make sure that I was understanding the story correctly. I simply could’t understand how Meursault could be so indifferent the weekend of his mothers funeral and during the funeral itself. This lack of emotion, sympathy, and awareness Meursault displays in the beginning of the story is something that you get to know as Meursaults character throughout the Stranger. As the prosecutor states multiple times during the trial, Meursault did not shed a single tear during his mothers funeral, in fact his demeanor didn’t even seem sad, as stated by multiple witnesses. His explanation for this is that “no one had the right to cry over his mother’s death because she was ready to live her life all over again”.

Meursault portrays this lack of emotion when he kills the Arab. He acts without thinking, but then shows no remorse, sympathy, or understanding of the repercussion for killing the man, nor did he have any reason to do so. Context clues from the story hint that Meursault understands what he did but for some reason feels no remorse or guilt, he doesn’t seem to be bothered by jail, or the fact that he can no longer see Marrie which also further proves he never had an emotional connection to her because he has no emotions. Even when he is sentenced to death by the judge, he doesn’t seem bothered, he even has it in him to say that he hopes people show up at his execution and greet him with cries of hate, he says “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.” This is the last sentence of the book, why does Meursault hope to be hated by the spectators of his execution, when throughout the entire novel he couldn’t care less about other people’s opinion on him?

The Stranger and the “Arabs”

Although it is debatable whether Albert Camus intended for his narrator to seem righteous in his murder of the Arab man (addressed only as thus), the way Camus writes the non-European characters is evidence enough of his support of the dominant narrative surrounding people of color. Though the portrayal of Algerians as violent is incredibly harmful to immigrants who already face bias, the stereotyping of the only POC in the novel as exotic, word-less, and identity-less is equally toxic yet talked about in different ways.

When referring to Arab persons, Meursault never fails to attach them to their race. The word “Arab” accompanies every Arab character, all nameless. This phenomenon reflects a larger truth about white society during the time Camus wrote “The Stranger”. It was written in 1942 and at that time large portions of Africa were under the control (and open to exploitation) from the French. It is not a stretch to say that a similar stripping of POC of their personage beyond their race continues to happen across the world in a continuation of attitudes like Meursault’s.

In the novel we see that the Algerian male citizens are described as a “group of Arabs”(40). There is no individuality attached with the Arab population in the novel. Their namelessness leads to their de-humanization. Only in few cases the Arab is called a “man” (96) or a human in most of the instances in the novel they are either “ an Arab” (88) or “ a body” (68). This shows not only the lack of empathy of Meursault or Camus, but also of European society as a whole.