Why Meursault is Better than All of Us

In our society, all we do is think about the future. We are excited about upcoming events, nervous about conflicts/challenges, and we never stay in the present. Despite this reality, Meursault does the opposite. He does not think ahead and he does not worry about the future. Instead, Meursault lives in the moment and accepts his reality.

Due to his mindset, Meursault is able to enjoy the little things. He was able to enjoy a day at the beach with Marie, not thinking about anything other than her. At an even larger scale, Meursault was able to become content with prison. While the situation to anyone else would be horrible, Meursault finds the good in it and does not resent his situation.

To outsiders, Meursault is a sociopath. He is apathetic and has no drive for anything in his life. He is someone no one hopes to become. However, when his actions are closely analyzed and his mindset is understood, he is living life at its simplest and seems to have it all figured out.

He does not worry and is not filled with jealousy. Most importantly, he does not do anything he does not want to do. He lives without regrets. While everyone else is caught up in past problems and future dilemmas, Meursault is living life as intended. Above anyone else, he is a free man.

What Does “Meursault” Mean?

Albert Camus’ The Stranger was originally published in French, and later was translated into English. Because of this, we can assume that the narrator’s name, “Meursault,” also originated from the French language.

Camus does not seem like the type of person who would choose a name for his narrator at random, specifically because of the depth of the novel. He seems extremely thoughtful, and specific with his word choice.

So what could the name “Meursault” mean?

When “Meursault” is searched on the internet, the first thing that appears is the wine, and the region in which said wine came from. Though it is possible that Camus simply chose the name “Meursault” because he liked the wine, I would like to explore other possible origins.

The most obvious French word that could be found within “Meursault” is the word “meurt,” which means “dies.” This seems the most probable translation of the first part of the name, as death is a major aspect of The Stranger–Meursault doesn’t cry at his mother’s funeral, kills a man, and is later sentenced to be executed.

The hardest translation of “Meursault” is the ending part, “(s)ault.” The “s” may be included in the translation, or could be a filler letter. One possibility is that Camus meant to include the french word “sauf,” which means “except,” or “safe.” However, this translation isn’t extremely connected to the story, and is therefore improbable. Another word could be “sauter,” which means “to jump,” or “saule,” which means “willow tree.” Neither of these seem very probable, either. 

Two other possible words that are less explicit within the latter half of “Meursault” are “soleil” and “autre.” “Soleil” translates to mean “sun.” Heat and the sun are constant burdens upon Meursault, so this is a possibility. The other, more intriguing, option is “autre,” which means “other.” This translation, I feel, is the most likely. Meursault is an other in society. He goes against everything that is “normal,” or expected.

So, within the name “Meursault,” we could find prominent aspects of The Stranger: death, and being an anomaly within society.

Would Meursault Be a Stranger in Today’s Society?

Throughout Camus’ The Stranger the main character Meursault was portrayed and perceived by others as an uncaring, emotionless sociopath. Though he doesn’t cry at his mother’s funeral, it’s clear that Meursault did care for his mother as he thinks back to her at times throughout the story. If he truly didn’t care, he wouldn’t waste his time on his memories of her. Meursault was aware of how others were probably interpreting his actions such as not wanting to see his mother’s body and not openly sobbing like others at the vigil. Still, he wasn’t interested in what others thought. Perhaps it’s cultural, but we all grieve in different ways. Today, while not typical, it wouldn’t be considered unacceptable if Meursault wasn’t crying at his mother’s vigil. Our society today is more accepting that some people grieve openly and some more privately. Meursault was still solemn. He. Other than having a cigarette, he wasn’t joking or drinking. He wasn’t acting inappropriately at the funeral home. His behavior certainly wouldn’t be used as evidence against him as to the kind of person he was at a murder trial. Meursault was emotionally isolated. While not antisocial, he clearly was annoyed by people at times. Today’s society accepts that some people think and act this way and are not strange for doing so.

Meursault is a freaking loser

Reading this book I had one consistent thought, ugh this dude is such a loser. I was quite angered with him throughout the book. Starting with Meursault aiding and abetting the domestic violence between the neighbor and his girlfriend. Its one thing to hear a beating and not say anything but its another to lure someone into a trap to be beaten. Especially when the reader and character are under the notion that she couldn’t win this fight. I found it incredibly frustrating his passiveness to that situation. Like who doesn’t have any remorse for willingly letting someone be beaten? No compassion or empathy? Yet with his mother’s death he exhibits some level of grief as he makes time out of his day to attend the funeral. With grief id assume its normal for someone to also understand the concept of empathy yet he proved me wrong. Finally, the way he treats his “girlfriend” Marie. I cannot POSSIBLY understand how she can just take his constant cold shoulder. Personally I wouldn’t take that disrespect but more power to you. So what does this all i mean? How can we possibly examine this book and its message without looking at the character who is the center of this story? There is no doubt Camus is a good writer, but is it a good story ? I understand not every main character has to be a hero, but they at minimum need to be interesting. And although intentional by Camus, i don’t think Meursault even has that. His quirks of being unempathetic and passive about death aren’t intriguing or interesting, just sad.