Meursault’s Universal Moral Character

Albert Camus’s The Stranger has contributed writing styles and ideas to modern-day culture. For a great example, WAYNE, a well-rated show (not about Batman) that has received little press and a cult-like following, follows a title character Wayne as he avenges his father while possessing little to no social skills. A strong relationship can be drawn from the way that Camus’s Meursault and Shawn Simmons’s Wayne express their morals, emotions, & sense of justice to the outside world. Towards the beginning of our discussion as well as the very of The Stranger, we noted some interesting things about Meursault, namely that he got in a relationship just after his mother’s passing, him helping to lure a woman so that her ex-boyfriend could beat her up, and his quiet observing nature. The plot of the first episode of WAYNE follows a similar structure, although in a different order. I think that this is because Meursault’s character has become a guideline for writing a questionable protagonist.

When I first was reading The Stranger, I knew that Meursault reminded me of someone. His lack of response towards his mother’s passing, specifically that he did not cry and simply did something that he enjoyed doing gave me a sense of deja vu. Meursault’s reaction to others feeling sad for him and questioning why, to our class hypothesizing that he could still be in slight shock at the suddenness of the whole affair of the burial. The more that we talked, however, the more it seemed to be that he did the things he probably would have done anyway. This lack of change in the character’s demeanor when facing a life-changing event began to remind me more and more of Wayne and his unchanging morals. Once I made the initial connection, I saw more similarities in their demeanors. Another example was Meursault’s observational skills, as he would often observe the world around him and then choose how to respond to his surroundings, often not responding at all. Meursault will just accept things how they are and move on with his life, only stopping to do something when it is convenient for him to do so. Although I found this bothersome to read because he had no ambitions and it was hard to root for him as a protagonist, I found it easy to understand his motives and not become too attached to the character instead of focusing on his personal dilemmas and private life. Finally, Meuraults odd understanding of his friend’s want to punish his ex-lover allows the observer to become fully intrigued by his character. We see that he understands others and will try to help them when they ask for it, but must be approached by this person to even look twice at them. I don’t think that this kind of morally ambiguous character has ever been done quite as well as it was in The Stranger, but if you were to look for similar characters, you would be able to find them everywhere in modern media.

The Loud Silence That Follows Meursault

In part one of The Stranger by Albert Camus, the narrator, Meursault, always seems to be followed by a comfortable silence or is annoyed by the noise of his soundings. His constant awareness of the volume at social interactions and apathy to the substance suggests that he them sees as unnecessary.

When at the vigil of his mother, Meursault notes to the reader that all are silent for the whole night, save one woman who’s crying bothers him. After the night all of his mothers friends exit the room and “much to [his] surprise, they all shook [Meursaults] hand — as if during the night which [they] hadn’t exchanged as much as a single word had somehow brought [them] closer together”(12). His confusion at the respectful and friendly gesture from the seniors at the home gives insight to his view that simple, one-time gestures of social acknowledgement and kindness. His observation of the noise also motivates this argument because he only reaction to the woman crying is that he wishes that she would shut up, prompting the idea that he prefers silence and solitude even when it is appropriate for himself or others to desire the company and reassurance of others.

The duality of silence and noise is a big part of Meursaults character. He is often describing the world in an all or nothing kind of way, being apathetic to what is happening around him and only describing the most mentally noisy or quiet times. When he observes the world, he often notices the noise first, naming all tense or uncomfortable situations with silence or the most minimal of noises, such as the flowing of water. He even goes so far as to not describe conversations fully to emphasize his want for silence. This could also be why there are so many times in this part where Meursault goes for a swim since ears can easily get clogged by water. When other people in his life hear important noises, or say important things, Meursault often doesn’t change his demeanor, wishing instead for silence once again.

The supporting cast however is often only described in conversations or when Meursault can hear them. Whether that be the huffing and puffing of Perez, the barking of the poor old dog, or the questions posed by his girlfriend, Marie, Meursault describes annoyance or apathy to all the interesting sounds made around him. He rarely gives more than acknowledgement to the noises around him and this behavior suggests a more observant narrator that is not pressured to respond to the call of societal norms.