The Sun in the Stranger

Why did Meursault kill the Arab? When asked in court, he responds with “the sun”. The sun is a constant, always shining and moving through cycles of day and night. There is no moral meaning behind why the sun continues to exist, it simply does like how Meursault simply exists in life without meaning.

Throughout the book, the sun causes Meursault problems. He feels sleepy and slow in the sun. His tiredness played a major role in his life after his mother’s death and got in the way as he faced the Arab with the gun. The sun seems to become important in his life at times when he should be feeling social pressure. During his mother’s funeral, the sun is very strong and Meursault describes its heat as “inhuman and oppressive”, similar to how someone might describe society’s pressure on others to fit in. At another turning point in his life, the sun is overpowering as they search for the Arabs and glints off the gun as he takes it from Raymond. The brightness of it makes his head ring and clouds his mind enough that he tenses his hand at the reflection of the sun in the Arab’s knife and shoots at him. This then condemns Meursault to a death for a crime that he never actively decided to, or not to, commit.

Also, during his trial, Meursault describes the sun as “glaring” outside, similar to how the large majority of people in the courtroom dislike him. The author could be trying to connect the sun, which is simple and constant, to the absurd meaning humans place on how life is supposed to be lived. There is a push for people his age to fall in love and get married and he sees Marie’s face as “as bright as the sun”. Seeing Marie as similar to the sun could represent how he sees other married families and feels he should be doing that with Marie, even though she is replaceable to him. During his time in jail, Meursault struggles with the idea that a new dawn will come when he will be executed. After his meeting with the god person and coming to the realization that life is meaningless and bound to end anyways, Meursault lets go of any of his ideals that conformed to the pressure of society. Society sent him to death because he didn’t cry at his mother’s funeral and shot someone, both times when the sun interfered with him. He is no longer afraid for the sun to rise and signal his death at the end of the book.