Defiance and Acceptance: A Spectrum

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.

What’s In A Soul?

In part 2 of The Stranger, Meursault is on trial for murdering the Arab man. The government prosecutor tells the jury about how Meursault did not cry at his mother’s funeral, went out with Marie to see a comedy movie the next day, and also helped Raymond beat up his ex. I have no issue with all of these points that the prosecutor brought up, in fact I think they all make a great case against Meursault. However, it is later that I have an issue when the prosecutor states that Meursault lacks a soul. The prosecutor tells the jury that they cannot complain he has no soul, however they can punish him for it “Especially when the emptiness of a man’s heart becomes, as we find it has in this man, an abyss threatening to swallow up society” (101). I find an issue with this argument because who is to determine which people do and do not have a soul. Additionally, a soul is an abstract concept that has many different definitions. Although his argument was effective with the jury, I do not believe the prosecutor should have been allowed to use the idea of a soul as part of his judgement. Yes, Meursault seems to have great indifference to many things in life and does things most “normal” people do not, I do not think that means he has no soul.

Really, what is a soul? Why should the government prosecutor be allowed to use it in his argument against Meursault? I think that if the prosecutor had defined his definition of a soul, I would not have had this big of an issue with it. Then the audience would have had a more concrete idea of what the prosecutor was actually accusing Meursault of. From there, the prosecutor could have provided specific examples of Meursault’s lack of soul that fit into his definition. That way, the concept of a soul would not have been such an abstract argument against Meursault.

Meursault: Cold and Heartless, or All-knowing?

Throughout the novel, The Stranger, we are often presented with the idea that Meursault is unfeeling and doesn’t really confront his emotions. He often comes off as cold, closed off, and unable to love. When he attended his mother’s funeral, he didn’t want to see her body and never so much as shed a tear for his dead mother. Despite this, he felt as though he “was able to understand Maman better”(15). While he didn’t have an outwardly expressive legubious reaction to the death of his mon, he was able to foster a deeper connection and understanding of her even afer her passing. Towards the end of the novel, he states that she “must have felt free and ready to live it all again. Nobody, nobody had the right to cry over her”(122). He obviously has found peace in her death, maybe due to the fact that his own is impending. He is able to find comfort in the fact that she has died and is reliving her life elsewhere. I found it immensly interesting how right at the end of the novel Meursault brings up the fact that he feels no one should be allowed to cry over her. Is this beause of his own guilt about not being sad at her funeral, or because she is happy and free now in death. He was simply ahead of his time, not crying for her at any point, because he new she was free, and that death had offered her this freedom.

The Punishment of Committing an Emotionless Crime

Mersault enters a hearing with press capturing every every movement he dares to make. He is sitting their having a prosecutor depict every part of his personality and relate it back to the crime he committed. Throughout the book we constantly hear the complaints about Mersault not showing any sincerity whatsoever, and in the trial we hear it again. The prosecutor hits Mersault where it hurts and brings up his indifferent response to the passing of his maman. The prosecutor asked if maman passing “had been hard on [him], [he] Maman and I didn’t expect anything from each other anymore”(88). Prior to the prosecutor’s nagging questions Mersault even mentioned how much these never ending questions about her bothered him. This was one of our first glimpses into a chance that he could be vulnerable. His response again shows he chose not to be vulnerable and instead gave an answer that left everyone else in the room doubtful for the future of Mersault. A question that did occur to me was “What if?”. What if Mersault was vulnerable and admitted that all these things were hard on him. Would this trial have gone smoother? I personally doubt the prosecutor wouldn’t have gone any easier and instead use these feelings against him. To everyone else especially the press I think these raw emotions could have helped his case and portray to everyone that he does care about things.

During the actual murder, thoughts feel rushed and emotions feel blocked. “Than i fired four more times at the motionless body”(59), Camus seems to be purposely leaving out any emotions and showing us his actions causing a downwards spiral. This spiral ensues chaos and the last sentence had the word “unhappiness”. It was the first time we were given a name of a feeling by Mersault. We finally see after something grave happens to him, he releases his first emotion of unhappiness. Prior to the maman and dog situations we see little to no regard for any negative emotion, we see an indifferent man ready to continue his life. After him murdering an arab and shooting him four more times we are left with someone who will most likely dwell on this for the next part of the novel. The trials finishes with us knowing he will be executed for his crime, in his last moments we the reader see some sincerity. From the readers perspective it feels “too little, too late”, I do wish that Mersault expressed himself more in the trial. Us knowing he will be executed and not seeing it I think was a good choice by Camus. It leaves us with an imagination of what happened. I think that the brusque unknowing ending really fits Mersaults lack of expression and idea of life.

Is it Possible For Meursault to Love?

At the beginning of The Stranger, I would have said that it was not possible for Meursault to find love whether it be within a person or an object. But now, having read the ending of the story, I’m not sure if that is quite the case. Or if it’s as simple as a yes or no answer. With love, comes many social constructs that the world has provided for people to make them feel happier about the life that they were born into. With Meursault, he strays away from ordinary societal expectations and doesn’t give into those ideas. 

When Marie asks him if he loves her and if he wants to marry her, he says if that’s what you want to do then we can, but it doesn’t matter. Meursault understands that there are social constructs built upon the world but he also understands that for himself to be completely content with what life is, he doesn’t have to play into those structures. 

At the end of the story, we find Meursault talking to the priest and becoming quickly enraged with what the priest is saying. He gets so fed up that he insults and grabs the priest and we are finally able to see Meursault act and react. Given this final picture of Meursault, I know that he can feel emotion and can allow himself to be overcome with emotion, so much so that he just reacts without thinking about it. With that, I think Meursault might be able to accept love into his life. 

So, maybe?

The Verdict

After killing the Arab, Mersault is imprisoned while he awaits his trail. Before and during the trail Mersault is asked to recount the events that took place before the shooting including the funeral of his mother. While Mersault confessed to the crime, it seemed that his character was on trial and not the actual crime.

The prosecutor speaks in great lengths about Mersaults actions at the funeral of his mother. “It was then that he talked about my attitude toward Maman. He repeated what he had said earlier in the proceedings. But it went on for much longer than when he was talking about my crime-so long, in fact, that finally all I was aware of was how hot a morning it was” (101). The prosecution is more interested in his relationship with his mother than they are about the crime that Mersault confessed to committing.

This perception of Mersault being inhumane, a monster, and soulless is ultimately what sways the jury against him. The jury sentences Mersault to be beheaded in the town square. While Mersault did commit a crime, it is hard to believe that if Mersault had different beliefs and a different personality that he would have been judged as harshly.

Should we imitate Meursault’s mindset?

While Meursault may be happier than most with his emotional indifference, there are elements of his mindset that are not the best to mimic. There is one specific thing I hope to emulate from Meursault’s mindset. Meursault views everything as if he is removed from the situation. This skill adds to Meursault’s happiness because he observes natural beauty and lives in the moment. When looking out on a rainy day Meursault finds it to be, “a beautiful afternoon. Yet the pavement was wet and slippery, and what few people there were were in a hurry” (21). Even when others don’t seem happy, or the day itself isn’t actually that beautiful, Meursault is able to see the best in almost every situation. I hope I can take after Meursault and learn how to do this, because appreciating every moment I have would only add to my happiness.

However, Meursault also has habits that I would not want to replicate. While removing himself from situations adds to his happiness, it would diminish my own. Meursault is too distant. He is distant all of the time instead of when he should be. For example, at Maman’s funeral one of Mamans friends is crying. Instead of showing support to his mothers friend, he “[wishes he] didn’t have to listen to her anymore” (10). This tactic may work for Muersault, but if I felt this way it would add to my guilt rather than happiness. Meursault’s lack of empathy allows for him to feel happy because he doesn’t feel any guilt or remorse. But the average person does feel these emotions, which is why Meursault’s mindset is not one that I would conform to.

The Fall of Meursault

Throughout the reading of The Stranger, the idea of absurdism has been scattered throughout the text. Reading part one of the book, Camus focuses on the main idea of Meursault and lets the reader get to understand him. Describing him as a detached man, absurdism is connected deep within the text. Focusing on the big details and events that occur in his life, Meursault just seems to be an odd one in the bunch. Meursault’s failure to mourn over his mother’s casket and instead noticing details such as, “the screws on the casket had been tightened and that there were four men wearing black in the room”(14), shows that he lacks true human emotion. 

Meursault, lacking true human emotions, ties into the ideology of absurdism. Absurdism is the belief that humans live in a purposeless, chaotic universe and Meursault follows along with that idea mainly in part two of The Stranger. Part two mainly focuses on the repercussions of Meursault killing an Arab man and how the world reacts to such an unusual man. Society is not the absurd part of the story, Meursault the character is the absurd part of society. Since Meursault shares no emotions, no meaning for his own life, and the only certainty that he has in his life is a guarantee for death. For instance, when he knew of the death penalty that was to come of him, instead of repenting or acknowledging emotion he only, “to wish that there be a large crows of spectators the day of my execution, and that they greet me with cries of hate”(123). At this point, Meursault could care less about what is to come for him and only wishes that his death is filled with people. 

The Stranger and No Longer Human

As I’ve been reading The Stranger by Albert Camus this last week or so, I have constantly been reflecting and comparing it to a previous book I´d read this summer, No Longer Human by Osamu Dazai.

Through further inspectional and revisiting of No Longer Human, I’ve found that the two books, especially the characters, are both opposites and somewhat parallel. 

The main character in No Longer Human, Oba Yozo, is a more sensitive and emotional person but feels no joy, only an overwhelming feeling of estrangement. While Meursault the narrator of The Stranger is very nonchalant and emotionally dull. However, both of these characters bring about a feeling of unease and emptiness to the reader. An aspect of these two characters that binds them together is their indifference to other people and life itself.

To grasp this better, the following are both books opening lines:

“Maman died today. Or yesterday maybe, I don’t know.”

The Stranger

¨Mine has been a life of much shame. I can’t even guess myself what it must be to live the life of a human being. ¨

No Longer Human

Both these lines pull the reader in through uncomfortability, from the get-go they leave the impression of being an outsider and mentally peculiar, not being normal. 

The two books have the same destination, or rather these two characters have the same outlook on life but have different ways of getting there. I think this line from No Longer Human Shows their similar mental state well, “Now I have neither happiness nor unhappiness. Everything passes. That is the one and only thing that I have thought resembled a truth in the society of human beings where I have dwelled up to now as in a burning hell. Everything passes.”(169) Oba is a reflective person, Meursault just accepts his belief, “I opened myself to the gentle indifference of the world.”(122) Meursault feels too little and finds life meaningless and on the flip side, Oba Yozo feels too much, too inferior, that he finds life meaningless.  

 The approach to this mindset though is a stark difference, Meursault does not show or feel emotions. Oba cannot feel happiness, he is stuck in a deep depression to the point that nothing matters. By this same principle, Meursault sees nothing wrong with his nature, Oba understands that he is not normal, thinking of himself as other or not human, he’s a “clown”, acting in a way acceptable by society (laughing and joking around).

Both the Stranger and No Longer Human illustrate that life isn’t full but futile, by following abnormal figures through a span of time and observing the experience and insight they gain as rejects from society.

So it Goes

Kurt Vonnegut’s novel Slaughterhouse-Five is primarily an anti-war novel, but it was also influenced by existentialism. In the novel, American soldier Billy Pilgrim becomes “unstuck in time” while fighting in WWII. This essentially means he goes through life out of order, constantly time travelling and never knowing when or where he’s going to end up next.

Pilgrim knows everything that happens in his life (and what death is like) and understands that his life has no purpose. Like Meursault, Pilgrim experiences life with little emotion (even when he’s abducted by aliens!). Both Meursault and Pilgrim are completely in the present. They never search for a purpose or for a bigger meaning.

Before reading The Stranger, I thought Slaughterhouse-Five was incredibly depressing. I would probably still find it sad, but reading it through the existentialist lense might give the book a new feel. Maybe Billy Pilgrim is actually the most free and happy person because he doesn’t have to worry about life, death, or what it all means.

Vonnegut uses the phrase “so it goes” throughout the novel. I think it’s a very existentialist phrase, as it recognizes that the things happening in life are random and have no meaning.

the Stanger and SCP:5000, is empathy overrated?

Here is the original article if you want to read it, although it lacks greater context.

If you aren’t aware of what the SCP foundation is, it is a collaborative science fiction website which describes the secretive and fictional SCP foundation, a shadowy group dedicated to Securing, Containing, and Protecting so-called “anomalies” from the general public (Think men in black).

A short synopsis of SCP 5000 follows that somehow the SCP foundation, the ends-justifies-the-means protectors of humanity, have decided to exterminate all of humankind. The article goes into detail about one rogue agent named Pietro Wilson travel across the country and summarize in what horrible ways the foundation destroyed all resistance and what terrible monsters they have unleashed to finish the job. Eventually Wilson uses some time travel shenanigans to ‘save the day’ and prevent it all from happening in the first place.

The real story only begins after one looks at the source code for the website and cracks the secret code at the bottom of the webpage. Long story short it turned out that empathy, fear and pain core tenants of the human experience all exist unnaturally within humans, planted there by something else in an attempt to control people (although love and happiness are still natural). The foundation couldn’t “cure” everybody therefore the only logical option would be to erase every human off the planet that could feel pain, thereby preventing any human ever from experiencing pain of fear ever again. Because the foundation leaders were free from feeling bad about themselves, the decision was easy. To them, it was perfectly logical.

This logical analysis connects with The Stanger, wherein Meursault feels very little empathy and expresses almost no pain throughout the course of the novel. Even his mother’s funeral did nothing to him except make him complain about the heat. But this time he was the one to get killed.

Is it preferable to not feel pain, fear or empathy? For Meursault, he was free to enjoy swimming and sleeping and napping all without worrying about another person or even his own fate. Meursault was almost more free even in prison because he was not constrained by societal expectations for behavior or chained by remorse. This is similar to the future envisioned by the Foundation leaders when they decided to remove empathetic humans from the world. Their goal has always been the mitigation of human suffering, and with just one large burst of it they could have been rid of it forever, guaranteeing that every human being ever would be able to live without worrying about literally anything, just like Meursault.

Would you give up your empathy to never suffer again?

Things Have Changed

The distinction between parts 1 and 2 of The Stranger is something to take note of, both from a regular writing standpoint and a broader thematic standpoint. The most basic change was to the setting, but the prison environment forced the writing to change as well. Because of Meursault’s lack of freedom, there are fewer instances of landscape description (this bleeds into the once ever-present sky motif–it doesn’t get mentioned nearly as much in part 2). Also, due to prison’s daily tedium, we don’t get descriptions of actions or events as much, which was kind of jarring after going through all of Part 1.

The gaps left by the change in scenery are filled in with monologuing and character interaction. This part has a lot more focus on people’s opinions rather than facts of a certain situation (compare the descriptions of Meursault meeting the funeral director to him meeting the magistrate–the latter scene goes a lot more in-depth into the thoughts of the characters than the former), whether they were Meursault’s own opinions (like those on his cell or desire for a woman) or someone else’s. Even though Meursault is just as detached as ever, I got the sense that he was engaging more with the people around him, since he just has to be there, has to listen to their positions.

This introduces the most striking aspect of part 2 in general: a lot more people are challenging Meursault on his way of life. Meursault can’t catch a break in this regard; throughout part 2, he has encounters with his lawyer, the magistrate, and the chaplain, and the entire trial is just one big example of this. In every interaction, Meursault is the one being put on the spot, since his lifestyle and logical processes are just incomprehensible to people. He goes through life having wants and needs like any other person, but he doesn’t make anything more out of what they are, doesn’t try to give them some sort of higher meaning.

It seems like the other people in the book–the “normal” people–cannot function without some obligatory sense of meaning, derived from their common experiences… like, say, crying at a loved one’s funeral. It’s viewed as unheard of because if someone were to go against it, that would force them to look at the situations in life they’ve created and question why they were made. Why does the idea of family carry so much societal weight? If we’re looking at it head-on, families are units of people that aid in each other’s survival; important, yes, but to a life-defining degree? Meursault surely doesn’t think so. In this way, if part 1 was an establishment of The Stranger‘s philosophy through Meursault’s apathetic lifestyle, then part 2 is where this philosophy is directly challenged and must be reasserted by Meursault (which does happen at the very end of the book).

Who is Meursault?

In the novel The Stranger we are introduced to the character named Meursault is someone who does not seem to make true emotional connections and is emotionless for most of the story. An example of this behavior can be noted after Marie, Meursault’s girlfriend, asks him if he wants to marry her, “I said it didn’t make any difference and that we could if she wanted to. Then she wanted to know if I loved her. I answered the same way I had last time, that it didn’t mean anything but that I probably didn’t love her” (41). Meursault’s behavior is interesting because he doesn’t seem to have or even want to have an emotional connection and makes that evident. His mannerisms are interesting as well because he consistently describes what he’s doing, whether that’s waking up in the morning after spending the night with Marie as he “rolled over, tried to find the salty smell Marie’s hair had left on the pillow”(21) or following a girl home whom he did not know.

It’s interesting that he does this because it allows us (the readers) to see how he views things and his thought processes behind some of his actions. From this we can conclude that he thinks in a more realistic but also beautiful way. In Chapter 2, while Meursault is at home watching the events taking place over the balcony, he describes, “…the passing clouds had left a hint of rain hanging over the street, which made it look darker…The sky changed again. Above the rooftops the sky had taken a reddish glow, and with an evening coming on the streets came to life”(23). Meursault is a very descriptive when he talks about a person or thing that he sees, and this allows the reader to see how beautifully he sees the world, which sparks the inference that his mindset (being more closed off from people and living in the moment) allows someone to see the beauty of the world and the beauty of life really. However, in Meursault’s case, though he sees the world with such beauty, he also does not refect any emotion towards anyone which seems confusing. Meursault is a complex character and his view of the world, for the most part is interesting, while he does not seem to be interested in emotional connections, to the point where he kills a man.

Meursault and His Mother

Meursault, throughout The Stranger by Albert Camus, is characterized by having very little emotional connections with anyone. The prosecutor portrayed him as soulless, failing to even cry at his own mother’s funeral. In fact, the prosecutor happily pointed out that Meursault was “swimming, starting up a dubious liaison, and going to the movies, a comedy, for laughs” the day after his mother had died (94). While Meursault may have not outwardly displayed affection or traditional grief towards his mother, he clearly listened to her and took her words to heart while she was alive.

In part 2, Meursault mentions the words and advice of his mother that help him get through prison. Meursault after acknowledging Maman’s often repeated philosophy “that after a while you could get used to anything,” concedes that he too could have gotten used to living in the trunk of a dead tree (77). During his time of thought he chooses to remember his mother (which is significant since he barely thinks about other important people in his life such as Marie) and ponder her expressions. Meursault thinks of his mother again when he contemplates her death and his own. He can relate to the sense of freedom and finally understands that even “where lives were fading out, evening was a kind of wistful respite” (122). Impeding death, when accepted, is a sense of freedom that allows an individual to be ready to live all over again. Meursault realizes that “nobody had the right to cry over her” (122).

Meursault was able to commemorate his mother in a way that felt authentic to himself. Thinking of her during meaningful times allowed him to keep her alive in his mind. Meursault finally comes to the conclusion that while everyone was telling him that he was “weird” and “different” for not crying, he may have been the one doing the most appropriate thing by not being sad and continuing to live his own life.

Should We All Prepare To Be Guilty?

In The Stranger, a novel written by French author Albert Camus and translated by Matthew Ward, the main character is on trial for the murder of an Arab by multiple gunshot wounds. This character, Meursault, is ultimately found guilty, which is no surprise to him as he confirms the accounts of his murder. However, the verdict of the death penalty comes to him with complete shock, shaking him more than the murder itself. As he waits in his cell for his death, he finally begins to feel intense emotions that are absent in the rest of his narration. Though one would expect a dead man’s emotions to be that of remorse, sorrow, or fear, Meursault’s first intense emotion is regret over having not prepared for this situation.

“Then I blame myself every time for not having paid enough attention to accounts of executions. A man should always take an interest in those things. You never know what might happen.”

(Camus, 108).

This line provides inquiry to the question: Should we all prepare to be guilty? No ordinary person would live their life expecting to find themselves in a trial of this sort. Clearly, Meursault did not either. But he claims a valid point, ” You never know what might happen”. People are caught up in unlucky situations all the time. To be clear, I do not intend to say that committing murder is an unlikely situation. Is it true that an ordinary person could be in the wrong place at the wrong time, and commit an offense? If one were to be on trial, how would preparation for that moment really change one’s emotions? Meursault seems to think preparing for being guilty would be benefited him, but then again, Meursault does not seem to have emotional reactions that are entirely aligned with those of any ordinary person.

Does Everything Happen for a Reason?

Camus’ argument states that there is no meaning to life, but life is worth living if one accepts that condition. I agree with the reading of the Myth of Sisyphus because Sisyphus had no option but to repeat the torturous cycle of pushing the rock up the mountain and having it roll back down. What would be the point in being unhappy or fighting it? It’s not going to change, so might as well find an acceptance in his position and allow himself to become happy with it. Also, in The Stranger, Mersault goes to prison after shooting the man. Does he have a choice whether he can stay or leave jail? No. Mersault recognizes this and finds ways to be content with his position in life, no matter the circumstance. The same goes for society as a whole.

The idea that the meaning of life is to live makes sense because the denotation of “life” is “the period between the birth and death of a living thing, especially a human being,” which literally means to live. There are things that contribute to the meaning of our lives, but they do not define the meaning of life as a whole.

I like the mantra, “Everything happens for a reason,”; not because it gives me a purpose, but because it helps me accept the faults and chaos around me. My value goes hand in hand with the idea that nothing really matters in the end, because we’re all going to die, and our future generations are going to die, and the world is going to die. I agree with Camus highly, because the meaning of life is to live, and along the way, happiness, sadness, anger, and other absurdities will contribute with that meaning. Everyone is going to live differently, and that’s their own meaning in life. It’s all subjective but also contributes to the full idea that the meaning of life is to live.

The Myth of Sisyphus: The Deeper Meaning

The main concern of The Myth of Sisyphus is what the author calls absurd. This claim stems from the idea that there is a conflict between what we want from the universe and what we’ll get from the universe. That we won’t find what we truly want in life. This argument is told through the story of Sisyphus who, after dying and going to the underworld, asks Pluto (part of the universe) to return to earth which Pluto allows. After realizing how beautiful earth Sisyphus does not want to return to the underworld, however, Mercury (also part of the universe) forced Sisyphus to return to the underworld. After returning to the underworld people created myths of Sisyphus and how he was being punished in the underworld (though “hopeless labor”), one being that he had to push a rock up a large slope and once he was able to make it to the top of the slope he had to return back to his rick to repeat the process. Camus utilizes this to further explain that having meaning and purpose on earth is only an escape from facing the absurd and struggling against it.

What Does Love Mean to Meursault?

The meaning of love is something that humans struggle with, and trying to find it usually results in one person in the back yelling out “42!” to end the discussion. But, in Camus’ The Stranger, Meursault takes a different approach.

“…she asked me if I loved her. I told her it didn’t mean anything but that I didn’t think so.”

The Stranger, Page 35

He appears to reject the concept of the discussion altogether, describing it as meaningless. In other words, he does not debate the meaning of love, instead he argues that there really is no meaning. Meursault describes the world with a flat, blank, tone, and this is the same approach he takes to love.

“…Marie came by to see me and asked me if I wanted to marry her. I said it didn’t make any difference to me and that we could if she wanted to. Then she wanted to know if I loved her. I answered the same way I had last time, that it didn’t mean anything but that I probably didn’t love her. ‘So why marry me, then?”…Then she pointed out that marriage was a serious thing. I said ‘No’.”

The Stranger, Page 42

Expanding on what he said earlier, Meursault continues to avoid discussing love at any length, simply staying noncommittal. He pins the decisions on Marie instead of contributing his own input.

The real question is “Why?”. Why does Meursault believe the way he does? I believe that something happened to Meursault earlier in his life to make him the way that he is: noncommittal, perpetually neutral, an “outsider”, and appearing to be devoid of emotion and love. An event in his life made him commit to a person or a relationship for a long period of time, and then that person betrayed him. That left Meursault emotionless, cynical, and afraid of commitment.

I think that even though Meursault appears to the other characters and to the reader as a neutral body, simply going through life on one note, he has emotions that he has simply buried (and continues to bury as they come up). To Meursault, love means self-reflection and digging up his old memories and reliving them. Therefore, expresses to others that love is foreign and meaningless instead of confronting his true feelings.

Coffee, Coffee, Coffee!

During the first few chapters of the novel, I felt like Meursault was constantly drinking coffee. Looking back at part one, I realize it’s only mentioned on three or four different occasions, but it definitely stood out to me. In addition to coffee, he talks about smoking, eating, and washing his hands more often than I feel like most narrators do. All of these things are part of many people’s daily routines.

Routines are very important in The Stranger. Maybe it’s just a coincidence that Meursault talks about coffee a few different times in the first three chapters, but it is not a coincidence that the concept of routine keeps popping up.

Routine is mentioned for the first time on the first page of the novel: “I ate at the restaurant, at Celeste’s, as usual,” (3). When Meursault is at the old people’s home for the vigil the caretaker says “As is usually the case, the funeral is set for ten o’clock in the morning” (6). The vigil and funeral are obviously routine for the nurse and caretaker; Meursault even says the funeral seemed to happen “so deliberately” (17), which also made me think of routine. Meursault describes a Sunday morning, finishing by saying “It was Sunday all right” (22). The old man and his dog have a routine of abuse, as do Raymond and his girlfriend. The “strange little woman” described has an odd and specific routine that she’s done so many times she seems “robotlike” (43).

I don’t really know yet what the importance of routine is to the story. Meursault’s entire life seems like a routine. I think that in part two of the novel we’ll learn what Albert Camus is trying to say about routine. I’ll definitely pay attention to coffee and other symbols of routine while reading the rest of the story.

A Little Shot Never Hurt Nobody

In part one of the novel The Stranger, the main character Meursault shoots one of the Arabs that followed Raymond to the beach house for no apparent reason. I was left completely perplexed as why he would do such a thing. However, after thinking about Meursault’s lack of care for the world or the people in it, I realized that shooting or not shooting really made no difference to Meursault.

Throughout the previous chapters of The Stranger, Meursault never shows any inclination that he actually attaches meaning to the events that occur around him or the people he sees. When his neighbor Raymond says that he wants to beat up his ex for cheating on him, Meursault sees no issue with this and even ends up writing a letter to the ex for Raymond. From this interaction, I think it is quite obvious that Meursault does not feel or think of things the same way that most people do. I think that he detaches events from the effects they could have on other people.

I believe this detachment is what led Meursault to killing the Arab. Meursault didn’t have a reason for killing the Arab because to him, the question ‘why would you shoot’ and ‘why not shot’ have no real meaning or difference. Meursault even says “It occured to me that all I had to do was turn around and that would be the end of it. But the whole beach, throbbing in the sun, was pressing on my back. I took a few steps toward the spring”(58). Meursault understands that a conflict will occur if he gets closer to the Arab but still does it because he’s hot and wants to cool off at the spring instead of at the house. He doesn’t actually care about the consequences, because he already believes life has no meaning, so what does one little fight really mean. And using Meursault’s logic, if one fight means nothing, then why not just shoot the Arab, since that doesn’t mean anything either.