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.

Does Meursault Believe in Passion?

Meursault shows his indifference towards any sort of relationship he has in his life that goes beyond acquaintances. He seems to not care about anyone in life other than himself, which he rarely cares about. This makes him look like a monster to the reader. This view of Meursault isn’t far from the truth. The end of the book shows that he chose to not take the advice of his lawyer. Meursault does not show any kind of remorse or seem apologetic at all therefore he is a monster. He does not deserve anyone’s pity or sympathy. Not only does he show his carelessness when it comes to his own life but also to his own mother and girlfriend. He views them only as shallow memories and “misses” them based on the things that they would do for him if they were still with him. This is ultimately why he faces the indifference of the world itself when he is punished for the killing of the Arab.

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.

Breakdown of “Since we’re all going to die…” by Meursault: HD

“Since we’re all going to die, it’s obvious that when and how don’t matter.” (114)

What an interesting thought. What a dark one too.

I have heard people say before they enjoy watching documentaries on murder and psychopathy because the complete radically different nature of them is intriguing.

I would hold similar sentiments about philosophy, and today I am going to dive into this quote. I have been exercising my philosophy muscle quite ardently these past few months; I would hope I am able to pick apart this quote for the juicy undertones.

Let’s start by discerning the difference between subjective and objective value. Subjective value is value we assign either as a collective or individually, and objective value are things that are objectively valuable, no matter how one looks at it. I do not believe in objective value too much, I think most of all meaningful things in our lives do originate from us placing meaning in them. However, as you read this book, I bet you have thought that you and Meursault radically differ in values. I will touch on that more later.

We could also denote the difference between the descriptive and normative statements Meursault makes here. A descriptive statement is a statement regarding what the world is or things we consider to be facts; something that describes the world, and normative statements relate to what we should do about it or statements that invoke our values. One example of a descriptive, then normative, statement would be: “Dogs generally have four legs. We should give them five.”

Anyway, let us return to Meursault. The descriptive claim is that we are all going to die, and the normative is that because of that, nothing matters. He first discusses a factual statement regarding the seemingly inevitable force of death, but he then adds an opinion to it.

Another key thing to remember is that normative values cannot be proven to be correct or incorrect. You can fully disagree with Meursault, because you perhaps subjectively value life more than he does. One cannot prove life is meaningful or meaningless, because that is up to you to decide.

Finally, before we go, Meursault is also wrong that it is obvious that time and death doesn’t matter…because that is also subjective.

Today we broke down one of the most famous quotes from The Stranger, and we discusses its formation. I hope my walkthrough of the quote was satisfactory.

And remember, you’re more than entitled to disagree with Meursault. And…if we share similar moral values, I would say you should oppose this man.

Til Death Do Us Part

Meursault is sentenced to the death penalty at the end of the story. Even so, he wishes that many come to his execution. In the closing line of the story he relinquishes, “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 (pg.123).” I find it in character for him as throughout the story Meursault does not care what others think. Even on his deathbed, he stays true to his persona, wishing people to hate on him.

For years, the death penalty and its legality have been questioned. With death comes no chance at rehabilitation or change. Current jail systems likewise have their flaws and need to be re-evaluated to follow a more holistic, personalized approach for prisoners. The guillotine is no longer used in France, they banned capital punishment in 1981, yet the death penalty is still used in various nations worldwide. While most would agree the death penalty is justified in extreme cases such as terrorism or school-shooting, what crimes qualify for the death penalty? Do you think Meursault deserved the death penalty? I personally do not.

Nature’s Effect on Meursault

Throughout the novel, The Stranger, Meursault is known to give bland and emotionless responses to the people around him that makes him look like he is not interested. But there are many times in the story where he is more interested in nature and the outdoors than the things going on in his life. For example, the trial he is going through towards the end of the story. Meursault is on trial for murdering a man, but as the trail goes on and with “all the long speeches”, he can’t help himself and starts to imagine a “colorless swirling” that wounds up making him dizzy.(104) Also during the trail, he states that the reason for the crime he committed was because of the sun. There are other moments in the novel where he brings up nature and mainly the sky and the sun, but I am still trying to figure out the significance. Or maybe there isn’t even a deeper meaning. But seeing how Meursault acts and how he is as a person, I’m not surprised if he would drift off and try to escape the situations he is placed in.

Bill Murray: Sisyphus, But Better

Groundhog Day, easily one of the greatest movies of all time, stars Bill Murray, also one of the greatest people of all time, in a modern take on the ancient myth of Sisyphus.

In Groundhog day, Bill Murray finds himself in a mystical time loop that has forced him to relive the same day over and over again.

At first, Murray is confused, but upon realizing his situation, he begins living his days as if there was no tomorrow, because there wasn’t. He does all the things most of us would do if we knew our actions didn’t have consequences: punch salesmen, drive trucks into quarries, endanger the lives of others, classic stuff.

Murray, like Sisyphus, probably doesn’t find his magical predicament very enjoyable at first. Murray tries to kill himself a number of times, only to find that he cannot escape the time loop.

But through acceptance of his situation, Murray, like Sisyphus, becomes powerful. “I’m a god”, as Murray puts it.

After acceptance of his situation, Murray finds purpose in the life presented to him, and tries to become a better person in order to help others. According to google, Bill Murray’s character spent about 33 years trapped inside of the time loop, practically an eternity to the average person. If Camus is right about Sisyphus, it might be that an eternity in groundhog day wouldn’t have been that bad.

Is Prison Meursault´s Real Home?

Throughout that book its clear that Meursault is a very down in the dumps type of person. He is completely emotionless, soulless, heartless, etc. It almost seems as if he really does´t want to be on this planet. Now when he winds up in prison he finds himself bored and confused on what to do with his time. To me I feel as if prison is maybe a good place for Meursault. In the outside world he always finds him self complaining or not wanting to do something, or simply just wanting to be by himself. The consistent emotionless and soulless persona of Meursault really makes it seem to me that maybe prison is right for him. Throughout the book he makes it known that not much is needed to make him happy. For instance when he said ¨I told him I was quite prepared to go; but really I didn’t care much one way or the other. He then asked if a “change of life,” as he called it, didn’t appeal to me, and I answered that one never changed his way of life; one life was as good as another, and my present one suited me quite well¨. It is clearly shown here that he really does not care what happens to him. Although prison is a very scary place and a place where nobody ever wants to end up its almost as if Meursault just does not care. Prison will be right for him and will teach him how boring life can get when you have endless amounts of time to do almost nothing. Yet it will also fill his way of life and leave him in a dark emotionless place just like himself.

Freedom vs Moral Rights

In the story The Stranger by Albert Camus the main character Meursault goes to jail for killing a man. For the first few months that he is in jail, he thinks about all of the freedoms he is missing. When he has a desire for women he complains to the guard that this was an unfair treatment. He responds by saying, “‘Well, yes-freedom, that’s why. They’ve taken away your freedom'”(78). Meursault agrees that this is makes sense and now understands. However, this raises the question on what should be considered a freedom and what should be considered a right. The law decides what is considered a right, but what makes the line the law draws correct? There is some question of funding, as the state can only provide a certain amount of things without going over their budget, but the main question is of morality. One could argue that prisoners deserve the bare minimum rights because they are horrible people, but not all prisoners commit morally incorrect crimes. There is a serious argument, and evidence to back it up, to be made that prisons do not help rehabilitate or change the viewpoint of prisoners, and that once they are released, they are more likely to commit another crime. If the rights in prison’s were improved it would cause less problems in prison and the rate of re-entry in prison would drop.

Existentialism in Monty Python’s “The Meaning of Life”

The Monty Python world is always absurd and not necessarily full of meaning but that is particularly prevalent in their last moving The Meaning of Life. 

In The Meaning of Life, the Monty Python cast attempts to discover the meaning of life. In the film, the stages of life: birth, growing up, war, middle age, organ transplants, old age, and death, are told through sketches and songs. 

In one scene, two tourists are having a conversation about philosophy and eventually give up, stating there is no point. In another scene, corporate executives attempted to discuss the meaning of life but eventually decided it might have anything to do with people not buying enough hats. 

Additionally, throughout the film, there is a recurring theme of the pointlessness of death. In one scene, soldiers yawn as a violent battle is occurring all around them. In another scene, soldiers try to celebrate their captain’s birthday but keep getting shot in the process. 

At the end of the film, they finally reveal the meaning of life to be “Well, it’s nothing very special. Uh, try and be nice to people. Avoid eating fat. Read a good book every now and then”.

The overall theme of the film seems to be the pointlessness of life and death and the absurdity of even trying to figure it out.

The Ideal Mother/Child Relationship

In The Stranger, Meursault has a strained relationship with his mother and people cannot fathom the fact that maybe he has a right to not be upset about his relationship with his mother. Anybody that feels as if Meursault is in the wrong must have the ideal mother/child relationship which is a privilege that tends to go unknown. Those who aren’t blessed with the type of relationship I alluded to can probably sympathize with Meursault and understand why he may not have had the “ideal” reaction to his mother death. There’s this notion that you’re supposed to respect and care for your parent but it goes forgotten that it goes both ways. You cannot shit on someones existence and expect them to not have any underlying feelings surrounding it. The nature of their relationship goes unknown which is why it is unfair to judge him so harshly especially when people are dealing with grief.

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.

Character On Trial

Throughout the back-and-forth between the prosecution and defense, I noticed how odd the trial seemed.
Full disclosure, I am not a lawyer, but even still, something about this trial seemed atypical, unbecoming of a murder case. First of all, only a page or so is dedicated to prosecution of criminal activity (87-88). The diversion to non-criminal affairs is imminent around page 87, when the prosecutor “had to turn to some questions that might seem irrelevant to [Meursault’s] case but might in fact have a significant bearing on it,” whereupon Meursault thinks, “I knew right away he was going to talk about Maman again, and at the same time I could feel how much it irritated me” (87). Later on, there is more discussion that is actually relevant when Raymond is called to the stand. He recounts the relationship between the victim, Meursault, and himself. All the same, take note of the following dialogue between the prosecutor and the defense lawyer.

Prosecutor: “The same man who the day after his mother died was indulging in the most shameful debauchery killed a man for the most trivial of reasons and did so in order to settle an affair of unspeakable vice” (96).

Defense: “Come now, is my client on trial for burying his mother or for killing a man?” (96).

Prosecutor: “Indeed, I accuse this man of burying his mother with crime in his heart!” (96).

The focus on morals in place of criminal activity makes for a strange trial. What is the crime here? The prosecutor may be reaching towards premeditation in his charges. That would make sense, especially considering Meursault was sentenced to death. Chapter 4 better represents a murder trial. Meursault’s motives are discussed. All told, I just can’t get around this oddity.

The Stranger and The Moviegoer: Detachment and Acceptance

In The Stranger, Meursault is very detached from his life and his experiences. He is often indifferent to what happens around him. This is evident when Meursault describes his altercation with the Arab men on the beach, stating that “it was then that I realized that you could either shoot or not shoot” (56). Meursault is clearly demonstrating characteristics of indifference, even in an important moment in his life like this one. This is very similar to the experiences of Binx in the novel The Moviegoer. Binx often daydreams and wanders the streets without a destination, clearly detached from society and his life. Furthermore, Binx uses movies as a way to escape from the trauma and hardships in his life. Clearly, there is a parallel between Meursault in The Stranger and Binx in The Moviegoer.

In addition, both Meursault and Binx only reach satisfaction and a sense of fulfillment once they accept their fates. In The Stranger, Meursault is able to accept his fate, despite being sentenced to death and in jail, stating that, “for the first time, in that night alive with signs and stars, I opened myself to the gentle indifference of the world” (122). Similarly, in The Moviegoer, Binx finds joy by not dwelling on the hardships and things wrong with his life, but by watching movies as a form of escape. There is clearly a link between Binx and Meaursault, as they both are detached from society around them and they are happy once accepting their fate.

How societal detachment can lead to violence and harm

At the beginning of The Stranger, Mersault had no friends, family, and had a job he hated. Though it seemed like Mersault didn’t mind being isolated and enjoyed spending time alone, this disconnection from the world really harmed him in ther long run.

In the first chapter, we learn that Merault’s mother died, yet he feels no emotions towards her death, and the realtionship between Mersault and his mother was strained before her passing. Mersault is so impartial to this death, that as soon as he gets back home from his mothers’ funeral, he meets up with a girl Marie, and Marie instantly feels connected to him.

Though Mersault and Marie end up spending a lot of time together, when Marie proposes to Mersault, he remains very casual and disinterested. Receiving a marriage proposal is obviously something that most people would get very excited about, so Mersaults reaction, or lack thereof, proves that he is detatched.

All of this emotional disconnection from the world ends up being a bigger deal when Mersault kills a man and feels no remorse. The prosecutor ended up bringing Mersaults disinterest towards his mothers death and other examples of his emotional detatchment to convict Mersault guilty enough to receive the death penalty. When Mersault finds out that he will be sentenced to death, he still has no reaction, which proves his extreme detachment from society and the dangers that come with being disconnected.

happiness in horror

there is no happy ending in the stranger. this is not a thing you really have to dig into. In fact, I m pretty sure anybody who reads the book once can tell you that the story is actually very sad. Not only is it sad because of the fact that he dies in the end, but it is sad because of everything else that he goes through emotionally. One of the main themes of the stranger is the fact that he does not have any attachment to anything in his life. However, I´m telling you that he does and he shows it several times through the weather. In the beach before he kills the arab he mentions the weather as well when he says “I had the whole sky in my eyes and it was blue and gold” (20). He also connects the weather with the death of his mother when he says “The sun was the same as it had been the day I’d buried Maman, and like then, my forehead especially was hurting me, all the veins in it throbbing under the skin. It was this burning, which I couldn’t stand anymore, that made me move forward” (59). however, he does find happiness later in the story toward the end. Even though i said this is not a happy story, which it isn´t, he still is able to find peace with his emotions when he is finally able to express them without the weather.

Has Meursault Always Been Like This?

After finishing The Stranger, I couldn’t help wondering how Meursault had gone so long without realizing how different he was from most people. He mentions that he could tell everyone in the courtroom hated him, and he said this with such surprise as if he has never been critiqued on his behavior or outlook towards life. If Meursault is viewed by the prosecutor and the jury as being soulless and lacking of all moral principles, then how has he gone on living his life as just another functioning member of society.

It is almost as if the moment the book begins, is the moment Meursault starts behaving like an existentialist. Meursault killed a person for almost no reason at all, and felt little to no remorse for his violent actions. How are we to believe that this is the first pointless/reckless malevolent action. In other words, how can a man who was deemed horrible enough to be put to death also live among other “normal” people undetected as a sociopath. Did nobody notice that Meursault literally does not feel empathy or emotional attachment to those around him? So the question becomes: has Meursault always been living as an existentialist regardless of whether or not he is aware of it? The question certainly seems open for debate, but I argue that yes, he has always had an aptitude for being present and accepting his current situation. As for his childhood, I imagine he was not as verbal about his views and did not commit any reckless acts that would cause others to notice his differences the way they do in the novel. Maybe he was able to stay out of trouble because “it just happened that way.”

Physical Confinement Frees the Mind

At the beginning of the book, Mersault is solely focused on physical desires and stimulation, without much regard for internal reflection. However, towards the end of the book, Mersault is forced to use his thoughts to stay content, and therefore enters a period of reflection, a process we have seen to be very limited and most of the time nonexistent for Mersault. Specifically, when Mersault is in his jail cell, he comes to a realization that life and time are meaningless. Although readers have made inferences on this attitude Mersault has on life even from the beginning of the book, this seems to be the first time Mersault himself realizes why he doesn’t care and has reflected and fully come to the conclusion that life is meaningless.

“For the first time in a long time I thought about Maman. I felt as if I understood why at the end of her life she had taken a “fiance”, why she had played at beginning again…For the first time, in that night alive with signs and stars, I opened myself to the gentle indifference of the world, Finding it so much like myself…”(p 122).

Here we see Mersault understand not only his Mom but himself. Given that this is the first time we see Mersault reflect on his mothers death, this understanding shows growth, also seen through his self-reflection that follows.