Albert Camus\' The Stranger: Meursault Is Aloof, Detached, and Unemotional


In The Stranger, Albert Camus portrays Meursault, the book\'s narrator
and main character, as aloof, detached, and unemotional. He does not think
much about events or their consequences, nor does he express much feeling in
relationships or during emotional times. He displays an impassiveness
throughout the book in his reactions to the people and events described in the
book. After his mother\'s death he sheds no tears; seems to show no emotions.
He displays limited feelings for his girlfriend, Marie Cardona, and shows no
remorse at all for killing an Arab. His reactions to life and to people
distances him from his emotions, positive or negative, and from intimate
relationships with others, thus he is called by the book\'s title, "the
stranger". While this behavior can be seen as a negative trait, there is a
young woman who seems to want to have a relationship with Meursault and a
neighbor who wants friendship. He seems content to be indifferent, possibly
protected from pain by his indifference.
Meursault rarely shows any feeling when in situations which would, for
most people, elicit strong emotions. Throughout the vigil, watching over his
mother\'s dead body, and at her funeral, he never cries. He is, further,
depicted enjoying a cup of coffee with milk during the vigil, and having a
smoke with a caretaker at the nursing home in which his mother died. The
following day, after his mother\'s funeral, he goes to the beach and meets a
former colleague named Marie Cardona. They swim, go to a movie, and then spend
the night together. Later in their relationship, Marie asks Meursault if he
wants to marry her. He responds that it doesn\'t matter to him, and if she
wants to get married, he would agree. She then asks him if he loves her. To
that question he responds that he probably doesn\'t, and explains that marriage
really isn\'t such a serious thing and doesn\'t require love. This reaction is
fairly typical of Meursault as portrayed in the book. He appears to be casual
and indifferent about life events. Nothing seems to be very significant to him.
Later on in the book, after he kills an Arab, not once does he show any
remorse or guilt for what he did. Did he really feel nothing? Camus seems to
indicate that Meursault is almost oblivious and totally unruffled and untouched
by events and people around him. He is unwilling to lie, during his trial,
about killing the Arab. His reluctance to get involved in defending himself
results in a verdict of death by guillotine. Had Meursault been engaged in his
defense, explaining his actions, he might have been set free.
Meursault\'s unresponsive behavior, distant from any apparent emotions,
is probably reinforced by the despair which he sees open and feeling
individuals experience. He observes, for example, Raymond cheated on and hurt
by a girlfriend, and sees his other neighbor, Salamano, very depressed when he
loses a dear companion, his dog. Meursault\'s responses are very different, he
doesn\'t get depressed at death nor does he get emotionally involved. He
appears to be totally apathetic. Thus, he seems to feel no pain and is
protected from life\'s disappointments.
Sometimes a person like Meursault can be appealing to others because he is
so non-judgmental and uncritical, probably a result of indifference rather than
sympathetic feelings. His limited involvement might attract some people
because an end result of his distance is a sort of acceptance of others, thus
he is not a threat to their egos. Raymond Sintes, a neighbor who is a pimp,
seems to feel comfortable with Meursault. Sintes does not have to justify
himself because Meursault doesn\'t comment on how Sintes makes money or how he
chooses to live his life. Even though Meursault shows no strong emotions or
deep affection, Marie, his girlfriend, is still attracted and interested in him.
She is aware of, possibly even fascinated by, his indifference. Despite the
seemingly negative qualities of this unemotional man, people nevertheless seem
to care for him.
There are individuals who, because of different or strange behavior,
might be outcasts of society, but find, in spite of or because of their
unconventional behavior, that there are some people who want to be a part of
their lives. Meursault, an asocial person is such an individual. His behavior,
while not antagonistic or truly antisocial, is distant, yet it does not get in
the way of certain relationships. While there are some people who might find
such relationships unsatisfying and limited, Meursault and those he is
connected