Camus


Essay 2


April 26, 2003


In Camus’ “The Stranger,” the character Meursault is forced to come to conclusions about his own existence. The urgency to understand the society around him is felt because this society has condemned Meursault to death. However, because his indifference is so strong this self-exploration is not simply to help him find some comfort to what has happened to him. That is to say, that Meursault would not believe in some absurd ideology, such as God, simply to comfort himself.


Meursault is a stranger to the society that he lives in. This is apparent for many reasons. However Meursault himself does not realize that he is an outcast until he is sentenced to death by this society. The most obvious evidence of his nonconformity is that he killed a man. This act is clearly an anti-social behavior. Even more than this act, his resistance to society’s norms is evident through his lack of normal human emotion. This is a major focus when Meursault is put on trial. It is seen as a character flaw when it is brought to the court’s attention that he did not cry at his mother’s funeral. To Meursault’s society not crying at his mother’s funeral is proof that he lacks a soul. What is more peculiar about Meursault however, is how unattached he seems to his mother, or anyone else for that matter. When he gets news of his mother passing away he is indifferent. Anthony Hadded points out in his essay on The Stranger that Meursault only provides the reader with an account of what happened, not how it affected him. (Nonconformity: Condemnation) “Maman died today or maybe yesterday, I don’t know.” (pg 3) He also expresses unattachment to his mother when he talks about having to send her to a home. We can also see how indifferent Mersault is to normal emotions expected in society through his relationship with Marie. When Marie asks him if he loves her Meursault responds that “it probable didn’t mean anything but no” (pg 41). Also, when Marie asks him if he wants to marry her he responds indifferently by saying they could is she wanted to. The concept of love and marriage is something that holds great value. His indifference to this value indicates just one more example of why he is an outsider. Meursault’s concepts of love and marriage are certainly not normal in society. Later when Meursault is in prison and the chaplain comes to talk with him he refuses to conform to a belief in an afterlife, or God. “I said that I didn’t believe in God. He wanted to know if I was sure and I said that I didn’t see any reason to ask myself that question; it seemed unimportant” (pg 116). Most normal people in society would agree that believing in something bigger then yourself, like God is very important; some would say the most important. The chaplain even points out that most people who are condemned to death turn to God (pg 116). Meursault agrees, but he has no desire to conform to this social norm either. He is not swayed by what most people do. While in prison it is pointed out to Mersault that his behaviors and more so his way of thinking is not the norm. That is not to say that he changes. Meursault feels like he is forced by society to enter in a type of “moral collaboration” (pg 111). His crime is seen as a debt to society, which he must pay with his life. However this acceptance of his fate does not mean he agrees with society’s views. In fact, when he compares his certainty to their certainty he is only more sure that his opinions are right. One would think that Meursault’s lack of emotion, and his indifference would be overall harmless. That is to say, society would not punish him. However, in the end this unconformity to society’s norms is what sentences him to death. If Meursault had shown remorse at his trial, or even cried at his mother’s funeral he could have been acquitted.


Although after Meursault is sentenced to death he becomes aware of what society expects, it only strengthens