The Stranger by Albert Camus


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