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The Character Of Meursault In The Stranger (The Outsider)

1263 words - 6 pages

The Character of Meursault in The Stranger



Albert Camus wrote The Stranger during the Existentialist movement, which explains why the main character in the novel, Meursault, is characterized as detached and emotionless, two of the aspects of existentialism. In Meursault, Camus creates a character he intends his readers to relate to, because he creates characters placed in realistic situations. He wants the reader to form a changing, ambiguous opinion of Meursault. From what Meursault narrates to the reader in the novel, the reader can understand why he attempts to find order and understanding in a confused and mystifying world.


Camus writes in a ...view middle of the document...


Meursault is distant from set plans, ambitions, desires, love, and emotions in general. He has a difficult time with emotions such as regret and compassion. The reader sees the nature of his personality in the first few lines of the novel: "Maman died today. Or yesterday maybe, I don't know." When he hears of the death of his mother through a telegram, he is unattached, and can be considered uncaring. His mother's death serves to interrupt the flow of Meursault's life, a life dedicated to appreciating tangible things. He wished she had not died, but her death made no real impact on his life other than temporarily disturbing his daily lifestyle. The discomfort on the bus and the overbearingly hot burial were caused by her death. He recalls this discomfort as he shoots the Arab. But Meursault does not force himself to fake emotions, which is probably why he harbors so little resentment. His apparent lack of emotion is what lands him in trouble in the courtroom, for people think his nature to be that of a heartless murderer. He does have some relatively good characteristics, such as his honesty. Meursault also possesses the ability to logically evaluate a situation without becoming panic-stricken. Everything he does and says is in such a nonchalant manner that one wonders what it takes to make him tense.


Camus's way of creating a contrast between the two faces of Meursault is by separating the book into parts. The first part describes Meursault as an indifferent character, the second as a changed and intellectual man. This separation is helpful in understanding the changing nature of Meursault. Part I of the novel is just Meursault's commentary on the events going on around him.. Part II is Meursault's commentary on his life in which he attempts to understand existence and what it stands for. He is conscious of every aspect of his experience, both past and present. In Part I, the reader sees that Meursault is devoid of emotion and lacks the sort of emotion that makes a person vulnerable. However, in Part II, he has little choice but to reflect on his past because in his jail cell, that is the only thing he can do. He learns to do without the experiences he loves and he sleeps much of the time. However, he does suffer a great deal thinking about the executioner and his blade. For the first time in his life, he thinks about his relationship with society. The final encounter with the chaplain forces him to articulate his ideas on life and death. He is faithful to his beliefs, though they are limited. The confrontation with death causes Meursault to open up his heart to the indifference of the universe. The ...

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