A Man Against Society in The Stranger Novel

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Meursault goes around without a purpose in his life. He often acts irrationally (at least to other, ‘normal’ people), which is shocking and unacceptable to the jury, as well as to the general population, who eventually convict him. It seems that his actions are purely impulsive and he doesn’t really have a real reason for doing so. This makes the jury afraid, as it seems that this is what monsters do, who have no feelings on murder and do things without thinking, and then afterwards, do not care about what they have done. I think that Camus is trying to show how strangers to society are not welcomed, and how even though Meursault may have perfectly good reasons for doing things, because his motives are different from other peoples, then he must be eliminated.

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When he encounters the strange robot lady (Pg. 43), Meursault is very confused. Why would she be so meticulous in her actions, and why would she do something that seemed so pointless to him? Then, when she leaves the restaurant, he starts following her out into the street, something that would appear weird and slightly creepy to a viewer of this scene. However, this is only because he is interested in someone who he doesn’t understand, and wants to find out more. In my opinion, this is Camus trying to show how the actions of a stranger can easily be misunderstood, and how Meursault is almost like a child, acting purely out of his curiosity. It seems like he does whatever he wants, and what he wants is focused on what he sees in his daily life. He sees the robot lady and is interested, so he follows her. He just wants to watch people so he does it. In my mind, Meursault often acts childish and without purpose, for he never really expresses his feelings until it pours out of him unstoppably, such as when he suddenly fires methodically five times, one at a time, into the Arab.

Because of his strange actions, which seem to have no purpose at all to the regular person, the jury, when convicting him, see him as a psychopath who shows no remorse for killing the Arab. This is true, that he does not show remorse for the murder, but he has a good reason, supposedly, for killing. He claims that the sun forced him to do it, and although this may sound insane, throughout the book Meursault often complains about the heat and how it affects him. “All I could feel were the cymbals of sunlight crashing on my forehead and, indistinctly, the dazzling spear flying up from the knife in front of me.” (Pg. 59). Meursault is threatened by the Arab with a knife, which does encourage him to shoot, but the main reason why he does so is because of the heat bearing down on him. “But today, with the sun bearing down, making the whole landscape shimmer with heat, it was inhuman and oppressive.” (Pg. 15) I think that Camus made Meursault feel so uncomfortable around heat because it is the only thing that affects his emotion, and one of the main things that causes him to act out. “I gritted my teeth, clenched my fists in my trouser pockets, and strained every nerve in order to overcome the sun and the thick drunkenness it was spilling over me.” (Pg. 57) “It was this burning, which I couldn’t stand anymore, that made me move forward… It seemed to me as if the sky split open from one end to the other to rain down fire.” (Pg. 59) Meursault is actively trying to overcome the control over him held by the heat, but he is unsuccessful and in a flash, fires his gun. It seems the only time when he isn’t in full control of himself is when it is overpoweringly hot and dry, which makes him very uncomfortable and forces him to do things he wouldn’t normally do.

It does seem a little odd that Meursault doesn’t show any feeling for his mother. After all, she raised him for a great part of his life. However, when put into context, this is normal for Meursault, who is never shown really displaying any kind of emotion, besides when he was yelling at the chaplain. There are lots of parallels to this lack of affection, such as Salamano and his dog, who do love each other but cannot display it through traditional ways, or the young man in jail with his mother, who cannot do anything but look at each other through the bars, stuck a few feet away from each other. These parallels show how even though Meursault seemingly treats his mother neutrally and acts like he doesn’t really care whether she died or not, he is affected by the loss just as much as anyone else would be by the death of their mother. “I probably did love Maman, but that didn’t mean anything… What I can say for certain is that I would rather Maman hadn’t died.” (Pg. 65) Meursault isn’t really sure how to put his relationship with his mother. He loves her, but he cannot put that into words or actions. Again, he is like a child, who can feel the emotions and can understand what is happening but cannot speak for themselves why they are feeling those emotions, or express those emotions out loud. “I would have liked to have tried explaining to him cordially, almost affectionately, that I had never been able to truly feel remorse for anything. My mind was always on what was coming next, today or tomorrow.” (Pg. 100) Here the prosecutor is claiming that because Meursault has never felt any remorse for the murder, then he must not have regretted it, so therefore he is a monster. However, Meursault has never really been able to show or feel remorse or anything like that, as all he puts his mind to is the future, not the past. He sees something he is interested in, and forgets all else.

Camus has created a book where the main character is a ‘stranger’ to society, and who doesn’t get why people do things. It is fitting that in the end, Meursault comes to grips with his death, which he views as inevitable, and embraces his role as a stranger to society. He finally realizes that he is different from everybody else, and accepts that. Now, he wishes for himself to be proved right, and for society to hate him and will his death to come quickly. This reinforced my idea of Meursault as a child, because he has no more will to live anymore, and only wants for himself to be proved right.

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