Meursault in The Stranger by Albert Camus

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Some authors write books for a specific reason while others may write for no reason at all. Although they may or may not have specific meanings, a reader always has the opportunity to create their own thoughts about what a book may be portraying. In “The Stranger” by Albert Camus, he created a character that could be interpreted various ways. The main character, Meursault, seemed to be emotionless and this caused readers to dislike his personality. They believe that he is unappreciative of his family and other supportive people in his life. However, I believe that Meursault is simply a misunderstood man. He could not help that his emotions were less noticeable than the other characters. Meursault was a brilliant man that had no fears of showing his real emotions and I highly respect his character for this reason.

One of the main reasons that Meursault is believed to be careless and emotionless is the fact that he was not very affected by his mother’s death. In the book, Camus portrays Meursault as a terrible son during the funeral of his mother. He explains that Meursault did not care much for a funeral and that he did not feel any different after he returned to his home. People are affected emotionally by the loss of family members. The fact that he was not upset, made him seem like an evil person. Who would not cry at their own mother’s funeral? Instead of crying, Meursault said that nothing would change in his life. His attitude about the entire situation was unlike any ordinary man losing his mother.

Although he seemed emotionless, Meursault told the truth about the whole situation. He never tried to act like he cared when he did not. He made sure to be honest about his feelings to himself and to others. During the funeral, he thought to himself and discovered that his mother would not have wanted that. He had many thoughts going through his mind about how his mother would have wanted it. I think that this is a supporting factor that he is not emotionless. He does care about what happened, but I believe that he did not know how to show his feelings about the passing of his mother. I believe that he just felt confused with his feelings, but his thoughts still wondered and thought about what his mother would have wanted for her ceremony.

In my opinion, the best word to describe Meursault would be authentic. The fact that he knows his emotions are less noticeable than others, but still always voices his honest opinion is truly inspiring. I view him as someone who would be a good friend to have, because he would always be truthful about his feelings. I thought it was very important to the story in the jail scene when Meursault told the Arabs in the room that he had killed an Arab. Camus wrote, “They laughed when they saw me. Then they asked me what I was in for. I said I’d killed an Arab and they were all silent” (72). That might have worried or offended those men, but Meursault did not mean it in that way. I thought that he was just telling what had happened and not thinking about it. I respect his honesty that he displays even when he is in a binding situation, such as jail.

An article about “The Stranger” supports my thoughts by stating, “Critics who depict Meursault as an insensitive, ignorant ‘juvenile delinquent’ when it is frequently mentioned that he is an intelligent, well-educated man, have either not read the novel carefully or have been misled from the start…” (Scherr). I agree with this statement strongly, because it does mention throughout the novel that he is well-educated and holds an important role in his company. I believe that this is important to the story, because this proves that he is not any kind of madman. I also agree with the end of this statement, because I believe that some readers may be misled from the beginning of the novel. I think that you have to understand Meursault from the beginning to understand him towards the end.

There are many other reasons that Meursault is not insane. One major reason that he is like an ordinary person is that he understands that his feelings are different than others. Camus wrote, “I was assailed by memories of a life that wasn’t mine anymore, but one in which I’d found the simplest and most lasting joys: the smells of summer, the part of town I loved, a certain evening sky, Marie’s dresses and the way she laughed” (104). This statement was included to show readers that he knew that he had good in his life, but he was always focused on the other parts of his life. He never held focus on the joys of his life. It took him time to realize that his life was never as bad as he viewed it.

Another important idea that supports Meursault as being misunderstood is the fact that the others in the story view him as a caring friend and fiancé. His friends respect him and treasure the friendship they have. His fiancé loves him, and she helps him learn what his feelings are. Marie is of great significance to my opinion on this story, because Meursault has strong feelings for Marie. He has a very hard time expressing his feelings towards her, but he truly cares about her. During the novel, he realizes at certain times that he may be interested in proposing to marry her. That was a very big deal for Meursault, because he knew that his feelings for Marie were serious.

Some readers may argue that Meursault just replies and goes along with Marie to satisfy her. Camus wrote, “…she wanted to know if I loved her. I answered the same way I had the last time, that I didn’t mean anything but that I probably didn’t love her” (41). I could understand that some readers may take this as Meursault not caring and being emotionless. However, I believe that this makes him care more about her. He tells her that he isn’t sure and that he probably does lover her. I think that his honesty proves more than him lying to make her happy. Instead of lying to her, Meursault tells Marie exactly how he feels about love and marriage.

Meursault was also serious about his friendships. Specifically, his friendship with his friend Raymond. He asked Meursault for many favors and asked for advice throughout the story. He asked Meursault for advice with his former mistress and Meursault tried to help Raymond out. Meursault also helped Raymond by speaking on his behalf for a court case against his former mistress. Strange states, “Meursault is called upon to support Raymond, even to vouch for him at the police station. Meursault seems to have no indication that Raymond is using him as an ally in the dangerous conflict with the brother of Raymond’s mistress.” I believe that this statement is important because Meursault wanted to support his friend even if the situation might not be ideal. I think that this example explains how reliant and supportive Meursault could be in troubling situations. Raymond and Marie were both very important to Meursault, because their relationships with him gave him something to make his life worth living. At many times he struggled with life and deciding what mattered most to him. I believe that these two characters kept him alive throughout the rough times in his life.

Although Meursault had friends in his life and the beautiful Marie, he had no problem accepting death as it occurred. Francey stated, “The fact that a simple explanation might have saved Meursault suggests that he does not die for his crime, but, surprisingly, for his apparent refusal to freely choose that crime.” This statement is very important, because it explains that he is not dying for the crime itself. He had the chance to explain and choose the crime he was a part of. However, of understanding and explaining what he did, he accepts the execution.

I believe that “The Stranger” is important from an artistic view, because Meursault represents many different freedoms. He represents freedom of feelings, art, and personality. Freedom is very important to artists, because they have freedom to show feelings through an art form. It is important for artists to understand through this book that freedom could be misinterpreted, but that is the beauty of it. It is beautiful art, because it can be viewed as what the audience may need. For example, a person may interpret a painting differently than others, but it may improve that persons life. I believe that this is important in “The Stranger,” because it gives the reader a chance to make their own opinion on what they believe about Meursault’s attitude and personality.

This freedom is also important to artists because we should always be truthful and honest in our art. We should play how we feel and how we interpret it. For example, an instrumentalist should play a piece of music how they feel it should be played. The truth of the presentation of art is relevant, because Meursault is always honest about his thoughts relating to life.

Strange stated, “Holding Meursault to his words and recognizing the void they reveal, the reader sees Meursault as the stranger, whereas Marie and Raymond do not.” I believe that this statement is one of the most influential points of the novel. It is stating that the reader gets an inside view to Meursault’s personal thoughts. Meanwhile, Marie and Raymond know only the view of him that they see daily. They only experience his existence. This view relates to existentialism which states that you can only know someone’s existence and that you cannot know their essence.

Camus allows the reader to understand more of Meursault’s essence, however, the other characters are only viewing his existence. They view him by his words and actions towards them. They have the outsider view of him and they also have their own way of understanding his actions. A reader is shown more insight to the actual being that Meursault is. Although readers could still make their own opinion on how he acts, the view inside his mind gives readers the thoughts that he is emotionless, because of the way he thinks.

I believe that “The Stranger” by Albert Camus is influential to artists, because it encourages all readers to be more open minded. I began this with an open mind and I understood Meursault more than I would have with a closed mind. An open mind can give anyone a different view of something. This is important in art, because you must be open minded to understand most forms of art. “The Stranger” has changed the lives of many people and I can say that it changed mine.

In conclusion, I believe that I understand authenticity and freedom of art to a new extent. It was meaningful throughout the novel, because Meursault used freedom to discover himself more towards the end of the book. This is something that all artist should reflect in their artistic lives. Artists should take on life with honesty and freedom, because it will lead them on the path of discovering more artistic visions.

Works Cited

  1. Camus, Albert. The Stranger. Translated by Matthew Ward, Vintage International, 1989.
  2. Francev, Peter. Albert Camus’s The Stranger : Critical Essays. Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2014. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&AuthType=cookie,ip,url,uid,athens&db=nlebk&AN=805815&site=ehost-live.
  3. Scherr, Arthur. ‘Camus’s the Stranger.’ The Explicator, vol. 59, no. 3, 2001, pp. 149-153. ProQuest, https://login.iris.etsu.edu:3443/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.iris.etsu.edu:3443/docview/216775244?accountid=10771.
  4. Strange, Alice J. ‘Camus’s the Stranger.’ The Explicator, vol. 56, no. 1, 1997, pp. 36-38. ProQuest, https://login.iris.etsu.edu:3443/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.iris.etsu.edu:3443/docview/216773320?accountid=10771.

Cite this paper

Meursault in The Stranger by Albert Camus. (2021, Oct 06). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/meursault-in-the-stranger-by-albert-camus/

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