Stranger And Meursault The way a person reacts to ordinary situations determines the opinions of others based on their behavior. Yet, when this behavior is abnormal or different from the rest of society, it causes society to form an opinion based totally on a persons behavior not their true personality. In Meursaults case, his strange opinions and unexpected remarks put him in this position, without ever really giving him an opportunity to be truly understood. However, Meursault cannot change his actions and behaviors from the past, therefore making him responsible in the society he freely chooses to live in. Meursaults complete indifference to society and human relationships causes him to appear as the actual stranger with those he encounters, which eventually leads to his incarceration and inevitable date with the guillotine. Meursault is definitely a man who is set in his ways.
He has his own opinions and outlooks on life and because of that fact he is constantly reminded of his inadequacies within society. His refusal to look at his mother one last time after she had passed away seemed pointless to Meursault at the time, where as the funeral director viewed this as extremely odd: We put the cover on, but Im supposed to unscrew the casket so you can see her. He was moving toward the casket when I stopped him. He said, You dont want to? I answered, No. He was quiet, and then I was embarrassed because I felt I shouldnt have said that. He looked at me and then asked, Why not? but without criticizing, as if he just wanted to know.
I said, I dont know. (Camus 6) The difference of opinion between Meursault and all of society, but in this example the funeral director, brought about a feeling of inadequacy to Meursault and an appearance of him as a stranger to society. Alice J. Strange explains his situation perfectly by saying: Holding Meursault to his words, and recognizing the voids they reveal, the reader sees Meursault as the stranger. (Strange 3) Throughout the novel, these encounters and/or relationships gradually set Meursault aside from society. His encounter with the Arab shows how the presence of other people in his life makes absolutely no impression on him.
Taking the Arabs life was something he did as a natural reaction, he pulled the trigger thinking it was justified where as any normal human being would think other wise. Once on trial, Meursault constantly observed the people in the courtroom as if he had no idea of how the rest of society lived. Every thing he saw was new to him and it brought him a feeling of excitement, as if he was enjoying being on trial. Fear only came after his verdict. He didnt even consider his fate early on in the trial because he was in awe of the rest of society; their behaviors and actions were all new to him.
In chapter three part two Meursault explained this by saying: Usually people didnt pay much attention to me. It took some doing on my part to understand that I was the cause of all the excitement. I said to the policeman, Some crowd! He told me it was because of the press and he pointed to a group of men at a table just below the jury box. He said, Thats them. (83-84) The only thing Meursault is worried about is the press, not the fact that his fate is about to be determined by a group of people that dont even know him.
He doesnt even care about death at this point, only how he is excited to see all these new people and be able to watch the court proceedings. Before Meursaults incarceration, he lived a life of desire based on his own satisfaction. His life was completely self-centered and focused on his own physical pleasures. Meursaults obsession with his own desires can be explained by saying that: His contempt for man-made necessities, such as religion, morality, government, is supreme; but his attitude toward natural coercion, hunger, sex, the weather, etc., though less explicit, seems almost equally disdainful. Meursault is a non-participant (Carruth 8-9). He took absolutely no consideration of others feelings and how his actions affected them.
Meursaults love of smoking, eating, drinking, having sex, swimming and being outside, all of which are physical pleasures, are taken to extremes. Take away these and try to imagine what Meursault would be like. He would be practically lifeless because he wouldnt enjoy anything. He is never concerned with what is going on in other areas of his life or others. His satisfaction comes above everything else in his life and controls everything he does.
Also, Meursaults relationship with Marie was totally based on sex rather than love. He had sex with her purely out of lust and only to satisfy himself. At no point did he intentionally have sex with her to express his love for her; love was never part of his intentions. Another example of how he based his own satisfaction ahead of everything else was how Meursault went to see a comical movie the day after he buried his mother. He wasnt worried about his mother at all; the only thing that he was concentrating on was having a good time.
He was able to laugh and enjoy himself knowing that his own mother had just passed away, something that obviously made little impact on him. His physical pleasures dominated his life and forced him to behave the way he did. By letting these physical pleasures dominate his life, he created an attitude and behavior that was unaccepted and seen as wrong to the rest of society. Even though Meursault let his physical pleasures control his life, he was however satisfied with the life he was living; completely content with where he was in his life. He never asked anything from anyone and never once expected anything from others. Stephen Bronner puts this into perspective by saying: Meursault is passive, unreflective, and compulsive.
He is a prototype of the absurd man who seeks no questions and tells no lies. (Bronner, The Thinker 44) Mr. Bronner explained that Meursault set himself apart from others through his passive nature and lived extremely independent. This attitude is proven even further when Meursault refused a promotion based on the fact that he was satisfied with the life he had then: He was planning to open an office in Paris that would handle his business directly with the big companies, on the spot, and he wanted to know how I felt about going there. Id be able to live in Paris and to travel around for part of the year as well. Youre young, and it seems to me its the kind of life that would appeal to you.
I said yes but that really it was all the same to me. Then he asked me if I wasnt interested in a change of life. I said that people never change their lives, that in any case one life was as good as another and that I wasnt dissatisfied with mine here at all. He looked upset and told me that I never gave him a straight answer, that I had no ambition, and that I was disastrous in business. (41) The thought of ambition and success never even crossed his mind and turning down the opportunity made no difference to him.
He could care less about what his boss and others thought because he was only concerned about himself. This would appear extremely strange to anyone because why in the world would anyone not want to earn more money, respect, power and even have the opportunity to live in Paris? Meursaults problem was obviously that he had absolutely no ambition. This became blatantly obvious in chapter five when Meursault said: When I was a student, I had lots of ambitions like that. But when I had to give up my studies I learned very quickly that none of it mattered. (Camus 41) So, we can see that Meursault did at one time have some ambition for something other than physical pleasures, but once he lost the opportunity to continue his education, he also lost all of his drive.
This showed that Meursault was an intelligent man and had the ability to expand his intelligence, but apparently chose not to. That definitely appeared as bizarre to others. Meursaults twisted relationship with Marie was totally based on his sexual desires, but what became extremely clear was that he was unable to experience love. Meursault never once showed any signs of emotion only until he was about to loose his own life. Meursault had a hardened soul and could never bring himself to truly love Marie. He proved just how irrelevant she was to him while he was incarcerated when the thought of Marie brought him to say: Anyway, after that, remembering Marie meant nothing to me.
I wasnt interested in her dead. That seemed perfectly normal to me, since I understood very well that people would forget me when I was dead (115). His words were just as hardened as his soul was. Meursaults relationship with Marie was not the only odd relationship he had with a female. Meursaults relationship with his mother was almost non-existent from hindsight. He never saw her, or visited her, and until her death she was out of his life so he didnt care much about her, or so it seems.
The fact is he did love her; it was just that he never showed it, just like every other emotion. Meursault thought that putting Maman in the home was the best choice for the time being, so she could be cared for better, and still live a pleasant life. Yet, Meursault never realized that people considered him as a bad person until his conversation with Old Salamano. In chapter five Meursault said: I still dont know why, but I said that until then I hadnt realized that people thought badly of me for doing it, but that the home had seemed like the natural thing since I didnt have enough money to have Maman cared for. (45) This realization shocked Meursault because he was never aware of the reputation he had in his neighborhood.
He didnt want to be seen as a bad person, but his strange actions and self-centered behaviors created his image and there was nothing he could do about it. Throughout the novel, Meursault came into contact with society many times, but each time he always received an awkward response leaving him with the feeling like an intruder or an outsider. Meursaults interactions with society such as the funeral director, Mamans friends, Raymond, the Chaplain, and the courtroom all provide substantial reasoning for societys perception of him as a stranger. Beginning with the funeral director, Meursault caused an awkward feeling between him and the director because of his bizarre comments. Not wanting to see his mother one last time, smoking during the memorial service, and not even knowing his own …