“Heroic but hardly admirable”, how accurate is this assessment of Meursault in “The Outsider”

When Meursault is described to us in the early stages of the novel we see that he does not obey society’s codes therefore is it fair for us to assess him using societies interpretation of “heroic”?

If we are to judge him by them then we are given ample examples throughout the novel of his having no compassion or even of his thinking of the consequences of his actions, hardly heroic, but the converse is also demonstrated in many places. An example of the former is when Raymond asks Meursault to “draft” a letter to an Arab prostitute. Meursault knows what will result from his actions but seems unemotional and views the letter as being a favour for a friend and not a vicious conspiracy. This lack of emotion is reinforced when the prostitute is beaten up by Raymond and Meursault remains impartial whilst his girlfriend, Marie, thought it was “terrible” and is sickened by the beating. Another display of his apathetic views is in the opening lines "Mother died today. Or maybe yesterday, I don\'t know" This indicates that either he does not care or he had no comprehension of what had happened. An additional illustration of his detached attitude is after his mothers funeral when he goes to see a humorous "Fernandel" film with Marie, his girlfriend, and then he takes her home and sleeps with her just hours after his Mothers funeral. This indicates that aswell as having a detached viewpoint that he has no perception of morality. A section of the novel that reinforces this occurs that after the murder when he is in jail; he never mentions the Arab at all; it is as if he does not care about the Arab’s life; just about what he is going to do for the rest of the day. This is hardly admirable nor heroic and does not give the reader a pleasant view of Meursault and his character.

His unconventional train of thought and attitude is reflected not only in Meursaults unorthodox observations but also in the way the novel is composed. All of the sentences in the novel are short and in staccato rhythm. There are no connective conjunctions in any of Meursault’s speeches, reflecting his simple, existentialist attitude to life. His philosophy is reflected in the way that he describes things; when he describes locations he gives precedence over people to material objects. This is illustrated in his description of the room in the mortuary where his mother’s coffin is. He first notices the "very bright room" then the "whitewashed walls" and he then goes on to describe the furniture and eventually he reaches the coffin but before thinking about his mother he notices the "row of shiny screws". This preoccupation with physical properties is repeated throughout the novel as we are always given a very extensive description of each person Meursault meets before he talks to them. This unconventional attitude is supported throughout the novel and portrays Meursualts difference from the other characters we meet.

All of these quirks and eccentricities help us understand Meursault’s character and we soon understand his thought process. When he meets the Arab that attacked Raymond we are shown that Meursault feels he is under threat from the knife "held out to the sun". Then Meursault becomes oppressed by "cymbals of the sun" "clashing" against his forehead and the sea sweeping ashore "a great breath of fire". I think Meursault felt under threat but was reluctant make the first move, but when the trigger “gave” he “shook off the sweat and the sun”, realised what he had started and then fired “four more shots” into a “lifeless body”. In my opinion Meursaults self restraint despite the coercion to shoot and the ‘terrorism’ of his surroundings made his grip on the gun tighten and because of this "the trigger gave". After this I believe that Meursault realised he had hit the Arab and in his minds eye saw the "long flashing sword" and so "fired four more times" until he acknowledged the Arab’s “lifeless” body. This, combined with our earlier concept of Meursaults psyche, makes me believe that Meursault felt he was threatened by