The Stranger

In The Stranger, Albert Camus
portrays Meursault, the book's narrator and main character,
as aloof, detached, and unemotional. He does not think
much about events or their consequences, nor does he
express much feeling in relationships or during emotional
times. He displays an impassiveness throughout the book in
his reactions to the people and events described in the book.
After his mother's death he sheds no tears; seems to show
no emotions. He displays limited feelings for his girlfriend,
Marie Cardona, and shows no remorse at all for killing an
Arab. His reactions to life and to people distances him from
his emotions, positive or negative, and from intimate
relationships with others, thus he is called by the book's title,
"the stranger". While this behavior can be seen as a negative
trait, there is a young woman who seems to want to have a
relationship with Meursault and a neighbor who wants
friendship. He seems content to be indifferent, possibly
protected from pain by his indifference. Meursault rarely
shows any feeling when in situations which would, for most
people, elicit strong emotions. Throughout the vigil, watching
over his mother's dead body, and at her funeral, he never
cries. He is, further, depicted enjoying a cup of coffee with
milk during the vigil, and having a smoke with a caretaker at
the nursing home in which his mother died. The following
day, after his mother's funeral, he goes to the beach and
meets a former colleague named Marie Cardona. They
swim, go to a movie, and then spend the night together.
Later in their relationship, Marie asks Meursault if he wants
to marry her. He responds that it doesn't matter to him, and
if she wants to get married, he would agree. She then asks
him if he loves her. To that question he responds that he
probably doesn't, and explains that marriage really isn't such
a serious thing and doesn't require love. This reaction is fairly
typical of Meursault as portrayed in the book. He appears
to be casual and indifferent about life events. Nothing seems
to be very significant to him. Later on in the book, after he
kills an Arab, not once does he show any remorse or guilt
for what he did. Did he really feel nothing? Camus seems to
indicate that Meursault is almost oblivious and totally
unruffled and untouched by events and people around him.
He is unwilling to lie, during his trial, about killing the Arab.
His reluctance to get involved in defending himself results in
a verdict of death by guillotine. Had Meursault been
engaged in his defense, explaining his actions, he might have
been set free. Meursault's unresponsive behavior, distant
from any apparent emotions, is probably reinforced by the
despair which he sees open and feeling individuals
experience. He observes, for example, Raymond cheated on
and hurt by a girlfriend, and sees his other neighbor,
Salamano, very depressed when he loses a dear companion,
his dog. Meursault's responses are very different, he doesn't
get depressed at death nor does he get emotionally involved.
He appears to be totally apathetic. Thus, he seems to feel no
pain and is protected from life's disappointments. Sometimes
a person like Meursault can be appealing to others because
he is so non-judgmental and uncritical, probably a result of
indifference rather than sympathetic feelings. His limited
involvement might attract some people because an end result
of his distance is a sort of acceptance of others, thus he is
not a threat to their egos. Raymond Sintes, a neighbor who
is a pimp, seems to feel comfortable with Meursault. Sintes
does not have to justify himself because Meursault doesn't
comment on how Sintes makes money or how he chooses
to live his life. Even though Meursault shows no strong
emotions or deep affection, Marie, his girlfriend, is still
attracted and interested in him. She is aware of, possibly
even fascinated by, his indifference. Despite the seemingly
negative qualities of this unemotional man, people
nevertheless seem to care for him. There are individuals
who, because of different or strange behavior, might be
outcasts of society, but find, in spite of or because of their
unconventional behavior, that there are some people who
want to be a part of their lives. Meursault, an asocial person
is such an individual. His behavior, while not antagonistic or
truly antisocial, is distant, yet it does not get in the way of
certain relationships. While there are some people who
might find such relationships unsatisfying and limited,
Meursault and those he is connected to seem to be content
with their "friendships". His aloofness, though, may not have
saved him from suffering. It might actually have been the
cause of the guilty verdict at his trial for