Literary analysis: How Meursault is indifferent in The Stranger, by Albert Camus
Although Meursault is the title character and narrator of Albert Camus’ short novel The Stranger, he is also a somewhat flat character. His apparent indifferent demeanor may be a convenience to Camus, who mainly wanted to display his ideas of absurdism. And as a flat character, Meursault is not fully delineated: he lacks deep thought and significant change. His purpose is that of a first-person narrator whose actions embody the absurd, even before he has any awareness of the fact. Since Meursault is embodied absurdism, it is not necessary that he be hyperaware of his thoughts and intentions. His truth has already been built into his character by the hyperaware Camus. Meursault is a contrast to the irrational world, just as absurdism is the opponent of the irrational or indifferent world from Camus’ perspective. The title itself (The Stranger or The Outsider) puts Meursault outside of the normal world, isolating him from hope and understanding. And as an outsider, he displays behaviors that normal people do not understand and thus condemn in an irrational way. For example, it was more important for the prosecution to emphasize the fact that Meursault did not cry after his mother’s death than it was for them to focus on the actual details of the murder case. Meursault’s indifference is skillfully used by Camus to reveal societal hypocrisy. Meursault has integrity: he does not display emotions that he does not feel. He does not claim to love those whom he does not love. He refuses to pretend to be innocent, taking full responsibility for murdering the Arab. There is absolutely nothing – in thought or action – dishonest about Meursault. So why does he make people so uncomfortable? Why is his execution so essential to the maintenance of society? It is because his honesty is intolerable; his integrity unsettling. In fact, other characters would much rather see Meursault display false...
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