Meursault's Selfishness

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Meursault’s Selfishness

Albert Camus’ The Stranger explores the philosophic ideology of existentialism in the character Meursault. Meursault is a man in the 1920s in French Algeria going through life seeing and acting through the lens of an existentialist. Without explicitly stating that he lives existentially, his life hits on many key characteristics of an existentialist. Perhaps the most defining of these key characteristics is that he does what he wants, because he can. He also does this because in existentialism there is emphasis on individual choice and freedom based on the assertion that there is no universal right and wrong. Meursault doesn’t always take into consideration what would be polite, or kind, but rather only thinks of what he wants to do and makes his own independent decision every time. I believe this sort of thinking is dangerous and wrong and that people should make their own decisions while still deeply thinking about whether that action is right or wrong, and taking into consideration the impact that the decision will have on other people.

In The Stranger, Meursault, on multiple occasions does what he wants simply because he can and not because of the impact it will have on other people or if it is right or wrong. When Meursault travels to the nursing home for his mother’s funeral, he spends time before the vigil with the caretaker of the home, and smokes at one point with him. The fact that he is smoking in front of his mother’s casket shows that he has no respect for social norms and is following the policy of doing what he wants because he can. “Then I felt like having a smoke. But I hesitated, because I didn’t know if I could do it with Maman right there. I thought about it; it didn’t matter. I offered the caretaker a cigarette and we smoked” (pg. 8). The fact that he hesitated shows that he accepts the fact that the normal thing to do would be to restrain himself from smoking out of respect for his mother, but then...
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