Short Commentary on Meursault's indifference in "The Stranger"

Essay by forgiveme88High School, 11th grade April 2006

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Typified by seeming indifference, the hero of "The Stranger" is initially presented as a character that is apathetic to society, his surroundings, and in addition, his own existence. This behavior consequently leads to a bloody murder that eventually is the inexorable result of Meursault's own death. As a stranger to society as well, Camus' hero is completely listless to many events which society would normally consider to be significant or lugubrious occasions. For instance, only two days after the death of his mother, who was probably his only family member left, Meursault absurdly goes to see a comic film. In the very beginning of the novel, Meursault's reaction to his mother's death is highly controversial as Camus himself intended. The author intends to depict Meursault from the outset as an indifferent existentialist; for in fact, one of the main themes of the novel is existentialism. One could argue that Meursault actually took the time and trouble to travel and go see his mother's grave and attend the funeral but, on the other hand, he probably just used the death as an excuse to get two days off work.

One must forget, in addition, that Meursault was smoking and eating at the presence of his dead mother. At times, one might even feel shocked or frustrated at the unbelievably apathetic behavior of Meursault. To be sure, let us consider his reaction to his friend Marie's proposal of marriage: "I said it didn't make any difference to me and what we could do if she wanted to" (41). Here, Meursault neither accepted nor refused the marriage proposal. Either of the answers would indicate some thought and care in the proposal, but since it did not make a difference to him, the bluntness and indifference of the reaction is...