Essay on Camus’ The Stranger (The Outsider): The Character of Meursault

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The Character of Meursault in Camus' The Stranger (The Outsider)

Raymond typifies the beast-character in Camus' The Stranger (The Outsider). He is like Stanley from A Streetcar Named Desire (T. Williams), emotional and manly. Physical solutions come naturally to him, as we see when he mistreats his ex-girlfriend. Ideally, society is exactly the opposite; law and order attempt to solve things fairly and justly. I propose that Meursault is somewhere between these two extremes and that this is the reason why he is a societal outcast. This metaphor explains his major actions in the book: as he struggles to keep his identity, his personality comes in conflict with the norms of society and he is shut down.

Just as an animal sticks to instincts, Meursault has a hard time feeling emotions such as remorse or compassion. Even the first page shows us this. Just as an animal leaves its family when it is old enough, never to return, when Meursault hears of his mother's death he is unattached, even uncaring. He had similar feelings when he sent her to live in the old people's home. Meursault has quite a passion for women; he starts dating Marie the very day after he finds out of the death. But like most animals, marriage is basically nonexistent for him; though he acknowledges it, it holds little meaning. When he is isolated in jail, he dreams of women; not Marie, whom he has been seeing for some time, but women in general. Like an animal he feels the urge to mate without any desire for monogamy. An animal has to focus on the present in order to survive, and as far as we know doesn't spend much time cogitating about its past. Meursault always lives in the present, hence his lack of remorse. This beast-like quality is one that get...

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...s Meursault is not able, because of his very nature, to believe in a hereafter. His human side gives in to his animal side at the end when the chaplain tries forcibly to make Meursault see the light. His animal feels the threat of being tamed, or converted to the ways of human society, and so he explodes to save himself.

Only twice in the novel does Meursault experience extreme pressure, once from nature and once from society, and at these points he gives himself over to his beast. This proves devastating from a certain point of view: the first time he compromises his chances of living, and the second time he compromises his chance of an afterlife. This self-preservation instinct is the only thing that keeps him in touch with his bestial side, and in spite of these consequences he triumphs over life in that he remains unique, he does not conform.
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