The novel's protagoinist, Meursault, is a distanced and indifferent young man. He does not believe in God, and lives his life with seemingly sensuous abandon. After Meursault is caught up in the life of a local pimp, he rather inexplicably murders a young man on the beach, and is put on trial. In a ridiculous and seemingly arbitrary trial, he is essentially tried and found guilty for failing to adhere to society's beliefs and morals. It is during this trial that Meursault comes to terms with the absurdity of life.
The Stranger begins with the news that Meursault's mother has died. Writes Camus, "Mother died today. Or maybe yesterday, I don't know. I had a telegram from the home: 'Mother passed away. Funeral tomorrow. Yours sincerely.' That doesn't mean anything. It may have been yesterday" (p. 9). Here, the somewhat disturbing detachment of Meursault's recounting of his mother's death sets the distanced and cynical tone for his experiences throughout the novel.
Meursault takes two days off work to go to the home where his mother lived. At the home he meets the warden and caretaker, and views his mother's body. At the home, Meursault naps, talks to the caretaker, and drinks some white coffee. He encounters his mother's friends, and notes that he had " the ridiculous impression that they were there to judge me" (p. 15). The next day, Meursault struggles with the heat during his mother's funeral service, while his mother's fiancé, Thomas Pérez, is overcome with grief. Meursault l...
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...the world, and ironically finds peace and contentment in this understanding. Meursault notes, " I looked up at the massive signs and stars in the night sky and delete myself open for the first time to the benign indifference of the world" (p. 117). His final wish is that " there should be a crowd of spectators at my execution and that they should greet me with cries of hatred" (p. 117).
In conclusion, Camus' novel, The Stranger, is a powerful looked at life of a young man who is apparently distanced and immoral. Meursault enjoys the pleasures of life, and shows no emotion at his mother's death. It is only when he is tried for murder and sentenced to death, that he faces the benign indifference of the universe. It is in this understanding that Meursault realizes that in this world any individual who breaks the rules of society is seen as a stranger, or outsider.
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