The Character of Meursault in The Stranger (The Outsider)

The Character of Meursault in The Stranger (The Outsider)

Length: 1236 words (3.5 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Excellent

Open Document

Essay Preview

More ↓

The Character of Meursault in The Stranger



Albert Camus wrote The Stranger during the Existentialist movement, which explains why the main character in the novel, Meursault, is characterized as detached and emotionless, two of the aspects of existentialism. In Meursault, Camus creates a character he intends his readers to relate to, because he creates characters placed in realistic situations. He wants the reader to form a changing, ambiguous opinion of Meursault. From what Meursault narrates to the reader in the novel, the reader can understand why he attempts to find order and understanding in a confused and mystifying world.


Camus writes in a simple, direct, and uncomplicated style. The choice of language serves well to convey the thoughts of Meursault. The story is told in the first person and traces the development of the narrator's attitude toward himself and the rest of the world. Through this sort of simple grammatical structure, Camus gives the reader the opportunity to become part of the awareness of Meursault. In Part I, what Meursault decides to mention are just concrete facts. He describes objects and people, but makes no attempt to analyze them. Since he makes no effort to analyze things around him, that job is given to the reader. The reader therefore creates his own meaning for Meursault's actions. When he is forced to confront his past and reflect on his experiences, he attempts to understand the reasons for existence. At first, Meursault makes references to his inability to understand what's happening around him, but often what he tells us seems the result of his own indifference or detachment. He is frequently inattentive to his surroundings. His mind wanders in the middle of conversations. Rarely does he make judgments or express opinions about what he or other characters are doing. Meursault walks through life largely unaware of the effect of his actions on others.


Meursault is distant from set plans, ambitions, desires, love, and emotions in general. He has a difficult time with emotions such as regret and compassion. The reader sees the nature of his personality in the first few lines of the novel: "Maman died today. Or yesterday maybe, I don't know." When he hears of the death of his mother through a telegram, he is unattached, and can be considered uncaring.

How to Cite this Page

MLA Citation:
"The Character of Meursault in The Stranger (The Outsider)." 12 Nov 2019

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

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

- 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....   [tags: Camus Stranger Essays]

Research Papers
852 words (2.4 pages)

Essay on Camus’ The Stranger (The Outsider): Conformity

- Conformity in Camus' The Stranger (The Outsider) Camus' novel The Stranger presents the character of Meursault who, after killing an Arab, is sentenced to death. This conflict portrays the stark contrast between the morals of society and Meursault's evident lack of them; he is condemned to death, less for the Arab's murder, than for refusing to conform to society's standards. Meursault is an anomaly in society; he cannot relate directly to others because he does not live as they do. Meursault is simplistic, even detached; he speaks of his mother's death without regret for her loss, merely stating: "Maman died today." He goes on to mention that perhaps it was yesterday - he is not sure...   [tags: Camus Stranger Essays]

Research Papers
860 words (2.5 pages)

Essay on The Unemotional Meursault in The Stranger by Albert Camus

- Unemotional Meursault in Camus’ The Stranger (The Outsider) In Albert Camus’ novel, The Stranger, the protagonist Meursault is a character who has definite values and opinions concerning the society in which he lives. His self-inflicted alienation from society and all its habits and customs is clear throughout the book. The novel itself is an exercise in absurdity that challenges the reader to face the nagging questions concerning the meaning of human existence. Meursault is an existentialist character who views his life in an unemotional and noncommittal manner, which enhances his obvious opinion that in the end life is utterly meaningless....   [tags: The Stranger, The Outsider]

Free Essays
682 words (1.9 pages)

The Caracter of Meursault in The Stranger (The Outsider) Essay

- The Caracter of Meursault in The Stranger      Albert Camus' The Stranger is a startling novel at worst and a haunting classic at best. Camus presents a thrilling story of a man devoid of emotion, even regarding the most sensitive, personal matters. The main character, Meursault shows no feelings after the death of his mother, during his romantic relationship with Marie, or during his trial for the murder of an Arab. Meursault never shows feelings of love, regret, remorse, or sadness. It takes a great amount of skill to portray such a seemingly inhuman character as someone who is complex and multi-faceted like Meursault is....   [tags: Camus Stranger Essays]

Research Papers
1127 words (3.2 pages)

Essay on Camus’ The Stranger (The Outsider): Meursault as Metaphysical Rebel

- Meursault as Metaphysical Rebel in The Stranger (The Outsider)      The Stranger by Albert Camus was published in 1942. The setting of the novel is Algiers where Camus spent his youth in poverty. In many ways the main character, Meursault, is a typical Algerian youth. Like them, and like Camus himself, Meursault was in love with the sun and the sea. His life is devoted to appreciating physical sensations. He seems so devoid of emotion. Something in Meursault's character has appealed primarily to readers since the book's publication....   [tags: Camus Stranger Essays]

Research Papers
2000 words (5.7 pages)

The Hero in The Stranger by Albert Camus Essay

- The Hero in Camus’s The Stranger (The Outsider) Certain novels include a character who, based solely on his actions, would appear to be evil, but in an in-depth examination, can be seen in a different, more sympathetic light. The character Meursault, in Albert Camus’s The Stranger, is notable for this description. While his murderous crime and indifference to emotions make him seem to be cretinous, his dramatic transformation at the end of the story make us feel for him. When he finally grasps the theme of the book, embracing the “gentle indifference” of the universe, he also grabs our hearts, in becoming an “absurd” hero....   [tags: The Stranger The Outsider]

Research Papers
772 words (2.2 pages)

The Value of Life in The Stranger by Albert Camus Essay

- The Value of Life in Camus' The Stranger (The Outsider) In Albert Camus' existentialist novel “The Stranger,”the alienation of Meursault from society conveys to the reader the theme of the novel: In light of the lack of a higher deity, all promise of value rests in life itself. To express this theme, Camus develops Meursault’s persona, satirizes many institutions, alludes to religion, and creates many moral and ethical questions. The universal nature of these questions reveal why “The Stranger” remains relevant to society....   [tags: The Stranger The Outsider]

Research Papers
740 words (2.1 pages)

Motif of Violence in The Stranger by Albert Camus Essay

- Motif of Violence in Camus' The Stranger (The Outsider) The Stranger written by Albert Camus is an absurdist novel revolving around the protagonist, Meursault. A major motif in the novel is violence. There are various places where violence takes place and they lead to the major violent act, which relates directly to the theme of the book. The major violent act of killing an Arab committed by Meursault leads to the complete metamorphosis of his character and he realizes the absurdity of life....   [tags: The Stranger The Outsider]

Free Essays
730 words (2.1 pages)

Free Essays on The Stranger (The Outsider): Disillusionment

- Disillusionment in Camus' The Stranger (The Outsider) In Albert Camus' The Stranger (The Outsider), the protagonist Meursault is clearly disillusioned of life in general. Two examples of this disillusionment occurred in the instances of his mother's death and an offer to be transferred to another work environment. This incomplacency is paramount in discerning this meticulous, selfish Camusian character. In regard to his mother's death, he seemed indifferent at the loss of her life. He was so uninterested in her funeral that he remarked the following: "...I can be there for the vigil and come back tomorrow night" (Camus 3)....   [tags: Camus Stranger Essays]

Free Essays
394 words (1.1 pages)

Free College Essays - Indifference in The Stranger by Albert Camus

- Indifference in Camus’ The Stranger (The Outsider) Albert Camus’ novel, The Stranger, examines what happens to a passive man when mixed in a murder. During the trial of the main character, Meursault, the prosecutor examines Meursault’s normal behavior as callous and cold. In order for the prosecutor to have a case in the reader’s mind, Camus must create the past that the trial calls for. Camus shows a passive man, and the way that he deals with normal life occurrences. Camus must create a portrait of indifference....   [tags: The Stranger The Outsider]

Free Essays
594 words (1.7 pages)

Related Searches

His mother's death serves to interrupt the flow of Meursault's life, a life dedicated to appreciating tangible things. He wished she had not died, but her death made no real impact on his life other than temporarily disturbing his daily lifestyle. The discomfort on the bus and the overbearingly hot burial were caused by her death. He recalls this discomfort as he shoots the Arab. But Meursault does not force himself to fake emotions, which is probably why he harbors so little resentment. His apparent lack of emotion is what lands him in trouble in the courtroom, for people think his nature to be that of a heartless murderer. He does have some relatively good characteristics, such as his honesty. Meursault also possesses the ability to logically evaluate a situation without becoming panic-stricken. Everything he does and says is in such a nonchalant manner that one wonders what it takes to make him tense.


Camus's way of creating a contrast between the two faces of Meursault is by separating the book into parts. The first part describes Meursault as an indifferent character, the second as a changed and intellectual man. This separation is helpful in understanding the changing nature of Meursault. Part I of the novel is just Meursault's commentary on the events going on around him.. Part II is Meursault's commentary on his life in which he attempts to understand existence and what it stands for. He is conscious of every aspect of his experience, both past and present. In Part I, the reader sees that Meursault is devoid of emotion and lacks the sort of emotion that makes a person vulnerable. However, in Part II, he has little choice but to reflect on his past because in his jail cell, that is the only thing he can do. He learns to do without the experiences he loves and he sleeps much of the time. However, he does suffer a great deal thinking about the executioner and his blade. For the first time in his life, he thinks about his relationship with society. The final encounter with the chaplain forces him to articulate his ideas on life and death. He is faithful to his beliefs, though they are limited. The confrontation with death causes Meursault to open up his heart to the indifference of the universe. The only thing that could make his death happy is to maintain his beliefs and set a standard for those to come.


As a thoughtful reader, my response to Meursault is that he is a very interesting character. His character is interesting for several reasons, the most important being his contrast to members of conventional society. At the beginning of the book he is an almost completely indifferent character. This is definitely different from the image of a well-rounded person that society puts forth. Meursault cares only for the physical world. He does not dwell on other things, such as knowledge or intelligence. He is also indifferent to many things that conventional society is emotional about. He cannot find anything in his life worth making an effort for.


It is the actions of Meursault, the main character, that make the novel and define existentialism. With his complete indifference to the world, Meursault becomes the example of an existentialist. He sees the world as a meaningless string of events that give no purpose to existence. Meursault has a passion for the truth. He is an outcast for this reason, and is detached from others because they cannot face the truths of the world as he perceives them. Meursault has an indifference to other humans and their feelings, and stands out in sharp contrast to the rest of the world. The novel did introduce the ideas of existentialism to me. Upon finishing the book, the reader is left to ponder the meaning of life as presented by existentialism. Meursault is so indifferent that he does not recognize his emotions until he is about to die. Existentialism in the novel really shows through Meursault's character. It is not really obvious as to whether or not he believes there is a meaning to life until the end when he understands it. It is most likely that his indifference allows him to care less about whether life has meaning. It was odd that Meursault becomes so preoccupied or maybe fascinated by his own death. He at least thinks about it, which shows that he cares. Perhaps it is a way for him to redeem himself. He is an existentialist hero through his understanding of the meaning of life. It is a complex theory in a short, simple novel.


By the close of the novel, Meursault has changed. He does not concentrate as much on the physical world. His greatest change comes in the form of deep thinking. He begins this while in prison, where he has nothing else to do. This is definitely different from his former stance. He also discovers that there is something to live for: life itself. Ironically, he finds meaning in his life only when he is sentenced to die.

Return to