Meursault By Albert Camus
Testing the Boundaries of Algerian Conventional Society In this essay, I am
going to explore Albert Camusí use of Meursaultís murder trial in The

Stranger to note the absurdity of the defined social behavior in Algeria while
forcing the reader to evaluate his or her own morality. Camus asks the reader to
form a mental and emotional relationship with Meursault through the descriptive
and, in the end, destructively honest narrative. He then asks the reader to
depend not on the law, which in this novel represents conventional social
behavior, but on this newfound relationship to decide Meursault fate. Camusí
introduction of Meursault uses straightforward and very honest language. While
the reader is aware from the beginning that Meursault deviates from the norm,
through factual, and almost play-by-play details, Meursault dares the reader to
judge him, and we do. We criticize him for not showing more emotion towards his
motherís death. We expect him to show more affection towards Marie, whom he
claims to love and we want him to exert a more forceful voice in the situation
between Raymond and his girlfriend. However, we respect his honesty and
appreciate his need to almost separate himself from the emotions that seem to
drive us all a little crazy. Camus then challenges this respect and appreciation
with a violent act. As the story reaches the climax with the murder, our
opinions of Meursault change because, as Camus makes us aware, society has
condemned him not for murder but for being different. Indeed, the gentlemen of
the jury will take note of the fact. And they will conclude that a stranger may
offer a cup of coffee, but that beside the body of the one who brought him into
the world, a son should have refused it. (91) Meursaultís guilt, as the
prosecutor points out, stems from his odd behavior over the loss of his mother.

Unlike American society, although not by much, the Algerian social standards
call for Meursault to weep in sorrow and be distraught during the funeral
despite his relationship with his mother. As part of American society, we
attempt to create our own meaning for Meursaultís actions. We want his
relationship with his mother to explain these actions. On the other hand,
perhaps, we want to say that he was "taught not to show is emotions."

American society searches for the psychological reasons for Meursaultís
actions. Our focus is not on the murder per say. It is on the reasons behind the
murder. What made him snap? However, we must separate ourselves from what

American society has taught us and focus only on what Camus tries to teach us
about Algerian society. Algerian society is about getting to the core of

Meursaultís defiance not because it will help to better explain his actions,
but because when one defies the rules of society he, or she, must pay. The trial
is not a murder trial. It is a trial of morals and emotion. Why else would the
prosecutor focus so much on the death of Meursaultís mother? Why else would
the later part of the book turn into a self-evaluation of Meursault and of
ourselves? During the preparation for the trial, the reader becomes increasingly
aware of Meursaultís sensitivity. Meursault has to explain his feelings and
not his actions to the court, something that seems impossible for even the most
socially acceptable. We feel pity for him because his past torments him. Camus
uses this pity for Meursault. He wants the reader to identify with Meursault and
sympathize with his situation. Once Camus sets up the link between the reader
and Meursault, he makes the reader resent the judges. Camus provokes the reader
to resent the judges of Meursault by having us feel that the judges are
questioning our behavior as well. This resentment towards the judges, and
ultimately towards society, becomes the basis for our decision to either support
or condemn Meursault. Camus forces the reader to revaluate his or her morals in
order to avoid condemnation by society. We envy Meursault because he is able to
be honest and true to himself, and although Meursault could have saved himself
had he repented or showed remorse, he saves himself by not doing that, and this
is what we respect because Meursault has done what we are afraid of doing: he
questions society. Let us look at the actual murder. Meursault, in what seems to
be an act of pure evil, fires an involuntary shot followed by four voluntary
ones. The four voluntary and unnecessary shots start Meursaultís process of
questioning society, and