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In The Outsider, Albert Camus portrays Meursault, the bookís narrator and main
character, as detached, and unemotional. He does not think much about events or
their consequences, nor does he express much feeling in relationships or during
emotional times. He displays an impassiveness throughout the book in his
reactions to the people and events described in the book. After his motherís
death he sheds no tears; seems to show no emotions. He displays limited feelings
for his girlfriend, Marie Cardona, and shows no remorse at all for killing an
Arab. His reactions to life and to people distances him from his emotions,
positive or negative, and from intimate relationships with others, thus he is
called by the bookís title, ĎThe Outsiderí. While this behaviour can be
seen as a negative trait, there is a young woman who seems to want to have a
relationship with Meursault and a neighbour who wants friendship. He seems
content to be indifferent, possibly protected from pain by his indifference.
Meursault rarely shows any feeling when in situations, which would, for most
people, elicit strong emotions. Throughout the vigil, watching over his
motherís dead body, and at her funeral, he never cries. He is, further,
depicted enjoying a cup of coffee with milk during the vigil, and having a smoke
with a caretaker at the nursing home in which his mother died. The following
day, after his motherís funeral, he goes to the beach and meets a former
colleague named Marie Cardona. They swim, go to a movie, and then spend the
night together. Later in their relationship, Marie asks Meursault if he wants to
marry her. He responds that it doesnít matter to him, and if she wants to get
married, he would agree. She then asks him if he loves her. To that question he
responds that he probably doesnít, and explains that marriage really isnít
such a serious thing and doesnít require love. This reaction is fairly typical
of Meursault as portrayed in the book. He appears to be casual and indifferent
about life events. Nothing seems to be very significant to him. Later on in the
book, after he kills an Arab, not once does he show any remorse or guilt for
what he did. Did he really feel nothing? Camus seems to indicate that Meursault
is almost oblivious and totally unruffled and untouched by events and people
around him. He is unwilling to lie, during his trial, about killing the Arab.
His reluctance to get involved in defending himself results in a verdict of
death by guillotine. Had Meursault been engaged in his defence, explaining his
actions, he might have been set free. Meursaultís unresponsive behaviour,
distant from any apparent emotions, is probably reinforced by the despair, which
he sees open and feeling individuals experience. He observes, for example,
Raymond cheated on and hurt by a girlfriend and sees his other neighbour,
Salamano, very depressed when he loses a dear companion, his dog. Meursaultís
responses are very different, he doesnít get depressed at death nor does he
get emotionally involved. He appears to be totally apathetic. Thus, he seems to
feel no pain and is protected from lifeís disappointments. Sometimes a person
like Meursault can be appealing to others because he is so non-judgmental and
uncritical, probably a result of indifference rather than sympathetic feelings.
His limited involvement might attract some people because an end result of his
distance is a sort of acceptance of others; thus he is not a threat to their
egos. Raymond Sintes, a neighbour, seems to feel comfortable with Meursault.
Sintes does not have to justify himself because Meursault doesnít comment on
how Sintes makes money or how he chooses to live his life. Even though Meursault
shows no strong emotions or deep affection, Marie, his girlfriend, is still
attracted and interested in him. She is aware of, possibly even fascinated by,
his indifference. It is although Meursault lives in another world in his head,
much like an autistic child. Though he doesnít seem to have trouble expressing
his thought, he cannot communicate with people so that they understand the way
the way he thinks or the way they think. Meursault does not understand the way
society is run, it is asthough he does not know the difference between right and
wrong, reacting (or even acting) as a mildly retarded person would. Is it then
fare to punish a man because of his lack of understanding in how society works?
There are countless examples of Meursault\'s incapability to act as an Ďaverage
personí through-out this book, and it is
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