Madame Meursault

’s Stranger Essay, Research Paper

Meursault, a young man living in Algiers, receives a report of his mother Madame

Meursault’s funeral. He attends her funeral, but he does not show any outward signs of

appropriate grief. He returns to his home and immediately begins an affair with Marie

Cardona, a former co-worker. After the weekend ends, he concludes that his mother’s

death has changed nothing. The banal rhythm of a Sunday afternoon remains exactly the

same as it was before. He strikes up an acquaintance with Raymond Sintes, a local gigolo

and pimp. Meursault unintentionally becomes involved in a dispute between Raymond

and Raymond’s mistress and her brother, the Arab. The dispute ends with Meursault’s

murder of the Arab. Meursault, who narrates The Stranger, does not offer an explanation

for the murder. It is by all appearances completely without motivation. Nevertheless,

society demands a rational explanation.

Meursault is arrested and brought to trial. During the trial, it becomes apparent that

various members of the courtroom feel a need to explain the senseless, unmotivated

killing. It refuses to convict him of the murder without imposing a rational explanation

onto the event that allows for a moral condemnation of the killing. Without a justification

for moral condemnation, punishment for the murder lacks a rational basis. Unfortunately,

Meursault ends up being tried and sentenced to death more on the basis of his atheism

and lack of emotional attachment to his mother than on the basis of anything logically

connected to the murder. By the end of the trial, the court construes his lack of emotional

attachment to his mother as an explanation of the murder, and vice versa. Together, the

two justify the prosecutor’s definition of Meursault as a “monster.”

Meursault’s predicament develops Camus’s philosophy of the absurd–that humans tend

to impose a rational order on the world in the face of evidence that the world is absurd.

He focuses on the dilemma of acceptance of the absurd without succumbing to despair.

Meursault becomes the Absurd Hero when he can accept the absence of a rational basis

for his death sentence without succumbing to despair. Hope is merely a distraction from

the short time he has left. Meursault develops an optimism without hope that allows him

to make the most of the short life he has left.


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