Right And Wrong In The Stranger By Albert Camus

1167 words - 5 pages

In The Stranger, Albert Camus characterizes Meursault as a man who focuses on smaller aspects of his life rather than the big picture in order to create an inverted moral standard which makes Meursault an outsider in his own life. Meursault finds lying far more terrible than murder, yet he doesn’t judge people based on their previous actions. He helps a man commit an act of violence against a woman, and though he is an accomplice, he feels no guilt. However, Meursault pushes his emotions away, displacing them into a focus on smaller, more physical aspects of his life, such as noises and the weather.
At the beginning of the novel, Meursault never mourns the loss of mother; instead, he focuses on the smaller details in order to lessen the tragedy of Maman’s death. While Meursault is at his mother’s funeral, he never actually mentions any idea of missing his mother or grieving her. Even when he sees her casket, he doesn’t feel the normal emotions associated with seeing a dead loved one: “Varnished, glossy, and oblong, it reminded me of a pencil box” (Camus 14). By associating her casket with a pencil box, Meursault completely displaces any mourning for his mother away from his mind, instead bringing ideas of simple office supplies. Furthermore, the people around Meursault during the wake and funeral do not have any effect on him regarding the death of his mother. Maman’s friends who came to pay their respects only annoy Meursault: “Now it was all these people not making a sound was getting on my nerves” (11). Meursault doesn’t recognize that these people are being quiet to respect Maman’s memory. Additionally, Meursault doesn’t see Monsieur Pérez’s sadness for the loss of his best friend, rather, Meursault only sees him as “an awkward, embarrassed-looking old man” (14). By looking at the different aspects of Maman’s funeral without the tinge of death and sadness, Meursault diminishes the tragedy of losing his mother.
Meursault’s acceptance of Raymond’s barbaric actions and willingness to help commit a crime suggests that Meursault focuses on the smaller details about Raymond, rather than the larger, illegal aspects of his actions, further solidifying the motif of Meursault’s inability to see the “big picture” of his life. Meursault has all the pieces of the puzzle in front of him, yet he cannot to put them together to see what the “big picture” is. Initially, Camus depicts Raymond as “not very popular” amongst his neighbors, but Meursault “finds what he has to say interesting” and doesn’t have “any reason not to talk to him” (28). Meursault watches as Raymond pulls a “dubious looking bandage out of his pocket” and listens as Raymond proceeds to tell him about a violent fight that he took part in (28). While Meursault listens to Raymond’s plan about “punishing” his ex-girlfriends, he doesn’t object to the cruelty of the punishment; instead, he just agrees with it: “Yes, that would punish her, I thought” (32). Furthermore, Meursault just wants...

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