Walking into a room there are two people sitting on either side of you. To your right, sits a female who is dressed in all black and has multiple piercings and several tattoos. To your left is an average looking and plainly dressed middle aged man. At first glance in each of their directions whom would you suspect to be victim of circumstances and who would you believe to be a murderer? Understanding the scenario can give insight on how in the criminal justice system, appearances and actions contrary to social norms, in addition to prejudice, can influence court decisions and jury trials.
The judge and jury’s understanding of why people commit crimes can influence their
decisions. Such decisions can be based upon actions and people often do heinous acts due to strong emotions; however, Meursault does not show the normal response that is often required for his crime of murder, such as guilt. Guilt has several definitions, but the most common being the “[r]remorseful awareness of having done something wrong.”(American Heritage Dictionary) Meursault, who is shown to fail at employing empathy for most events in life, often does not try to conceal his true thoughts on subjects. This is seen when Meursault, along with his lawyer, prepare for his trial. Meursault states, “[My lawyer] asked if I had felt any sadness that day... He thought for a minute. He asked me if he could say that that day I had held back my natural feelings. I said, ‘No, because it’s not true.’” (Camus 52) His statement upsets his lawyer since Meursault’s answer does not fit into the social norm of grief. In accordance to the Encyclopedia of Themes in Literature, “In the last hours he spends with his mother, he sleeps, rather than doing what might be expected of a person in that position—crying, thinking, remembering. The whole event [his mother’s funeral] is a bother to Meursault [...] common sense indicates an only son would deeply mourn his mother's death.” (Bloom’s Literature) The death of Meursault’s mother is an important detail that introduces the reader to his feelings and thought process. However, this disruption to social norm is purposefully shown in the very beginning of The Stranger, which eludes to the fact that his behavior is completely normal to himself and society itself is abnormal.
In addition to his lack of empathy, Meursault gives an abnormal statement that he uses as his reason for committing murder. “The judge replied by saying that [...] he would be happy to have me state precisely the motives for my act. Fumbling a little with my words and realizing how ridiculous I sounded, I blurted out that it was because of the sun.” (Camus 78) This short and simple sentence caused Meursault to be seen as a joke as he noted that after ward, “People laughed.” ( Camus 78) Even though the statement in itself was humorous it skews Meursault’s defense drastically. Also it is not a normal response that would help a person in their defense. A proper reason, as used by...