"The Stranger" Meursault's Trial Essay

1008 words - 4 pages

After only a few days of trial, the jury in The Stranger declares that the main character, Meursault, is to be executed by guillotine in the town square. The trial and its verdict are one of the important parts of the novel, as Albert Camus uses them as a metaphor to summarize the two main tenets of absurdism. Camus uses the trial and persecution of Meursault to express his belief that the justice system is flawed because of his absurdist ideals that truth does not exist, and human life is precious. In order to reform the justice system, Albert Camus believes that capital punishment needs to be abolished.
The trial portrays the absurdist ideal that absolute truth does not exist. This ideal destroys the very purpose of the trial, which seeks to place a rational explanation on Meursault’s senseless killing of the Arab. However, because there is no rational explanation for Meursault’s murder, the defense and prosecution merely end up constructing their own explanations. They each declare their statements to be the truth, but are all based on false assumptions. The prosecution itself is viewed as absurd. The prosecutor tries to persuade the jury that Meursault has no feelings or morals by asking Perez if “he had at least seen [Meursault] cry” (91). The prosecutor then continues to turn the crowd against Meursault when he asks him about his “liaison” with Marie right after his mother’s death. Though Meursault’s relationship with Marie and his lack of emotions at his mother’s funeral may seem unrelated to his murder, the prosecutor still manages to convince the crowd that they are connected to one another. The jury ends up convicting Meursault not because he killed a man, but because he didn't show the proper emotions after his mother died. Despite hearing Meursault’s own thoughts and opinions, the reader can see that the testimony still makes sense. All the facts the prosecutor presents are valid and true, though unrelated to his case. From the prosecutor's point of view, Meursault is a “monster, a man without morals” (96). Even Meursault agrees that "what he was saying was plausible" (99). The reader, who knows all of Meursault’s thoughts, knows how absurd the prosecution’s accusations are. Throughout the trial, Camus explains that perception means everything, and there is no absolute truth.
The conviction of Meursault represents another main point of absurdism, that life is precious. It only takes forty five minutes for an entire jury to unanimously decide to send Meursault to the guillotine, which is unreasonable. Camus is trying to point this out as one of society’s wrongdoings. The prosecutor's argument had appealed to the jury's emotions and society’s standards rather than reason. If the jury had not felt the emotions that were supposed to influence their decision, the prosecutor's argument would have seemed completely irrational. In a rational world, Meursault's emotions regarding his mother or her funeral would not have influenced his...

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