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“Camus Has Created Meursault as an Outsider.” Discuss.

In: English and Literature

Submitted By grainnegrainne
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“The Outsider” is essentially an illustration of Camus’ absurdist world view. The novel tells the story of an emotionally detached, amoral young man named Meursault. In Camus’ opinion there is no ultimate, sense-giving meaning in the world, man must think and act independently. He personifies this view in making Meursault a complete outsider to society.

Meursault is shown to be far more interested in the physical aspects of the world around him than in its social or emotional aspects. His attention is focused on his on body, on his physical relationship with Marie, on the weather, and on other physical details of his surroundings. The heat during the funeral procession causes Meursault far more pain that the thought of burying his mother, “with the whole landscape flooded in sunshine and shimmering in the heat, it was inhospitable and depressing.” Enivitably we judge him as heartless and unfeeling, but following Camus’ philosophy, death was a certainty for his mother so Meursault has no reason to grieve. To him the funeral was an everyday event like any other. Similarly, the heat of the sun on the beach torments Meursault, and during his trial he says the sun caused him to kill the Arab.
The style of Meursault’s narration also shows his interest in the physical. He gives terse, plain descriptions without mentioning his emotional feelings and his descriptions become more vivid and ornate when he discusses topics such as nature and weather.

Meursault, in the opening line of the novel, immediately reveals himself to be indifferent toward emotion and interaction with others, “Mother died today. Or maybe yesterday, I don’t know.” Rather than grieving at the news of his mother’s death, he is cold, detached and indifferent. His primary concern if figuring out which day his mother died. To the reader he automatically appears heartless for failing to express grief or even to care about his mother’s death. But according to Camus’ philosophy, the universe is indifferent to human struggles, and Meursault’s indifference embodies this philosophy.

Throughout the novel, Meursault does not lie. Although he is an honest person, his tendency to tell the absolute truth often makes him an outsider in society. Marie asks Meursault to marry her and he replies that he does not particularly care whether or not they marry. “I explained to her that it didn’t really matter and that if we wanted to we could get married.” He doesn’t seem to be aware that this might hurt Marie’s feelings.

In a dominantly Christian society, Meursault is made an outsider because he doesn’t believe in God. Camus did not believe in the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church as it clashes with the absurdity and meaningless of life. Similarly Meursault does not place meaning on life. On the surface, Meursault appears to be an ordinary, lower middle-class French colonial in Algeria. But he is completed detached from society and the world around him. However, in making Meursault an outsider, Camus is demonstrating his absurdist philosophy - should we all be more like Meursault? His theory states that life has no meaning, but we as a society through religion and morals place unnecessary meaning onto it. In discussion of his novel, Camus wrote “In our society, any man who doesn’t cry at his mother’s funeral is liable to be condemned to death”…...

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