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The Outsider Essay, Research Paper

Melissa Grant English 12

The Outsider: Albert Camus

In The Outsider, Albert Camus portrays Meursault, the book?s narrator and main character, as detached, and unemotional. He does not think much about events or their consequences, nor does he express much feeling in relationships or during emotional times. He displays an impassiveness throughout the book in his reactions to the people and events described in the book. After his mother?s death he sheds no tears; seems to show no emotions. He displays limited feelings for his girlfriend, Marie Cardona, and shows no remorse at all for killing an Arab. His reactions to life and to people distances him from his emotions, positive or negative, and from intimate relationships with others, thus he is called by the book?s title, ?The Outsider?.

While this behaviour can be seen as a negative trait, there is a young woman who seems to want to have a relationship with Meursault and a neighbour who wants friendship. He seems content to be indifferent, possibly protected from pain by his indifference. Meursault rarely shows any feeling when in situations, which would, for most people, elicit strong emotions. Throughout the vigil, watching over his mother?s dead body, and at her funeral, he never cries. He is, further, depicted enjoying a cup of coffee with milk during the vigil, and having a smoke with a caretaker at the nursing home in which his mother died. The following day, after his mother?s funeral, he goes to the beach and meets a former colleague named Marie Cardona. They swim, go to a movie, and then spend the night together. Later in their relationship, Marie asks Meursault if he wants to marry her. He responds that it doesn?t matter to him, and if she wants to get married, he would agree. She then asks him if he loves her. To that question he responds that he probably doesn?t, and explains that marriage really isn?t such a serious thing and doesn?t require love. This reaction is fairly typical of Meursault as portrayed in the book. He appears to be casual and indifferent about life events. Nothing seems to be very significant to him.

Later on in the book, after he kills an Arab, not once does he show any remorse or guilt for what he did. Did he really feel nothing? Camus seems to indicate that Meursault is almost oblivious and totally unruffled and untouched by events and people around him. He is unwilling to lie, during his trial, about killing the Arab. His reluctance to get involved in defending himself results in a verdict of death by guillotine. Had Meursault been engaged in his defence, explaining his actions, he might have been set free. Meursault?s unresponsive behaviour, distant from any apparent emotions, is probably reinforced by the despair, which he sees open and feeling individuals experience. He observes, for example, Raymond cheated on and hurt by a girlfriend and sees his other neighbour, Salamano, very depressed when he loses a dear companion, his dog. Meursault?s responses are very different, he doesn?t get depressed at death nor does he get emotionally involved. He appears to be totally apathetic. Thus, he seems to feel no pain and is protected from life?s disappointments.

Sometimes a person like Meursault can be appealing to others because he is so non-judgmental and uncritical, probably a result of indifference rather than sympathetic feelings. His limited involvement might attract some people because an end result of his distance is a sort of acceptance of others; thus he is not a threat to their egos. Raymond Sintes, a neighbour, seems to feel comfortable with Meursault. Sintes does not have to justify himself because Meursault doesn?t comment on how Sintes makes money or how he chooses to live his life. Even though Meursault shows no strong emotions or deep affection, Marie, his girlfriend, is still attracted and interested in him. She is aware of, possibly even fascinated by, his indifference.

It is although Meursault lives in another world in his head, much like an autistic child. Though he doesn?t seem to have trouble expressing his thought, he cannot communicate with people so that they understand the way the way he thinks or the way they think. Meursault does not understand the way society is run, it is asthough he does not know the difference between right and wrong, reacting (or even acting) as a mildly retarded person would. Is it then fare to punish a man because of his lack of understanding in how society works? There are countless examples of Meursault’s incapability to act as an ?average person? through-out this book, and it is quite clear that he is infact an ?Outsider?, yet is it fair to tri him as a normal, capable man?

In the article, ??The Children are not for Killing?? by Liam Lacey, the topic of a film based on the killings of three young boys committed by three teenage-boys. A confession from a mildly retarded tennager ( and colporate) is what led the police to the killers. The boy was said to be ?bewildered and anxious to please authorities in order to get back to his home?, which resemble Meursaults? reactions when he was confronted by the police. Meursault also proves (to the reader) these same actions when Sintes asks him to write a letter to his (so-called) girlfriend will come back to him after all the abuse and during and after the Arab?s murder. Joe Berlinger, the filmmaker said that he thought that . . . ?a story about how kids became so disaffected and alienated from their communities that they became interested in satanic violence? might be interesting. It is, but only because it is true. Much like the character of Meursault, who is ?true? so to speak. He does not lie; he says what he is and refuses to hide his feeling to society, though it is not clear if he is ?playing with a full deck?. An example of this is when he is asked to say that he regrets his crime. He answers the only way he knows how, truthfully replying that he feels more annoyance and regret, and it is the nuance that condemns him.

The way that I see it is that the rest of society does not see things the way that Meursault does. It may seem that he does not think before he speaks, or that he has no feeling, or that he simply does not care, but is it just because he does not conform to the society in which he lives? Meursault is true, he does not lie, he loves the sun and just because he is an individual and does not act or think like everyone else in the society around him he is condemned because he isn?t playing the ?game? their way. His life is at stake due to judgements from a society so foreign to him, he does not understand it as the society does not understand him. For this reason his actions are just. In the case of the teenagers who murdered the boys, the mildly retarded boy received a reduced sentence and was treated differently than the other boys. Perhaps Meursault should have received the same kind of treatment, on the other hand maybe that?s not what he was looking for!


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