The Strangest Stranger

January 29, 2019 by Essay Writer

When Albert Camus’ novel, The Stranger, was first published in 1942, many readers did not know what to think of Meursault, the emotionally disconnected protagonist of Camus’ story. His absurdist views confused the masses that yearned for meanings behind actions. However, it was not only readers who did not understand Meursault. Fellow characters in Camus’ novel, as well, failed to comprehend the character’s philosophy. Ultimately, Camus’ title The Stranger is a fitting characterization of Meursault who is separated by a “glass partition” from friends, society, and even himself.Throughout the novel, it becomes apparent that Meursault is not truly understood by anyone- not even his closest friends. For example, Meursault’s neighbor, Salamano, in an uncalled for attempt to comfort his friend, declares that Meursault, “must be very sad since Maman died … he knew [Meursault] loved her very much” (45). To the reader, the notion that Meursault had any affection for his mother is an absurd thought as he has not shown any signs of sadness since his mother’s death let alone any emotion. In fact, Meursault does not even know his own mother’s age, replying to his boss’ inquiries that she was “about sixty” (25). Depicted as cold and unfeeling even to those that know him best, Meursault is clearly disconnected to those closest to him. Moreover, the people who feel they know him, like Salamano, are incorrect in their judgments and try to impose their own interpretations of events to explain Meursault’s actions. This method used by Camus can be characterized as a “glass partition”. Similar to a window, those on one side can observe what is happening on the other, but, often, the true meaning is lost. Salamano can see his neighbor attend his mother’s funeral, but ultimately interprets incorrectly that Meursault is grieving. Meursault’s girlfriend, Marie Cardona, also, does not truly understand the man she loves which is illustrated when she proposes marriage:That evening Marie came by to see me and asked me if I wanted to marry her . . . I said it didn’t make any difference to me and that we could if she wanted to. Then she wanted to know if I loved her. I answered the same way I had the last time, that it didn’t mean anything, but that I probably didn’t love her. “So why marry me, then?” she said. I explained to her that it didn’t really matter and that if she wanted to, we could get married. (41)Marriage, arguably one of the biggest decisions in a person’s life, hardly gets a reaction from Meursault when Marie suggests it. In addition, Marie, his girlfriend- the one person he is most intimate with, obviously does not understand him. This exchange is a clear testament to how removed and misunderstood Meursault is to even his closest companions- making him truly a stranger.Additionally, to the rest of society, Meursault is a stranger. In the beginning of the novel, Meursault watches through his window the street below – a god-like, unattached figure observing from a distance. Taking in the sights of people “straggling back from their walks” and children “crying or lagging behind”, he never makes a move to interact with them – even when “several girls, whom [he] knew, waved at [him]” (24). Another way Meursault is a stranger to society is in his actual physicality. Camus’ title, coincidentally, has been translated as “The Foreigner” which is what Meursault, a French man, is in Algiers. He has no ties to the land, or any place, in fact. This is apparent when he is offered a job promotion in a new place and acts indifferent. His boss, annoyed by his lack of motivation, simply cannot understand Meursault’s indifference. Society expects individuals to want prosperity and success and Meursault’s rejection of these makes him a stranger. Ultimately, this lack of normal societal values is what truly causes him to be convicted by a jury who had favored him originally. His rejection of “normal” ideals causes society to condemn him and cements his place as an outsider- “the stranger”.Lastly, Meursault is “a stranger” to himself. Again, a “glass partition” is apparent in that he can only see what he does at face value. He watches himself through a “glass partition”- removed from the action and without understanding of his own actions- shown when he cannot explain why he shot a man. He only reports on physical truths, never about his feelings or emotions. Later, when he finally is confronted with himself, alone in jail, he realized his outward appearance is different than what he perceived it to be. Looking into his tin plate, Meursault is amazed when, “[he] smiled and [his reflection] still had the same sad, stern expression”. Furthermore, he realizes shortly after that the voice be had been hearing was his own voice and that he “had been talking to [himself]” without realizing it (81). Meursault, literally, does not recognize himself and is a stranger to his own person- making him quite possibly the loneliest person in the world.Although never referred to as one in the novel, Camus’ title The Stranger is an extraordinarily accurate characterization of Meursault, who is unable to connect to anyone. His “glass partition” which filters out emotions in favor of observed truths, makes him a stranger to friends, society, and, most ironically, the man he has never been away from- himself. Unable to connect or show the slightest signs of empathy, Meursault is born a stranger and dies one, too.

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