The Outsider, by Albert Camus. Meursault Character Analysis

Essay by torontoIBstudentHigh School, 11th gradeA, January 2005

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In the novel, The Outsider, written by Albert Camus, the protagonist, Meursault, commits murder to a man, known as "the Arab", for no apparent reason and struggles against society's attempts to explain for his attitudes and actions. Albert Camus sets the novel in Algeria, during the time when Arabs were natives and the French began invading. Meursault is an emotionally detached character, amoral, and honest.

Meursault shows emotional detachment when his mother passes away, during the trial and in his general narration. Early on, we learn that Meursault receives a telegraph informing him that his mom died. Generally, a mother's death is an event that would be very significant for most people, but it does not matter to Meursault, at least not on a sentimental level. The novel's opening lines, "Mama died today. Or maybe yesterday, I don't know." (p. 9) introduces Meursault's emotional indifference. Oddly, to the reader, he does not express any remorse upon learning of his mother's death, nor does it have an impact on him.

Rather, it is the physical surroundings, of the heat, "dashing..., jolting..., [and] smell of petrol" (p. 10) that bothers him. After all, he does admit to the lawyer that his "physical needs often distorted [his] feelings." (p. 65) Simply, he does not care that is mother is dead. Secondly, Meursault's narration is limiting to his own thoughts and perceptions. As well, his descriptions of others lack an attempt to understand their views and feelings. His curt sentence structure and repetitious choice of dry words, "It was very hot", (p. 9) "I walked it" (p. 10), and "It was true" (p. 11) add a monotone and dull feeling to the reader which does not portray a very interesting character. However, though we see Meursault as one that...