Meursault is the name of the protagonist of Albert Camus’s novel “The Stranger.” He is a French Algerian man living and working in Algiers, and the book describes his life and his journey that eventually ends in his execution for murder. Meursault’s key trait is his detachment from the world, which comes from his belief that everyone else is indifferent to him. Nevertheless, he has friends and a lover who eventually proposes to him, and while he reciprocates neither form of feelings, he does not reject those people. What makes Meursault human, giving the book its powerful impact despite his peculiarities, is his occasional display of emotions, whether internal or internal.
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The defining trait of the protagonist that shows itself throughout the novel is his indifference. Meursault’s reaction to the death of his mother is wondering whether she died that day or the day before and planning his vigil attendance so that he can return as soon as possible (Camus 3). At another point, Camus shows him not knowing his mother’s exact age and showing less concern about the tragic event than his unrelated superior (25). This seeming lack of interest in situations that other people would consider life-changing and the generally low amount of emotions that are shown despite the first-person narrative make Meursault appear unfeeling.
Despite his attitude, the protagonist is aware that he cannot live comfortably without observing some social customs. As was mentioned above, he works at an office and strives to do his best, leading others to show concern for his well-being. His superior note these traits and offers him a promotion, which Meursault rejects because he is satisfied with his current position (41). The man also maintains an acquaintanceship with several people, some of whom consider him a friend. Lastly, there is Marie, who enters a relationship with Meursault and ends up proposing to him despite knowing his nature.
Despite giving the outward appearance of a man without emotions, the protagonist of Camus’s novel has feelings and sometimes expresses them. The use of the affectionate “maman” indicates that he cared for his mother, even if he did so indirectly. Shortly before his execution, he snaps and starts shouting at the chaplain (Camus 120). However, the topic of his rant is indifference, which still informs many of his actions. The murder of the Arab is an example, as there is no apparent reason why Meursault does it, and the event happens on the spur of the moment.
The protagonist of Camus’s “The Stranger” is a complex character with multiple layers that confuse the people around him. He is socially acceptable, but people note his peculiarities and sometimes come to the conclusion that he is an uncaring person. The reader is left with the same impression but can see his occasional showing of emotion, which makes Meursault appear human. Ultimately, however, the character’s actions and motivations are informed by a lack of interest, his overarching belief that nothing matters, and so he makes bizarre momentary choices.
Camus, Albert. The Stranger. Vintage Books, 1989.