“Any man who does not weep at his mother’s funeral runs the risk of being put to death.” – Camus
In The Stranger Albert Camus explores his philosophy of the absurd – existentialism – through the story of Meursault. He’s a man who’s mother dies, gets involved in a murder, and then he ends up murdering a man.
But that’s not quite the whole story.
Meursault is sentenced to death for his murder because he does not play the “game” of society – not due to his crime. During his trial the prosecutor points to his cold indifference to life. The man did not weep for his mother’s death, he doesn’t believe in God, and his logical sensibilities have detached him from life.
Meursault has accepted a ‘gentle indifference of the world.’
I couldn’t help but to sympathize with Meursault. From the beginning of the novel I connected with his overly logical view of the world. He had some Stoic traits to him.
I ended up digging deeper into Camus and was surprised to learn that he was a leading editor of the French Resitance Newspapers during WW2. And despite his philosophy of absurdity, he was optimistic about the plight of humanity, and our ability to thrive in challenging circumstance.
With that context I can’t help but wonder if Camus created the story of Meursault to act as a foil to the rigid societal structure of France. Through the entire telling of Meursault’s journey you can’t help but to feel sorry for the man. He is short tempered and disconnected. But he isn’t malicious, as the courts make him out to be. He’s a man who befriended a terrible human and was led down a bad path. He also doesn’t follow traditions.
His non conformity is the reason society takes his life.