The Outsider essay
Albert Camus’ novel, ‘The Outsider’ follows the character of Meursault, a man living in Algiers during the 1940s. The novel is divided into two parts at the point where Meursault murders an Arab man for no apparent reason. Meursault is tried killing a man and must pay with his own life in the form of an execution. However the prosecution chooses to examine his lack of emotion and unconventional behavior rather than his actual crime. Meursault, it seems is condemned not for the murder of the Arab but for not meeting society’s expectation.
Throughout most of the novel, Meursault displays an indifferent and apathetic attitude as well as little remorse for the crime he commits. At the beginning of the novel, his mother dies and he neither contemplates nor grieves over her death. He simply carries on with his life since to him, ‘nothing had changed.’ On the day after his funeral, as described by the prosecutor, Meursault was ‘swimming in the sea, entering into a regular liaison and laughing at a Fernandel (comedy) film. These actions would have given the jury a feeling of shock and disgust at Meursault apparent heartlessness as he did not do what society would have expected from him. The actual crime is ignored and Meursault it seems is being tried biasedly. Even the first-person narration style feels neutral and detached which further highlights his demeanor.
Meursault tries to live a simple, contented and unassuming life. After an interview with his lawyer, he says ‘I wanted to assure him that I was just like everyone else, exactly like everyone else’. This statement is quite true. He is known to be a hard worker and he enjoys spending time with friends and his lover, Marie. His demeanor also stays the same except in the final chapter and he floats through life, not wanting to change it. He says that ‘…people never change their lives, that in any case one life was as good as another and I wasn’t dissatisfied with mine here...