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Meursault Character Essay Prompt

Topic #1
Illustrate how Meursault’s indifferent attitude and moral ambiguity is fundamentally at odds with society’s expectations of how a person should think and behave.

I. Thesis Statement: In The Stranger, society views Meursault as a cold-hearted killer and a moral “blank.” It categorizes him as dangerous and evil because Meursault refuses to conform to society’s accepted standards of behavior.

II. Meursault’s attitude and behavior
A. At his mother’s vigil and the funeral
1. Meursault remains unemotional and detached
2. Doesn’t want to see his mother’s body
3. Drinks coffee and chats during the vigil
4. Offers no expression of comfort, or grief to his mother’s close friend, Thomas Perez
5. Doesn’t cry at the funeral
B. Relationship with Marie after the funeral
1. Marie’s reaction to Meursault when she learns about his mother
2. Meursault’s activities the day after his mother’s funeral
a. Swims with Marie
b. Goes out on a date and begins an affair with Marie
C. Friendship with Raymond and agreement to write the letter
1. Meursault never questions morality of writing such a letter
2. Society’s view of a man like Raymond and Meursault’s association with him
D. Murder of the Arab and reasons for pulling the trigger
1. Meursault shoots once, then fires four more times
2. Meursault’s bizarre explanation about “the sun”
E. No apparent remorse for crime
1. Inability to ever feel regret about anything
F. Meursault doesn’t believe in God

III. How society views Meursault
A. Behavior at the funeral is repugnant to many
B. Starts affair with Marie the day after the funeral
1. Meursault enjoys himself, even though his mother has just died
C. Why is Meursault Raymond’s friend?
1. Raymond has a bad reputation
2. Meursault must be involved with Raymond in some type of criminal activity
D. Why does Meursault murder the Arab?
1. No one understands Meursault’s explanation about the sun
2. Must be part of suspected criminal activity
3. Meursault “murdered” his mother by putting her in a nursing home. His crime is even worse than the parricide case
4. Therefore, Meursault is capable of anything
E. Refusal to believe in God proof of Meursault’s immorality
1. The magistrate’s appeal to Meursault with the crucifix

(The entire section is 1031 words.)

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...

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