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Apathy in The Stranger

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Introduction

In The Stranger, Albert Camus portrays the main character of the novel, Meursault, as a largely apathetic character. Right from the beginning of the novel, when his mother passes away, something most people would think of as extremely tragic, his apathetic attitude is made apparent. This attitude continues throughout the novel, and can be clearly seen in Meursault's interactions with the other characters. One such interaction is between him and Marie, when she attempts to talk to him about marriage. The most prominent example of Meursault's apathy, however, is seen when he kills the Arab. This apathetic attitude of Meursault's persists throughout the novel, and is apparent in his relationships with strangers, to his romantic relationships, all the way through to his relationships with his immediate family. Right from the first two sentences of the novel, Camus already paints readers a picture of Meursault as being apathetic. "Maman died today. Or yesterday maybe, I don't know" (Camus 3). The fact that he talks about his mother's death so nonchalantly is an obvious expression of his apathetic nature. While it is true that Meursault sincerely does not know the details of his mother's death, for all that was said in the "telegram from the home" (Camus 3) ...read more.

Middle

It starts to seem as if Meursault finally met someone who is able to bring some sort of emotion out of him. This can be inferred by Meursault's actions towards Marie, such as when he "let [his] head fall back and rest on her stomach" (Camus 20), and when he "put [his] arm around her waist, and [they] swam together" (Camus 20). After they spent the night together at his house, Meursault "tried to find the salty smell Marie's hair had left on the pillow" (Camus 21). It is actions like that which leader readers to believe that Meursault is sincerely developing feelings for Marie, and that he will finally be able to learn how to openly express emotion. It turns out, however, that this is just not the case. As Meursault's relationship with Marie develops, readers start to see his apathy again, though Marie apparently doesn't. "Marie came by to see me and ask me if I wanted to marry her" (Camus 41), Meursault says. The fact that Marie proposed to Meursault can signify that she felt that they were ready to take their relationship to the next level, but had no indication from him that he was going to ask for her hand, so she had to take the initiative. ...read more.

Conclusion

Meursault uses the analogy of a knife to describe the sun. In regards to the sun, he says "It was like a long flashing blade cutting at my forehead... that slashed at my eyelashes and stabbed at my stinging eyes" (Camus 59). Though this was due to the fact that the Arab raised his knife in the first place because, after he rose it, "the light shot off the steal" (Camus 59) towards Meursault, it is not as if the Arab deliberately intended for that to happen, since he was just raising his knife in self defense. It was simply Meursault's apathy getting the best of him, so much in fact that, even after he shot the Arab once, he "fired four more times at the motionless body" (Camus 59). Relationships that most people would hold near and dear to their hearts, such as that with their mother, or with their significant other, seem to mean nothing to Meursault. Though Meursault does not have a personal relationship with the Arab, the idea of taking the life of another human being does not seem to faze Meursault, either. Therefore, it is these relationships that Meursault has with others throughout the novel that demonstrate Meursault's apathetic nature. They are essential aspects of the plotline of the story, as they allow for the whole theme of existentialism to be established, using Meursault's apathy as a prime illustration of this theme. ...read more.

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