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In The Stranger by Albert Camus, the death of the main character’s mother aids in the illumination of the meaning of the work as a whole.  The passing of the main character’s mother, called Maman, exposes multiple facets of Meursault’s character and role as a “stranger” in a world that Meursault struggles to accept and conform to.  Maman’s death reveals Meursault’s general indifference to nearly all things in life, his detachment from the world and sole focus on the physical, and his outlook on life and death.The opening lines of The Stranger strike the reader with a clear affirmation of Meursault’s evidently indifferent attitude.  Meursault indulges the reader with the iconic lines: “Maman died today.  Or yesterday maybe, I don’t know.  I got a telegram from the home: ‘Mother deceased.  Funeral tomorrow.  Faithfully yours.’  That doesn’t mean anything.  Maybe it was yesterday” (Camus).  Straight away, readers may observe that Meursault’s reaction to this rather devastating news starkly contrasts that of what most would expect.  His reaction emphasizes the appalling tranquility that he displays in regards to Maman’s death by saying that the news “doesn’t mean anything” (Camus).  Not knowing exactly when his mother passed away and seeming not to care further highlights Meursault’s strange lack of concern, a quality of his that is further explored as the novel progresses.  Eventually, it is made known that Meursault did not visit Maman while she was living at an old people’s home.  This is a rather obvious indication that Meursault did not prioritize Maman (among many other conventionally “important” things in life).  It is revealed that Meursault is unsure of how old Maman lived to be, again evidencing his lack of interest in his mother’s existence.  Meursault provides readers with countless other examples of his bizarre nonchalance.  When given the opportunity to see the woman who gave him life for the last time, Meursault refuses.  Though he does right by staying by Maman’s body throughout the night before her funeral, Meursault essentially negates any respect for his late mother by smoking and drinking coffee right before her corpse.  All the while, Meursault complains about how sleepy he is.  This carries into the day of Maman’s funeral, on which he expresses his discomfort and annoyance brought on by having to walk a distance in hot weather.  Meursault looks back on the whole event and admits that he can barely recollect any details.  He is continuously selfish, consumed with thoughts of wanting to go home and sleep rather than thoughts of mourning.  What is even worse, though, is the manner in which Meursault goes through the day after Maman’s funeral.  He gets out of bed whenever he wants to and lazes around before deciding to go swimming.  At the beach, he runs into a woman named Marie and frolics with her in the water before going to watch a funny film with her and taking her home.  Meursault then slaps readers in the face with a concerning declaration: “It occurred to me that anyway one more Sunday was over, that Maman was buried now, that I was going back to work, and that, really, nothing had changed” (Camus).  At this point, it is fair to assume that Meursault is a robot incapable of feeling anything at all.  One could wonder how someone could care so little about the fact that their own mother ceases to exist, but Meursault shows us that in his case, it does not change anything.As mentioned above, the fact that Meursault does not seem to care about anything is well-established.  Even by his choppy, bland syntax in the first half of the work, Meursault’s remoteness is easily detectable.  But in addition to his peculiar apathy, readers may take note of Meursault’s constant state of detachment from the world around him.  Meursault’s candid narration reveals that he focuses solely on doing the things that satisfy the physical aspects of his being.  Revisiting the event of Maman’s death, readers find that Meursault’s first thoughts are of the “practical,” logistic implications of Maman’s death – which bus he would take to get to the home in which she resided, getting out of work long enough to attend her funeral, and borrowing a suit for said funeral.  At Maman’s vigil, Meursault, preoccupied in battle with his own fatigue, is irritated by a crying woman mourning the loss of Maman.  In his daily life, Meursault is just plain lazy, sleeping a great deal and spending his free time in leisurely activities.  When romance enters his life, readers see that though Meursault seems to enjoy Marie’s company, he values her merely by the physical pleasure he can acquire by using her body.  Meursault does what he wants to live his life the way he pleases.  Even when he ends up shooting and killing an Arab man, he manages to detach himself from his own actions in describing the incident, claiming that “the trigger gave,” as if his shooting the Arab was no true fault of his own (Camus).  Meursault, during questioning by a magistrate following the murder, admits that he is incapable of evaluating his own emotions.  His lack of self-awareness and introspection undermine his valuable transparency, leading society to deem him emotionally and psychologically impaired.  It is almost pitiful how Meursault fails to express himself, given that there are even any emotions to express.  Meursault, when being tried in court, is given a chance to voice his thoughts.  However, he simply cannot come up with anything of substance to say.  Readers are left to assume that Meursault just does not care about what happens to him to such an extent.Accompanying Meursault’s disinterest and removal from the world is his ambitionless, passive attitude to life, and ultimately, death.  The first part of The Stranger illustrates Meursault’s insouciance thoroughly, but it is in the second part of the novel that readers are offered a deeper and more comprehensive look at the inner workings of his mind.  Arguably the most fascinating insight is provided by Meursault’s total remorselessness following his murder of an Arab man.  Right before he claims the Arab’s life, Meursault says, “It was then that I realized that you could either shoot or not shoot” (Camus).  Here, readers get a glimpse at how lightly Meursault takes human life.  Succeeding his death sentence, Meursault is visited by a chaplain who asks him if he ever wished for a different life.  Meursault tells the chaplain that he had only ever wished for changes in rather trivial aspects of life because it was “all the same” to him (Camus).  With this comes Meursault’s refusal to accept religion and/or the idea of life after death.  He reasons that especially now that he hasn’t much time left to live, he would not want to waste it thinking about God.  It is around this point that readers witness somewhat of an epiphany for Meursault.  He concludes that the world is, much like him, completely indifferent to human existence.  He decides that human lives have no significant meaning and that human actions have no notable effect on the world.  Interestingly, Meursault ends up looking forward to his death, feeling ready to “live his life again.”  In this instant, Meursault is reminded of Maman.  He understands now that before her death, Maman too felt free and “ready to live it all again” (Camus).  Meursault even adds that he wants a hateful crowd to be present at his execution, to witness the termination of his current life and the beginning of a new chapter.  This newfound mindset is nearly opposite to the way he viewed humanity, life, and death before.  Meursault is able to find peace within himself and society when he assigns meaning to his impending demise and accepts “the gentle indifference of the world” (Camus).Maman’s death opens a floodgate of insight to Meursault’s personality and psyche.  Maman’s passing, Meursault’s handling of it, and the actions that follow slowly unpack the character of Meursault and paint the picture of him as a stranger, as the title of the work suggests.  Meursault’s actions in light of Maman’s death and how they contrast the burdening, melancholy cast that her death (should have) blanketed onto the work provide some explanation as to why those judging his crime(s) viewed him as a “menace to society,” an entity so isolated from all (Camus).  Meursault’s disconnected demeanor and intensely anomalous methods of handling the trials of life inadvertently lead to his death sentence.  By simply being the aloof person that he is – with his perpetual state of vague and self-absorbed indifference, his distance from the world around him, and his perspective on the notions of life and death – he is a stranger (the stranger, if you will) to society.

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