The Stranger, Albert Camus’ novel, examines what happens to a passive man when mixed in a murder.
During the trial of the main character, Meursault, the prosecutor examines Meursault’s normal behavior as callous and cold. In order for the prosecutor to have a case in the reader’s mind, Camus must create the past that the trial calls for. Camus shows a passive man and the way that he deals with normal life occurrences. Camus must create a portrait of indifference.
When Meursault is talking to Raymond Sintes, a neighbor of his, Raymond tells his tales of violence and asks Meursault for advice. Meursault seems withdrawn during his time with Raymond. Raymond had actually asked Meursault into his room so that he may ask Meursault’s opinion: “because I was a man, I knew about things, I could help him out, and then we’d be pals.” (Camus, 29) Meursault remains quiet in the conversation, but eventually does speak up: “I didn’t say anything, and he asked me again if I wanted to be pals. I said it was fine with me: he seemed pleased.” (Camus, 29) It really made no difference to Meursault if he was stated as a friend of Raymond’s or not.
The way that Meursault does not contribute to the conversation and that it is just “fine with [him]” to be friends creates an image of indifference. This image continues to grow as Raymond continues to talk to Meursault. Raymond goes on to tell of his problems with women, and Meursault still remains silent. After his Raymond’s confessions are over he once again thanks Meursault for being a pal: “I didn’t mind being his pal, and he seemed set on it.” (Camus, 33) Once again, Meursault’s attitude makes it seem that he doesn’t really care if he is Raymond’s pal. It has no effect on him, but it will help out Raymond, so he’ll be his pal.
When Meursault is asked to deal with serious relationship questions and issues, he shows his indifference again. Because Meursault becomes romantically involved with Marie, she eventually asks him if he loves her, “I told her it didn’t mean anything but that I didn’t think so.” (Camus, 35) This seems to be a very cold response to a question that is taken seriously, but M was telling the truth. It didn’t really matter to him. Later, Marie asks Meursault if he wants to get married, “I said it didn’t make any difference to me and that we could if she wanted to…I explained to her that it didn’t really matter and that if she wanted to, we could get married.” (Camus, 41)
Marriage is an issue that would have no effect on Meursault. The only way it would matter to him would be if it made Marie happy, “so she took my arm with a smile and said she wanted to marry me. I said we could do it whenever she wanted.” (Camus, 42) Meursault becomes honest but selfish with Marie. He honestly could not care if he was married to her. It would not affect him positively or negatively, this attitude is the defining characteristic of indifference.
Because Meursault is so passive, he is always thought of being cold and uncaring. These thoughts were brought out in his trial. Camus fashions a character that never is really known as a character. No one in the book ever really knew Meursault. He was to everyone, a stranger. His passive, cold, indifferent appearance eventually led to his death.
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