It is clear right away that Camus wants to draw the reader into his novel through the use of ambiguous and vague language. Even on page one, Meursault says, “Maman died today. Or yesterday maybe, I don’t know”(1). This was shocking to me because how can one not know when his mother passed away? I felt even more frustrated because Meursault did not seem to care at all and did not even know how old his mother was. Even at the funeral, he was smoking a cigarette and drinking coffee.
It was hard for me to decide whether Meursault was heartless, innocent, or just clueless. Who in their right mind would disrespect loved ones during their funeral? However, it made me upset when Mersault states that “nothing had changed” (24). If my mother had died the day before, I would be stricken with grief! Furthermore, it is apparent right away how factual and observant Mersault is. Everything he says is perceived by the reader in a monotonous voice.
It is almost as if Meursault lacks the feeling and unity that makes a human. Every day, I experience a spectrum of emotions, yet Meursault seems to display no emotion, not even after his mother, his last remaining family member, passes away. In a way, this made me create consciousness for Meursault. Automatically, in my head, I was feeling for him. When he did certain things, I shook or nodded my head in disapproval or approval. I believe that Camus wants to have the reader connect to Meursault on a personal level as his limited thoughts make the reader think for him.
However, the reader’s view of Mersault channel-deaths throughout the novel. My initial thought after reading the first couple of pages was that Meursault was very heartless and unfeeling. Near the end of the novel, I felt more conflicted because it seemed as though Meursault was realizing things about himself that he had not known before. For example, the consequences of Mersault’s actions “became as real and as serious as the wall against which I pressed the length of my body” (110). Even though it is appalling that Meursault did not realize the depth of his actions until he’s near death, it shifts the reader’s view of him from negative to almost neutral. The reader can connect with him more as a person, as we all realize the consequences of our actions to an extent.
Initially, Mersault’s indifference annoyed me because even after killing a man, he “did not feel much remorse for what [he’d] done” (100). However, I was not the only one who had these thoughts- it is evident throughout the novel that Mersault’s friends, such as Marie and Raymond, and the judge also realized this about Mersault. Marie was a bit taken aback when she asked him if he loved her, and Meursault “told her that it didn’t mean anything but that [he] didn’t think so” (35). Meursault notes that she looked sad, but he does not comprehend that her sadness is because of him. Although I didn’t understand how Marie could ask Meursault that question only after a short time, it was more surprising to me that Meursault did not realize why she was so upset. Don’t boys learn at a young age what things to say and not to say? Telling a girl that you don’t love her is a pretty heartbreaking thing, yet Mersault is unaware of that. So, when I initially thought Mersault was heartless, I slowly noticed that he was more clueless which made me begin to pity Meursault. As a pretty naive person myself, it never feels good when I am tricked into something or just do not understand what someone says. Camus manifests this pity from the reader into something further in part 2.
In part 2, Meursault goes to jail for murdering the Arab. At first, the effects of his actions do not sink in, as he has to remind himself why he is there. His justifications are not convincing, because the fact that his “physical needs get in the way of [his] feelings” is not enough to pardon his case (65). After reading this page, it struck me that maybe Meursault has autism. It is not clear to the reader at first, but it makes more and more sense further into the novel. For example, the sun caused Mersault to sweat at the beach, thus making him stressed, which led to him using the gun. People on the spectrum are often very aware of their surroundings which can cause them to act out. Meursault is indeed a relatively functioning adult (until part 2), but he is lacking what others might consider obvious social situational awareness. He also partakes in a routine every day, in which he smokes and drinks wine, and does not leave his apartment often. Autistic people view the world in a different light, and this could be an explanation for Mersault’s thoughts during the duration of the text.
Camus utilizes the pity that he harnessed from the reader to generalize society. Pitying Meursault is not a smart move, and once I realized that I came to the epiphany that every person has a part of Meursault within them, thus causing me to pity myself and the rest of society. We are all to an extent living in a shameful state, oblivious of what’s to come. As put by Meursault, “ since we’re all going to die, it’s obvious that when and how don’t matter” (114) and that “we’re all elected by the same fate, me and billions of privileged people” (121). This gives the illusion that we all have the same fate which is death, therefore linking the reader’s attitude towards Meursault to the reader’s attitude towards people in general. It is my relationship with others and how they perceive me which indicates my relationship with all of society, so Camus uses the negative reaction towards Meursault to show the reader that it depicts the reader’s connection regarding others. For the realization in part two to be along the lines of an epiphany, the reader has to commence pitying Mersault from page one.