The very first line in the novel gives a very strong idea about Meursault’s character. “Maman died today. Or yesterday maybe, I don’t know. ” (pg 1, Camus). Initially Meursault is one who is driven by nothing but his mind and body. He does not show any love or emotions to anyone. When confronted with the death of his own mother, he becomes quite irritated by the trouble he has to go through to attend her funeral. During the funeral, Meursault complains about the heat. Camus characterizes Meursault as a desensitized, heartless person who cares for nothing but a calm and steady life.
He enjoys spending his weekdays at work, and then weekends just strolling around. This routine is what makes Meursault the character he is. He is one who is controlled by extreme logic, and has almost no emotions to use in decision-making. Even the one thing that evokes emotions in every man, a woman, is used by Meursault as an object for sex. When his girlfriend questions his love for her, he replies with “I told her it didn’t mean anything but that I didn’t think so”(pg 35, Camus). Meursault’s routine life continues until he shoots Raymond’s mistress’ brother.
This action marks the beginning of Meursault’s transition to having emotions. Meursault reinforces the fact that he lacks emotions by claiming that he did love his mother, but “that didn’t mean anything. “. He also claims to the Magistrate that he has no faith in god whatsoever. Meursault’s actions disgust those around him, as well as the reader. As human beings we are instilled with many emotions and it is hard for us to digest the idea of not being disturbed by the death of a parent. Meursault’s spark of emotion comes at the very end of the novel after he has shouted at the chaplain.
It is not until now that Meursault realizes the “indifference of the world” (pg 122, Camus). He accepts that life lacks meaning and order, and also accepts the inevitability of his death. Another big change in Meursault’s character is his longing for companionship on the day of his execution. This revelation is what moves Meursault from one extreme, driven by the mind, to the other extreme, driven by the heart. In conclusion, Aschenbach and Meursault were both characters that initially lived their lives based on what their minds told them.
As the novels progressed, there were specific events that changed the way these characters behaved in society. Such events dragged both Aschenbach and Meursault from one extreme to the other extreme, which lead to their downfall.
Word Count : 1179,
Works Cited: Camus, Albert. The Stranger. Trans. Matthew Ward. New York: Vintage International: A branch of Random House, Inc. , 1988. Mann, Thomas. Death in Venice. Trans. Stanley Appelbaum. New York: Dover Publications, 1995. Jamaludheen 1.