An Analysis of Mersault’s Moral Decline in the Stranger

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The moral decline of Meursault in The Stranger reflects the era of the author, Albert Camus, Meursault’s rationalizations for his definition of morals is how he ends up finding himself on death row instead of going with society and preserving the morals he was given before his mother died Alben Camus lived in a situation much similar to this with World War II and the Algerian Revolution during the 19405 where moral decline and absurdity was more prevalent to those who were witnessing destruction and oppression Therefore, Albert Camus was more or less enticed to write the existential and absurdist character of Meursault rationalizing himself to doom like the world around Camus, who was feeling like an alienated outsider.

Meursault’s refusal of social convention is the representation of the 19405 era in which the author lived in, with an unexplained tragedy that does not build up enough emotion in the people of the 1940s For Meursault this tragedy was the death of his mother and how he could not express his feelings toward it because he felt nothing for his mother. This can be looked at as Germany’s loss in World War II and the rest of the world acting as if they had lost nothing to the point of rudeness allowing this new thought of Nazism to rise, Camus showed this aloofness within Meursault to the point of rudeness with his thoughts toward his mother’s friend at the home when he just wanted her to shut up instead of crying for his mother’s death “The woman kept on crying. lt surprised me that I didn’t even know who she was, I wished I didn‘t have to listen to her anymore But I didn’t dare say anything,” (Camus, 10) Just as the Algerian Revolutionary rise the French settlers being Meursault and feeling pity towards the Algerians but putting them into a position where the settlers were more accepted by the country’s leadership, The events eventually lead up to social conventional refusal within the world and more importantly Algeria of which Camus was located in the 1940s.

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The reader can see at the beginning of the book that Meursault is much like a stranger even to his own mother in how he didn‘t even know much about his own mother. As the Pied- noirs were who were stuck in the middle of the Algerians and the French because of their dependence on the French even as the rest of their nation was striving for independence. When the warden then asked if Meursault wanted to see his dead mother at her final rest and he refused because he really didn’t want to feel the same remorse of not really knowing her. However to the warden its as if he never really cared about his mother and was not ever in mourning of her. Meursault not being in mourning of her thus symbolizes his moral decline beginning very much like the Nazi party in Germany. His thoughts on his mother‘s death were at first remorseful and numb like when he stated in the beginning “For the present, it’s almost as if Mother weren’t really dead, The funeral will bring it home to me; put an official seal on it, so to speak…” (Camus,4). Camus himself went back and forth to Paris to find work as a reporter for the leftist press but instead found Paris being invaded by German Nazis and he was then exiled. This is how Camus came to the thought of the stranger and being an alienated outsider in the time. It was almost like a death of his old self of which he didn‘t know anymore which can very well be related to Meursault’s feelings when his mother died and the feelings of being an outsider to her death almost.

During this time in the book when he was at the home preparing for his mother’s funeral, a foreshadowing minor character was also in the room with the warden and Meursault that was very symbolic of Camus era, the Arab nurse with a tumor. Meursault doesn’t notice the tumor really until the caretaker tells him about it as they smoke cigarettes and drink together. This would later backfire by being seen as a monstrous act within the courtroom where Meursault was tried for shooting the Arab multiple times after he was dead and not the fact that he had killed him. “I didn’t understand, so I looked over at the nurse and saw that she had a bandage wrapped around her head just below the eyes, Where her nose should have been, the bandage was flat. All you could see in her face was the whiteness of the bandage” (Camus, 7) is how Meursault had described what the nurse had looked like with various foreshadowing things within. Meursault at first didn’t understand what the abscess had to do with the nurse and then realized she had a bandage. Like how Meursault didn’t understand why he was in jail and then realized at the end when it was too late why.

The Arabs within the story bring about the idea of the time Camus was in as well with the Algerian Revolution The Algerian Revolution started when the Nazis invaded France and then Algeria, making the Algerians members of the Nazi concentration camps or killed off until 1942 (which was the year of The Stranger’s Publishing). When the Allies gained back Algeria, the country dearly wanted its independence, leading to a bloody massacre with the Algerian people and government. Camus was against war but he saw the economy was falling in Algeria and how the French mistreated the Algerians socially, The Pied-noirs, who are people that were also treated as a second class to the French and depended on the French to keep the colony so there are more jobs for them instead of Arabs (who were cheaper to hire during that time) To show this Camus made Meursault a Pied-noir in the beginning to give the reader a look into the Pied»noir lifestyle Many people of that time believed in the French-Algerian myths from Meursault’s social class in between the gigantic Algerian and French dominance fight.

One of the myths was how all French- Algerians were pagans that worshiped the devil and practiced witchcraft. Meursault portrayed this when he said “ What difference could they make to me, the deaths of others, or a mother’s love, or his God; or the way a man decides to live, the fate he thinks he chooses, since one and the same fate was bound to “choose“ not only me but thousands of millions of privileged people who, like him, called themselves my brothers.” (Camus, 1517152) and basically implied that God was not real because we all have the same fate so this became a main “paganistic” theme in the book as well as how Meursault actually became angry with the priest offering him salvation that the jailers had to pry the priest from Meursault‘s grip, However, Camus also presents Meursault as a Christ figure at the same time by condemning him to death for his beliefs and in trying to help other people, and that in turn showed that Pied-noirs really meant well in what they did.

Another myth is that the French had used to describe the Algerians in turn was that they were sexual permiscuise due to their non—conformism. In The Stranger, Camus gives this idea through the courtship of Marie and Meursault Camus made Marie this main sexual figure in the book because she seemed to want to be in a relationship so much that she gave up “purity“ to a man who had no emotion to love her back. This made Meursault and Marie’s relationship tainted with impurity which was unacceptable to the french during this time, But while creating this relationship that was impure, Camus showed Marie as a desperate woman to make her more justified in being impure when Meursault said love “doesn’t mean anything”(Camus,3S) when Marie was asking him to marry her.

However this justification was never brought up to the people around Marie just as Meursault‘s actions were never justified by Meursault in the courtroom. The courtroom was the main existential theme in the book besides Meursault himself. It was significant from the fact that it shows the themes of absurdism and existentialism that Camus was influenced by at the time, The judge and lawyers inadvertently accused Meursault of being a killer based on his actions about his mother’s death rather than the actual murder itself to the Arab.

Therefore the trial of which he was put through seemed unjust and peculiar making Meursault think about the question “I‘d been right, I was still right, I was always right. I‘d passed my life In a certain way, and I might have passed it in a different way, if I‘d felt like it I’d acted thus, and I hadn’t acted otherwise; I hadn’t done x, whereas I had done y or 2. And what did that mean?” (Camus, 151). Which meant what difference did it make if he cried at his mother‘s funeral or not to justify him murdering someone and gave him pessimism in his trust in others like how the Algerians and Pied-noirs felt about the French during the time when they were put on trialr The murder of the Arab is intriguing by its nature and how it is presented when he is put on trial because he shoots the Arab six times which should be tried for instead of his mother‘s funeral, “Then everything began to reel before my eyes, a fiery gust came from the sea, while the sky cracked in two, from end to end, and a great sheet of flame poured down through the rift. Every nerve in my body was a steel spring, and my grip closed on the revolver, He trigger gave, and the smooth underbelly of the buttjogged in my palm, And so, with that crisp, whipcrack sound, it all began. I shook off my sweat and the clinging veil of light.

I knew I‘d shattered the balance of the day, the spacious calm of this beach on which I had been happy. But I fired four shots more into the inert body, on which they left no visible trace. And each successive shot was another loud, fateful rap on the door of my undoing” (Camus, 76) was how the murder actually occurred and in the courtroom the life he took was almost meaningless just because he killed an Arab man. The Arab being a criminal was never even taken into account when Meursault was on trial showing how much an Arabic and Pied- noir life meant to the French people of that time. On May 8, 1945 after the book was published, the French even killed civilian Arabs with no weapons just because they were protesting.

Later this became known as the Setif Massacre, The Setif Massacre like the book brings the question of what life is more valuable than another life? As well as what is the meaning of a meaningless world? This was from Camus era being full of racism and genocide in the fight for freedom as well as new thoughts in existentialism and absurdism arising from the crevice of French oppressionr Camus’ character brought the revolutionary ideas of how moral decline occurs and in turn showed the era struggles Camus was faced with in the story of The Stranger.

Works Cited

  1. Eastern Graduate School. “Albert Camus – Biography” Albert Camus. Eastern Graduate School, n,d, Web. 3 Dec 2013 l “ALLIES IN ALGIERS-NOVEMBER 1942- British Pathé,” Horne-British Pathé, N.p.,n.d. Web 6 Jan. 2013. .
  2. “BBC – Religion: Paganism,” BBC- Homepage N.p.,n.d. Web, 6 Jan 2013, . “Literary Movements and Periods.” Sparknotes. Nlplndl Web 6 Jan 2013 “US Army Campaigns of World War II Series/Algeria-French Morocco.” Wikisource. N.p., 21 June 2009‘ Web 6 Jan, 2013, l “Camus,Albert. The Stranger. New York: Vintage, 1942. Print.
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An Analysis of Mersault's Moral Decline in The Stranger. (2022, Jul 05). Retrieved from