Sunday, April 26, 2009


In ‘The Outsider’, Meursault’s character is understood through events and relationships with the people around him. The protagonist of this story, Meursault, is the outsider, because his behavior is abnormal or different from the rest of the society.

We split these aspects of his life into parts to understand Meursault’s character better:



In ‘The Outsider’, we begin to understand Meursault’s character through the relationships he has with the people around him.

One of Meursault’s neighbors, Salamano, is first mentioned in chapter three when Meursault sees him beating his dog. From here, we learn that Meursault likes to observe people, but there is no sign of judging. Salamano once again appears in the next chapter when his dog goes missing. Meursault tells him to check the pound. This seems like kind words coming out of Meursault’s mouth, but he simply says this because it seems logical to check the pound.

Meursault also becomes closer to his other neighbor, Raymond. He likes to listen to Raymond, just because he has nothing better to do, and because Meursault finds Raymond’s stories interesting. In chapter three, when Meursault and Raymond are having some wine at the latter’s place, Meursault ends up writing a letter for Raymond. We can get a feeling that Meursault is a bit of a pushover, After writing the letter, Raymond claims that they’re now ‘mates’, and Meursault doesn’t mind that. Although Meursault is actually indifferent, he prefers to satisfy people rather than disappoint.

Marie is first introduced to the reader in chapter two of part one. In chapter four, Meursault narrates that he “really fancied her because she was wearing a pretty red and white striped dress and leather sandals. You could see the shape of her firm breasts and her suntanned face was like a flower.” Meursault certainly finds Marie attractive, but there is an emotional detachment in his feelings for her. This relationship revolves purely around sex and physical pleasure. The coldness and the lack of emotion towards Marie are described well on page 24: “She had her leg against mine, and I was fondling her breasts. Towards the end of the show I kissed her, but badly. Afterwards she came back to my place.” Meursault simply lists a chronology of events, and does not mention any emotion towards her. Through these descriptions of Marie, he appears indifferent. At the end of the novel he assumes Marie was either ill, dead, or has moved on to ‘a new Meursault’; it didn’t matter at all to him. When Marie asked him if they should get married, Meursault doesn’t mind, but they “could if she wanted to.” To Meursault, being married or not made no difference to him. He also states that he probably would have accepted the same proposal if it had come from another woman.



Meursault’s reaction towards his mother’s death is not a usual reaction you might express from most people. He is cold, distanced from the people around, and gives an impression that he doesn’t care about his own mother’s death.

At the funeral (direct reaction)

Since Meursault had to go to the funeral, he had to be absent from the work for two days. His boss wasn’t happy about it, so Meursault says, “It’s not my fault (p. 9) ” It gives an impression that the funeral is just becoming an “excuse” of being absent in work, than seeing his mother feeling grief for her and being emotional for her death. It shows that Meurasult is a cold character, and also shows that he is the character who doesn’t like to take blame, or feels blamed. He justifies himself a lot thought the novel.

Meursault refused to see his mother’s face at the funeral. When the caretaker asked him why not, he answered, “I don’t know. (p. 12)” because he didn't want to get the actual feeling of lost, and also trying to avoid being emotional.

Meursault also smoked at the funeral. He hesitates a little bit because he thought that he shouldn’t smoke in front of his mother. However soon after he said, “I thought it over, it really didn’t matter (p. 14)” and started to smoke. Meursault thought that “It didn’t matter” because his mother was dead, and this shows how he lacked grief and respect towards the death.

Meursault reflected the day of the funeral at the end of the chapter, “seemed so inevitable and natural that I don't remember any of it any more. (p. 22)” It gives a feeling that the funeral and his mother’s death didn’t affect Meurasault, because he spent his weekend like any of his other weekends, which is shown in the next chapter: “after all, nothing had changed. (p. 28)”, meaning that his mother’s death made no difference to his normal life.

At the police (how he talked about it later on)

Meursault gets arrested in Part 2 because he murdered an Arab. His Lawyer asks him about his unusual behavior at the funeral and asks him if he felt any grief at the funeral. Meursault answered, “I probably loved mother quite a lot, but that didn’t mean anything (p. 65)”. Like his response to Marie, he doesn’t really think love is good enough reason for doing something such as marrying and crying at the funeral. “I’d rather mother hadn’t died. (p. 65) ” His response is very calm, giving an impression that he is telling the truth, however he is lacking emotion.

Meursault is a cold character, however he seems to be a really honest man. He answered, “To a certain extent all normal people sometimes wished their loved ones were dead. (p. 65)” to the Lawyer’s question, which is quite odd to say this when you are arrested and talking to the lawyer who is trying to commute your sentence. Also the lawyer asked him if he could say that he’d controlled my natural feeling at the funeral. However, Meursault said “No, because it’s no true (p. 65)” shows that he values honesty than being declared not guilty. He didn’t really care about his reputation, and didn’t care about hiding his lack of emotion by crying at the funeral untruthfully.

Magistrate asked him if he loved his mother, and Meursault answered, “Yes, like everyone else. (p. 67)” He is quite an odd man, however he tries to be a normal person, just like everyone else.



Meursault keeps on observing what is going on around him. He is not panicking, and it seems like he is not that worried about him. He says, “I thought my case was very simple. (p. 63)” shows that he is calm, and quite objective about what he’d done. Examining magistrate told him how the law worked, but Meursault thought “At first I didn’t take him seriously (p. 64)” shows that he is not that interested in laws.

Talking with Lawyer

When Meursault meets his lawyer, he was about to shake his hand, but he decided not to, “but I remembered just in time that I’d killed a man. (p. 64)” shows that he is feeling guilty about what he’d done. He felt faith towards this Lawyer, and Meursault thanked him, showing that he is polite and respects him.

However after questioning about Meursault’s mother’s death, Lawyer was angry because he wasn’t pleased with Meursault’s answer. Meursault didn’t want that, but soon he said “But it was all really a bit pointless and I couldn’t be bothered. (p.66)” He didn’t really care about what lawyer thought about him.

Talking with magistrate

Magistrate tells him that God will forgive him if he believes God. However Meursault thought, “I realized at the same time that his was ridiculous after all, I was the criminal. ”  He felt meaningless being forgiven by someone or god, because he killed someone and admits that it is bad thing to do.



In chapter five of part two, Meursault gets moved to a new cell, where he does a lot of thinking. He suddenly remembers the only thing his mom had told him about his dad – that his dad had once gone to see a murderer being executed. His dad coming home and feeling nauseated disgusted him at first, but now Meursault understands it was completely natural. Now he realizes that executions “were the only thing a man could really be interested in! If I ever got out of prison, I’d go and watch all the executions there were.”  He then realizes that he is being irrational because he knew that he was not getting out of prison to see an execution.

We also learn that Meursault doesn’t mind dying. No matter when you die, even if it’s twenty years later, you’re going to die eventually. In fact, the thought of having to live for another twenty years scared Meursault.  However, when the chaplain came to talk to Meursault about believing in God, but Meursault has no interest. It doesn’t matter to Meursault whether he dies now or years later. He will face death in the belief that he will die outright, and he didn’t want to waste the last minutes of his life listening about someone he didn’t believe in.

Meursault is sure of himself, sure of everything, sure of his life, sure of the death that was imminent. This was his truth – that he’d been right, is right, and was always right. To Meursault, nothing mattered, and to him, everyone was condemned no matter how they lived their lives. He is satisfied with this life, and he doesn’t regret anything he’s done.



  1. Haha! Yes!
    This is a great analysis of Meursault and his character. My first draft is due in a couple weeks, and I am focusing on the theme of 'outsiders' between Grenouille and Meursault.

  2. I've gotta say you did a good job on this! I was freaking out because I believe I'll be asked to do the same and I have NO idea what IB is like (I start on Nov. 7th), but it doesn't seem so bad! So thank you, haha.


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