Mersault the Stranger: Brother of the Benignly Indifferent Universe

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Mersault, the protagonist of Camus's The Stranger is different from other people, individual and unique, from the very beginning of the novel. Others see this more clearly than he does, but Mersault realizes the full extent of his alienation from his fellow men at the end of the novel and towards the end of his life.


To reinforce this feeling, to underscore his existence as the sole human brother of the universe, he yearns for final and total alienation from his fellows. It is in this spirit that he wishes for a crowd of onlookers thronging to witness his execution. Such a crowd, he feels, would proclaim his uniqueness and the essence of his individual existence even in death, through their "howls of execration" (121).
It is possible to trace the development of Mersault's existential awareness from the beginning of the novel. He is true to himself, always, but he comes to understand the uniqueness of his individual existence only as the events of the novel unfold. He is scrupulous in recording the truth, as can be seen in the opening words of the novel: "Mother died today. Or, maybe, yesterday; I can't be sure." The telegram that he received only mentions the fact of his mother's passing away, not the date. This can be construed to reveal what people may call his "callousness"-more probably; it only shows his desire to record nothing but the truth. When he asks his employer for two days leave, he imagines that the gentleman looked annoyed and he attempts to excuse himself with the words, "Sorry, sir, but it's not my fault, you know" (1). ...
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