Essay on Camus' The Stranger (The Outsider): Conformity

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Conformity in Camus' The Stranger (The Outsider) 

Camus' novel The Stranger presents the character of Meursault who, after killing an Arab, is sentenced to death. This conflict portrays the stark contrast between the morals of society and Meursault's evident lack of them; he is condemned to death, less for the Arab's murder, than for refusing to conform to society's standards.

Meursault is an anomaly in society; he cannot relate directly to others because he does not live as they do. Meursault is simplistic, even detached; he speaks of his mother's death without regret for her loss, merely stating: "Maman died today." He goes on to mention that perhaps it was yesterday - he is not sure which. He cannot abide by the same moral
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No matter what he does, Meursault sees the outcome as inevitable, and invariable. He cannot perceive any right or wrong in killing the Arab. The action in itself was spurred not out of a deep-seated hatred for the man but, as Meursault reveals at the trial, "because of the sun."

The sun at the beach, similar to the sun at his mother's funeral, was beating down on him. Sweat trickled down his face, the scene began to reel as his vision blurred. The sun represents to Meursault emotions, which he cannot deal with. Likewise, he cannot deal with the intense heat, the light reflected off the Arab's knife which seems to stab at him. Meursault's finely-tuned senses are being overwhelmed, and the only way to handle the situation is to end it - so he fires the gun. We see the Arab sinking into the sand, as four more bullets lodge inside and disappear. The spell is broken.

The death of the Arab in itself is not crucial to Meursault's fate. Around that time period in Algiers, Arabs were almost easily dispensed with - they were not high society. Meursault's true undoing comes from his lack of emotion. At the beginning of the novel, Meursault sits at his mother's funeral, quietly picking up the most minute details of the scene: wrinkles on the old men's faces, the way the women's stomachs seemed to bulge out from under their apron strings. Yet their eyes remained a glimmer amid all the wrinkles. Here Meursault was captivated by his mother's friends- their difference sparks his