I’ve broken my streak of giving up on French classics!
This was a short, and somewhat disturbing read. The story opens with the character, Meursault, stating that his mother has died, though he’s not exactly sure when, and then describes her funeral.
We soon find that the Meursault does not seem to have any emotional connection to anything that is happening around him. He does not cry at his mother’s funeral, or seem to feel much at all about it.
The only thing that seems to get much of a reaction out of Meursault at all is the heat. He feels more about the heat while walking during the funeral procession, than he does his mother’s death.
As the story progresses, Meursault ends up helping a friend, Raymond, exact a pretty gross revenge on his lover. He does this without really thinking about it, and only on his second time meeting Raymond.
This cruel revenge leads the lovers brother to attack Raymond at the beach where they are vacationing. Meursault is present for the altercation, but doesn’t seem to feel or care much about it, except that he doesn’t want to be around the women (Meursault’s girlfriend and another guest) who are very upset by the incident. Here too, the heat is the only thing that phases him. The hot sun reflecting off the water and burning and oppressing him makes it hard for him to think. But he’d rather be outside in the sun, than inside with the upset women, so he goes for a walk out in the sun, which leads eventually to his predicament.
He finds, that in blind delirium brought on by the sun, he’s shot the man Raymond was feuding with.
The novel then continues with his arrest and sentencing, and time in prison. During all of it, the only thing that that seems to illicit any kind of reaction from him, is when the courtroom is over hot.
The end of this book, and Meursault’s thoughts on the inevitability of death had a anxious, upsetting affect on me, and I found myself connecting with this empty character in several ways. Mainly, his fear not of death itself, but his frustration with the inevitability of it, the lack of hope or means of escape.
There were many parallels to Crime and Punishment in this story, but unlike Roskolnikov, whose paranoia and guilt and nervousness lead to his capture, it is exactly the opposite for Meursault–his coolness and emotionless reaction to everything and everyone around him are his demise.
Very interesting, and somewhat upsetting read.