Absurdity in The Outsider by Albert Camus

Absurdity in The Outsider Albert 

Q. Analyze Meursault’s behavior and thoughts as a portrayal of Camus’ Philosophy of Absurdity in novel The Outsider by Albert Camus.

Absurdism is a philosophy that argues life lacks inherent meaning. According to this view, people cannot find true value in life through rational or religious ways.

French philosopher and author Albert Camus developed and popularized this idea. He explained it in works like “The Myth of Sisyphus” and “The Stranger” (also known as “The Outsider”). Absurdism comes from the conflict between humans’ desire for meaning in life and the universe’s lack of it.

Meursault’s Behavior and Absurdism

In “The Outsider,” the protagonist Meursault represents Camus’s philosophy of absurdism. Meursault’s actions and thoughts demonstrate his indifference to society’s norms, which is central to absurdism.

This philosophy suggests that life has no inherent meaning, and only by accepting this can one achieve personal freedom.

Meursault is emotionally detached and brutally honest, often ignoring social rules. For example, he reacts unemotionally to his mother’s death.

Instead of showing expected grief, he focuses on how the event disrupts his routine. This reaction is not due to cruelty but indicates his acceptance of life’s lack of order and meaning.

Throughout the novel, Meursault is disconnected from the future. He focuses only on his sensory experiences and the present moment. His engagement with the physical world, rather than emotional or social ties, underscores the absurdity of searching for deeper meaning.

When he agrees to write a letter for Raymond or shoots the Arab, these actions are not based on moral beliefs. Instead, they arise from immediate physical experiences, such as the heat of the sun and the brightness of the beach.

Meursault’s emotional detachment is evident in his relationship with his mother. He places her in a nursing home and rarely visits her, showing a lack of traditional filial piety.

When she dies, his primary concern is the inconvenience her death causes him. This detachment is a hallmark of his acceptance of life’s inherent meaninglessness.

Meursault’s relationship with Marie is similarly detached. He enjoys her company and physical presence but does not attach deeper emotional significance to their relationship.

When she asks if he loves her, he responds truthfully that he does not but is willing to marry her if she wishes. This honesty, devoid of romantic illusion, exemplifies his absurdist outlook.

He sees love and marriage as societal constructs with no inherent meaning, thus treating them with indifference.

Social Relationships and the Absurd

Meursault’s interactions with other characters further illustrate his absurdist perspective. His relationship with Marie is based on physical attraction rather than emotional depth or future planning.

He enjoys her company but is honest about not loving her, saying he would marry her if she wanted. This challenges traditional views of love and marriage, presenting them as societal constructs without true meaning.

Similarly, his involvement in the conflict between Raymond and Raymond’s girlfriend is dictated not by a sense of justice or friendship but by the arbitrary nature of his acquaintance with Raymond.

Meursault’s decision to testify for Raymond during the police interrogation is based on the simple fact that Raymond asked him to, not because he believes in any moral stance regarding the situation.

This behavior underscores the absurd notion that life’s events are often random and unrelated to any larger moral or philosophical truths.

During his own trial for the murder of the Arab, the focus shifts from his guilt or innocence regarding the murder to his character and personal beliefs, particularly his reaction to his mother’s death.

The court is more interested in his emotional detachment and personal beliefs than in the specifics of the crime. This shift highlights the absurdity of society’s attempt to find rational explanations or deeper meaning where there might be none.

Acceptance of Absurdism

In the final sections of the novel, while awaiting execution, Meursault reflects on his situation and comes to a full acceptance of his absurd condition. He confronts the possibility of a meaningless universe and rejects the comforting idea of an afterlife, choosing instead to accept the indifferent nature of the world.

This acceptance is crystallized in his confrontation with the chaplain, where Meursault passionately argues against the existence of God and the idea of life having a predetermined meaning.

Meursault’s ultimate rejection of false consolation marks the climax of his acceptance of absurdism. He realizes that the only significant reality is the present moment and his own existence within it.

By accepting the absurd, he finds personal freedom, which is evident in his final thoughts where he welcomes the crowd’s hatred at his execution. This indicates his complete liberation from societal expectations and his embracing of the absurd freedom that comes from living without illusions.

In “The Outsider,” Meursault is a perfect example of Camus’s philosophy of absurdism. Through his behavior and thoughts, he shows how acceptance of life’s inherent meaninglessness can lead to personal freedom.

This portrayal challenges readers to consider the arbitrary nature of societal values and the freedom that might come from stepping beyond conventional moral boundaries.

Further Illustrations of Absurdism

Meursault’s absurdist outlook extends to his understanding of time and mortality. He lives in the present moment, indifferent to the future or past.

This focus on the now is evident in his actions and reactions throughout the novel. He does not plan for the future or dwell on past events, reflecting his belief that life’s events are random and unconnected.

The scene where Meursault kills the Arab is a turning point in the novel. The act is not premeditated; it occurs in a moment influenced by physical sensations like the sun’s heat and the glare.

This randomness and lack of deeper motivation exemplify the absurdity of life. Meursault’s subsequent trial, which focuses more on his character and beliefs than the actual crime, further highlights society’s futile attempt to impose meaning where there is none.

Meursault’s confrontation with the chaplain before his execution is another critical moment. The chaplain tries to offer religious comfort, speaking of God and an afterlife. Meursault rejects these ideas, insisting on the meaningless nature of existence.

His anger and passion in this scene contrast with his usual detachment, emphasizing his final acceptance of the absurd.

Meursault’s acceptance of his fate is complete when he faces execution. He finds peace in acknowledging that life has no inherent meaning and that death is the ultimate end.

This acceptance allows him to confront his execution without fear. His thoughts about the crowd’s hatred and the idea of reliving his life with the same indifference underline his complete embrace of absurdism.


Meursault’s character in “The Outsider” is a clear illustration of Camus’s philosophy of absurdism. His emotional detachment and focus on the present moment reflect the acceptance of life’s lack of inherent meaning.

His relationships and actions are guided by immediate physical experiences rather than traditional moral frameworks. Meursault’s trial and ultimate acceptance of his fate highlight the absurdity of seeking deeper meaning in a meaningless world.

Through Meursault, Camus invites readers to reconsider societal norms and the potential freedom that comes from embracing the absurd. The novel challenges us to confront the meaningless nature of existence and find personal freedom through acceptance.

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