The Outsider, by Albert Camus, shows the reader how the world is seen by a pure existentialist, a person that can only be sure of his own existence and that, in this case, doesn’t have any belief for moral concepts. Meursault, the main character in the novel, is totally honest about his feelings and only believes in what he can actually see and touch. So for a person like this, faith is impossible. Due to Meursault being an existentialist, in certain situations that involve moral concepts and societal conventions, he is seen as an ‘outsider’, because he doesn’t react the way one is expected to react in a modern society.
His lack of feelings, belief in moral concepts and being indifferent to society later leads him to problems and eventually death. It is discussable, that Camus uses this book to criticize modern society. The society in the novel is the same we have today, so there are certain actions that we expect every person to do in specific situations. But if a person doesn’t do the expected action during the appropriate situation, that person is seen as an ‘outsider’.
In the beginning of the novel, when Meursault finds out about his mothers death and goes to visit her corpse, we have the first example of a situation like this. “I offered the caretaker a cigarette and we smoked. ” This shows how Meursault has no respect for any kind of societal conventions; a person smoking in front of the corpse of their dead mother is something very anti-social. In front of a corpse, one is supposed to lower their voice or stop talking, view the corpse and commiserate. The character doesn’t perform any of these actions and of course is from then on not seen as ‘normal’.
This also gets proved later in the book, when Meursault goes to court for killing the Arab. During his trial, they mention how he reacted in front of his mother’s corpse and took it into account with the killing of the Arab. They try him more on what kind of a person he is, instead of trying him on the actual crime he committed. “He announced that I had no place in a society whose most fundamental rules I ignored, nor could I make an appeal to the heart when I knew nothing of the most basic human reactions.
” With this sentence one can realize how much people are judged through their actions that are related to society. With these two examples, Albert Camus criticizes the way a person must adapt to society to be accepted. And in the case of Meursault, if you don’t do what is expected, you get excluded and even punished from society. Using an existentialist gives another point of view to the reader. Seeing society through the eyes of Meursault is a way that no one would see it. This is because we are used to being in a society, and everything is normal to us.
But if Meursault just shows his real feelings and gets excluded, one can for the first time realize, that our society is built up in a way where one has to follow to be ‘normal’. If you don’t follow, you’re an outsider to society. Through this book it is noticeable how one couldn’t survive in our society if one is an existentialist. Camus also used this book as an experiment, to see how an extreme existentialist would survive, but it also was used to criticize society. He makes his criteria evident with the examples above.