The passage I am going to discuss from Albert Camus’ “L’Etranger” is very significant in the book for a number of reasons. The passage comes at the point in the book in which we are nearing the end of Meursault’s trial for the murder of a man. Within the section I am going to discuss, Meursault’s unique character traits are highlighted: (The fact that he behaves and thinks differently from others around him and does not act in a conventional way as one might expect. ) I am going to discuss how Meursault’s nature forces him to play the role of the victim in the courtroom.
I will also discuss Meursault’s emotional detachment from the case and his greater concern for his physical well-being. The passage is largely a grim and negative description of what happened towards the end of Meursault’s trial. He reflects on things other than the trial to begin with, which lets the reader know that his mind is wandering. He is bored. The first few lines of the passage reflect the tedious and lethargic feelings Meursault has with regards to his case. It is interesting to note that ‘A la fin’ to ‘jusqu’a moi’ is one long sentence with little punctuation.
Camus uses this technique to highlight the monotonous ambience. The word ‘continuait’ also emphasises this. In addition, the passage includes much pessimistic and negative vocabulary such as “les pauvres”, “les tenaces” and “assailli”, which reflect the mood at the time. However, we know that the opinions expressed are solely Meursault’s and no one else’s due to the fact that L’etranger is narrated throughout by Meursault himself. This differs from traditional methods in which there is usually an omniscient narrator.
The narration makes the passage especially interesting due to the fact that Meursault is a thinker. He is sceptical and often reflects on life in an existential manner. In this particular passage Meursault speaks of “le remords eternal”, which is to be his punishment for what he has done. He is also portrayed as melodramatic when he says ‘je sentais mon coeur ferme’. In addition to the factors I have aforementioned, Meursault has another trait which makes him different from the other characters in the book.
– Heat and light have a strange influence on him and are therefore important motifs in L’etranger. His physical state is more important to him than his emotions and he is only truly affected by things that he can physically feel, such as temperature. It is to be expected that during a trial one would feel frightened or anxious, but Meursault does not seem to be affected emotionally. He simply describes to the reader that, “le chaleur i?? tait moins forte. ” Following on from the previous point, I am going to discuss how Meursault is portrayed as a disinterested spectator.
This is obviously most unusual considering that, for Meursault, whether he wins his case or not will determine his fate. He does not seem to acknowledge this fact in the passage and allows his thoughts to wander to other things. For example, when he says “Aux quelques bruits de rue que j’entendais, je devinais la douceur du soir,” he is thinking about the climatic situation outside rather than paying attention to what is going on in the courtroom. At one point he also states, “J’ai encore regardi??
la salle,” which gives the impression that he has not been looking at, or paying attention to the room and what is going on in it for a length of time. In addition to his lack of interest in the courtroom activities, there is also a lack of speech on Meursault’s part. People speak to him and at one point he replies (“J’ai acquiesce”) though it should be noted that this reply is not in direct speech. The lack of direct contact with Mersault isolates him from the other characters.
He is more a spectator than a participant which is ironic since the case would not exist had it not been for his actions. In the last sentence of the passage Meursault states: “Je n’ai mi?? me pas pu ri?? pondre i?? son sourire,” making clear that at this point in time, he is not willing to make any contact with another. As a result, Meursault separates himself from the rest of the courtroom, though at the same time, brings himself closer to the reader. The fact that he is separated allows the reader to feel sympathy towards him and obligingly listen to what he has to say.
Listening to Meursault’s reflections, it is clear that he is an intelligent spectator. He reflects critically on the events that take place around him: “Tout i?? tait dans le meme i?? tat que le premier jour. ” Evidently, no one else has taken note that a substantial amount has not changed since the first day of the hearing. Camus presents Meursault as intellectually superior to the lawyers the jury and the ‘audience’. He is disinterested and bored and notices things that they do not.