The story of Meursault is a story of a man trapped in a world that operates by rules he either doesn’t comprehend or doesn’t want to comprehend. The reader, like the other players in the story is always left a little unsure of which it isThe story starts with the death of his mother in a distant nursing home. Meursault explains why his mother is in a nursing home, ‘When she was at home’ He tells us, ‘Mother used to spend all her time just watching me in silence.’ He describes how she cried for the first few days at the home, but would have cried after a month if he’d taken her back. He uses this to explain why he hasn’t been to see her in the last year before her death and without pausing adds, ‘Also because it mean giving up my Sunday…going to the bus stop, buying tickets and spending two hours travelling’. Meursault begins to emerge as a strange character with an indifferent perspective on the world.On the base of this introduction we follow Meursault through the rest of his short life. The next day he takes a girl he’s liked for a while to the beach, romances her and sleeps with her. Then he meets his neighbour, Raymond. ‘He used to beat her (his girlfriend) till she bled’ he tells us and then explains how the girl has left him for someone else and how he has agreed to help the man ‘punish’ her. In the style of the story, he then quietly talks about his dinner. The narrative is detached and unnerving, but still continuous. It leaves the reader uncomfortable. A friendship seems to develop between Raymond and Meursault. Raymond obviously notices it although Meursault just goes with the flow. Raymond invites him to a guest house for the weekend and Meursault takes the girl from the beach.
But in the glaring Algiers sunshine the story becomes even more distorted and unhinged. Meursault is part of a mild disagreement with a group of Arabs on the beach. Then when you think it’s over and he’s walked away, he turns back into the blinding sun light and stabs one of the Arabs to death, apparently for no reason. What follows is an analysis of his metal state by his lawyer and the judge and an attempt by the clergy to get him to repent his sins. His behaviour after his mother’s death is analysed, the lawyer wants to say her death affected him emotionally, but Meursault won’t let him because he says ‘it is not true.’ The judge even tries to steer him towards a lesser sentence but everything is black and white to Meursault and he refuses to concede. Towards the end of the book, when it become evident that he will be put to death, the reader can’t help siding with Meursault and his stubborn refusal to conform. He then thinks of his mother, who apparently also knew she was going to die. He tells us he feels happy about the certainty of his death and feels his mother must have felt the same way. He leaves us with a sense of peace and the notion that it is the world around him that is skewed not Meursault.