Soon after L’Etranger was first published in 1942 it became a major success and it is now regarded as a twentieth-century classic. Since then numerous attempts have been made to analyse the fascinating but unsettling story of the main character, Meursault, in order to find explanations for his motives and actions. This essay will try to demonstrate that there are three main parts in this diary-style novel, in which death plays a key role. Beginning with the moment when carefree and indifferent Meursault learns about the death of his mother, followed by the fateful day when he kills the Arab, and eventually leading to his growing awareness and passion for life through confrontation of his oncoming execution.
The outgoing-point of the novel, a telegram informing Meursault that his mother has passed away and his following, seemingly impassive and curious behaviour at her funeral may lead some readers to think of Meursault as a cold, almost sociopathic person who does not seem to have any social skills or deeper feelings. Nevertheless, on closer inspection, it appears that although in a limited way, Meursault is aware of the world around him, Champigny compares his behaviour to that of a child. For Meursault, past and future are insignificant, all that matters is the present, and so he lives a day at a time. He proves to be able to sense that, in certain situations, he behaves in a manner that differs from the way that society would expect him to behave. Most notably when he refuses to see his mother’s body stating: “[…] j’étais gene parce que je sentais que je n’aurais pas dû dire cela.”, or, when talking to Marie about his mother’s death: “ J’ai eu envie de lui dire que ce n’était pas de ma faute, mais je me suis arrêté parce que j’ai pensé que je l’avais déjà dit à mon patron.” However, he does not seem to know why he feels to have said or done something wrong. For Meursault going swimming and starting a sexual relationship the day after the funeral of his mother is an entirely natural thing to do, as in his opinion his mother’s death lies in the past and is therefore a closed case . Thus Champigny views Meursault as someone who knows that he is seen as a responsible person; but does not feel responsible because he looks at things from an objective angle.
 Champigny, 1969:21.
 Camus, 1957:01 and 32.
 Champigny, 1969:23.
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- Nia Verdenhalven (Author), 2007, Trace the evolution of the hero in L'Etranger, giving a clear picture of both starting-point and stages of his awareness, and of how they lead to his final declaration. , Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/71139