Soon after that, my boss sent for me and for a moment I was annoyed because I thought he was going to tell me to do a bit less phoning and a bit more work. But that wasn't it at all. He announced that he wanted to talk to me about a project he was vaguely considering. He just wanted to hear what I thought of the idea. He intended to set up an office in Paris to handle that side of the business on the spot by dealing directly with the big companies and he wanted to know if I was prepared to go over there. I'd be able to live in Paris and travel around for part of the year as well. 'You're a young man, and I imagine that sort of life must appeal to you.' I said yes but really I didn't mind. He then asked me if I wasn't interested in changing my life. I replied that you could never change your life, that in any case one life was as good as another and that I wasn't at all dissatisfied with mine here. He looked upset and told me that I always evaded the question and that I had no ambition, which was disastrous in the business world. So I went back to work. I'd rather not have upset him, but I couldn't see any reason for changing my life. Come to think of it, I wasn't unhappy. When I was a student, I had plenty of that sort of ambition. But when I had to give up my studies, I very soon realized that none of it really mattered.
That evening, Marie came around to me and asked me if I wanted to marry her. I said I didn't mind and we could do if she wanted to. She then wanted to know if I loved her. I replied as I had done once already, that it didn't mean anything but that I probably didn't. 'Why marry me then?' she said. I explained to her that it really didn't matter and that if she wanted to, we could get married. Anyway, she was the one who was asking me and I was simply saying yes. She then remarked that marriage was a serious matter. I said, 'No.' She didn't say anything for a moment and looked at me in silence. Then she spoke. She just wanted to know if I'd have accepted the same proposal it it had come from another woman, with whom I had a similar relationship. I said, 'Naturally.' She then said she wondered if she loved me and well, I had no idea about that. After another moment's silence, she mumbled that I was peculiar, that that was probably why she loved me but that one day I might disgust her for the very same reason. (p.44-45)
And from the afterword by Camus:
A long time ago, I summed up The Outsider in a sentence which I realize is extremely paradoxical: 'In our society any man who doesn't cry at his mother's funeral is liable to be condemned to death.' I simply meant that the hero of the book is condemned because he doesn't play the game. In this sense, he is an outsider to the society in which he lives, wandering on the fringe, on the outskirts of life, solitary and sensual.
In many ways the story is a mini 'Crime and Punishment' being the story of a young man, who commits a murder, and then is punished for it. But unlike Dostoevsky's protagonist, who spends much of the time punishing himself through the torment of guilt, Camus' Meursault is an altogether more indifferent hero. He is both Christ and Antichrist, which is fitting given his indifference to life. And he seems a perfect illustration of what I was trying to get at with my last post on psychopaths. Meursault is in no-way deranged - in fact far from it. Most of the other characters seem far less sane than he. Nor are we to suppose that he is in some way deficient. A broken tin-man he is not.
He just doesn't have the rose-tinted spectacles that others have, and so he flits from boredom to mild intrigue, not regretting his actions, so much as annoyed by the consequences. In the end he goes to the guillotine not unhappy - and somewhat comforted that his indifference in life is reflected by life's' indifference towards him. At least he finds it mildly amusing.
Perhaps my own problem with 'The Outsider' and 'Crime and Punishment' is that they bring it on themselves - man can be filled with existential angst and not partake in murder.Go Top