The Stranger

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Heat Symbol Icon
Heat symbolizes the indifference of the universe towards human life. The sun's blazing intensity without regard for bodily comfort or peace of mind stands for the general disregard the natural world has for humanity. Thus, human life is essentially meaningless and no higher or deeper order should be looked for. The most uncomfortably hot moments in the narrative are also the moments at which the meaninglessness of human life is brought into greatest relief. They literally make Meursault dizzy, a dizziness that is both physical and psychological. Meursault encounters dizzying heat on the day of his mother's funeral as well as on the day he shoots the Arab (he himself links these two days by comparing their heat.) Likewise, the heat in the courtroom renders Meursault dizzy during the prosecutor's damning speech in which he creates false meanings for Meursault's actions and claims Meursault is guilty of parricide. Meursault is unable to say anything in response but that the murder was meaningless, without personal motive, a truth the court will not accept.
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Heat Symbol Timeline in The Stranger

The timeline below shows where the symbol Heat appears in The Stranger. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Book 1, Chapter 1
Indifference and Passivity Theme Icon
Relationships Theme Icon
...that dead bodies must be buried much more quickly than in Paris because of the heat. The caretaker's wife shushes him but Meursault does not understand why, thinking the comment "made... (full context)
Importance of Physical Experience Theme Icon
...everyone sweats miserably in their black formal clothes. Pérez cannot keep up. Meursault's head pounds. Heat makes the landscape "shimmer." (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 6
Importance of Physical Experience Theme Icon
...wine-heavy lunch, Meursault, Raymond, and Masson take a walk on the beach. In the midday heat, "the glare on the water was unbearable." Meursault reflects, "I wasn't thinking about anything, because... (full context)
Meaninglessness of Life and the Absurd Theme Icon
Chance and Interchangeability Theme Icon
Indifference and Passivity Theme Icon
Importance of Physical Experience Theme Icon
...bungalow. Meursault, though, stands at the base of the steps, head ringing in the intense heat, and feels "unable to face the effort" of climbing up and seeing the women again.... (full context)
Meaninglessness of Life and the Absurd Theme Icon
Chance and Interchangeability Theme Icon
Indifference and Passivity Theme Icon
Importance of Physical Experience Theme Icon
...first walk and thinks, "for two hours the day had stood still." He likens the heat to the heat on the day of his mother's funeral and reflects that "it was... (full context)
Meaninglessness of Life and the Absurd Theme Icon
Chance and Interchangeability Theme Icon
Indifference and Passivity Theme Icon
Importance of Physical Experience Theme Icon
...reflects off it in a "dazzling spear…[that] stabbed at my stinging eyes." Reeling in the heat, Meursault "squeezed" the revolver and "the trigger gave." He reflects, that that "is where it... (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 4
Meaninglessness of Life and the Absurd Theme Icon
Chance and Interchangeability Theme Icon
Indifference and Passivity Theme Icon
Importance of Physical Experience Theme Icon
Given a chance to add onto the prosecutor's speech, Meursault, dizzy in the heat, claims he'd "never intended to kill the Arab," then blunders on, saying he did it... (full context)