The Stranger

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Themes and Colors
Meaninglessness of Life and the Absurd Theme Icon
Chance and Interchangeability Theme Icon
Indifference and Passivity Theme Icon
Importance of Physical Experience Theme Icon
Relationships Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Stranger, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Indifference and Passivity Theme Icon

The novel opens with Meursault's indifference at his mother's funeral and the consternation it provokes among the people around him. This dynamic recurs much more starkly at the trial, where the account of Meursault's "insensitivity" towards his mother's death proves to be what ultimately turns the jury against him. People's surprise and dismay at novel's start implied they were judging Meursault based on his indifferent attitude. The court scene in the second half of the novel makes those judgments explicit.

Meursault is equally indifferent towards Marie, who, of all the characters, shows him the most warmth. Although he is fond of her and enjoys her company, he is indifferent towards her essential being and is not in love with her as a unique individual. When Marie asks Meursault whether he wants to marry her: "I said it didn't make any difference to me and that we could if she wanted to. Then she wanted to know if I loved her. I answered the same way I had the last time, that it didn't mean anything but that I probably didn't love her…She just wanted to know if I would have accepted the same proposal from another woman, with whom I was involved in the same way. I said, 'Sure.'" In prison later on, he fantasizes about women without imagining Marie specifically. Conversely, when Marie stops writing, he is not at all disturbed to imagine she may have taken up with a new man or be dead.

Meursault's emotional indifference contributes to his general passivity. Lacking goals and desires of his own, Meursault rarely seems to care how events turn out and acts simply to satisfy his immediate physical needs, allowing his life to flow by as it will. His passive people-watching from the balcony in Chapter 2 provides a possible model for his life philosophy. He stands by and observes others without acting. Even the crucial act of his murder is described in passive terms: "the trigger gave." As the prosecutor elaborates, Meursault's passive indifference threatens society because it can't be assimilated into social life (a life premised on care for relationships, careers, friendships, family, etc.). Thus, Meursault himself is the primary "stranger" of the title – he is a stranger to the social fabric of his world.

Meursault begins and ends the novel in a state of indifference, yet his indifference at novel's end is achieved after enduring the grueling frustration he experiences in prison trying to outsmart "the machinery of justice." Where his indifference at novel's start seemed like numb apathy, his indifference at the end seems to be a kind of enlightenment. He embraces indifference as an active choice, opening himself to the indifference of the world itself. The English translations of the novel differ critically in their characterization of this larger indifference. The first translation by Stuart Gilbert translates, "I laid my heart open to the benign indifference of the universe," while the second by Joseph Laredo translates, "I laid my heart open to the gentle indifference of the universe." Matthew Ward's most recent translation reads, "I opened myself to the gentle indifference of the world." Still, despite their differences, each of these translations conveys the world's indifference as harmless, as something to embrace and be "happy" amidst, rather than something to despise and fear.

Indifference and Passivity ThemeTracker

The ThemeTracker below shows where, and to what degree, the theme of Indifference and Passivity appears in each chapter of The Stranger. Click or tap on any chapter to read its Summary & Analysis.
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Indifference and Passivity Quotes in The Stranger

Below you will find the important quotes in The Stranger related to the theme of Indifference and Passivity.
Book 1, Chapter 1 Quotes

For the first few days [Maman] was at the home she cried a lot. But that was because she wasn't used to it. A few months later and she would have cried if she'd been taken out. She was used to it. That's partly why I didn't go there much this past year. And also because it took up my Sunday – not to mention the trouble of getting to the bus, buying tickets, and spending two hours traveling.

Related Characters: Meursault (speaker), Madame Meursault
Page Number: 5
Explanation and Analysis:

As he meets with the director of the home where Meursault's mother lived until the end of her life, Meursault initially feels defensive about putting her in the home. Thanks in part to the director's reassurances, however, Meursault takes a different perspective. Not only does he consider that his mother grew accustomed to the home, but because ultimately it doesn't matter - for her, for him, to the world in general - where she lives. Meursault's attitude is thus a prime example of how he projects his own philosophy of existence onto others around him.

It is in Meursault's own interest, of course, to consider his mother's experience in such a way, since it was always so unpleasant for him to go visit her. Meursault is acutely sensitive to the physical, sensory experience of being in the world, which makes traveling especially unpleasant for him. Still, the way he coldly considers his mother's final months living underlines the indifferent attitude he takes towards relationships in general.

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Book 1, Chapter 2 Quotes

Once we were dressed, she seemed very surprised to see I was wearing a black tie and asked me if I was in mourning. I told her Maman had died. She wanted to know how long ago, so I said, "Yesterday." She gave a little start but didn't say anything. I felt like telling her it wasn't my fault, but I stopped myself because I remembered that I'd already said that to my boss. It didn't mean anything. Besides, you always feel a little guilty.

Related Characters: Meursault (speaker), Marie Cordona, Madame Meursault
Page Number: 20
Explanation and Analysis:

Meursault has happened to run into a woman he used to have a relationship with, on a day that happens to be the day after his mother died. For Meursault, that sequence means little if anything – his stance towards or interaction with life prevents him from assigning any significance to a particular sequence of events. Nor does his mother's death imply, for him, that he should act a certain way or inhibit himself in a certain way. The only way Meursault can think to make his mother's death signify something would be for it to have been "his fault" – an attitude that, of course, has everything to do with himself and nothing to do with Maman, or with his relationship with her. 

Meursault is moving through these days without seeming to make active choices at all – though it is, of course, a choice for him to spend time with Marie, the way he describes these events suggests that they take place of their own accord. Marie doesn't share Meursault's passive, absurdist relationship towards the world, so for her it is shocking for him to be acting romantically towards her when his mother has just died. Meursault's guilt, if it exists at all, seems to be related to this gap between Marie's expectations and his reality, more than it has to do with his own lack of grief at his mother's death.

Book 1, Chapter 4 Quotes

…[Marie] asked me if I loved her. I told her it didn't mean anything but that I didn't think so. She looked sad.

Related Characters: Meursault (speaker), Marie Cordona
Page Number: 35
Explanation and Analysis:

Meursault obviously is attracted to Marie, and he often finds her company pleasant. But for him, these elements don't come near to love – an emotion which itself, in his point of view, means nothing, since none of life's emotions can mean anything. On the one hand, then, Meursault's statement reflects his attitude towards life and towards the world. He can't imagine feeling anything that strongly, since he is too passive, and he doesn't even believe in such a strong feeling in the first place. 

In addition, however, Meursault is indifferent towards the feelings of others, in this case Marie, who may not share this same philosophy. Marie obviously does believe in love, and does want Meursault to love her. But Meursault refuses to reassure her or to try to explain himself, based on his absurdist attitude. Relationships for him are casual, transient unions that involve no responsibilities or commitments, especially ones that might make him say something he didn't believe.

Book 1, Chapter 5 Quotes

Then [my boss] asked me if I wasn't interested in a change of life. I said that people never change their lives, that in any case one life was as good as another and that I wasn't dissatisfied with mine here at all. He looked upset and told me that I never gave him a straight answer, that I had no ambition, and that that was disastrous in business. So I went back to work. I would rather not have upset him, but I couldn't see any reason to change my life. Looking back on it, I wasn't unhappy. When I was a student, I had lots of ambitions like that. But when I had to give up my studies I learned very quickly that none of it really mattered.

Related Characters: Meursault (speaker), The Boss
Page Number: 41
Explanation and Analysis:

Meursault's boss has given him the opportunity to transfer to Paris, but Meursault is entirely indifferent to this opportunity. The boss can't understand this: he believes that it is entirely natural to want to progress economically or socially, or even to make a change, to invite new experiences and to fulfill one's own, individual ambitions. Society is set up to value ambition and striving, and to reward those who succeed according to these values, but Meursault doesn't share any of them – making it difficult for Meursault's boss to understand him.

Meursault, in turn, not only doesn't want to make a life change: he doesn't believe that such shifts ever really change anything, since he might as well be in one place or another, doing one job or another. This attitude of indifference is not exactly the same thing as lacking ambition, which is the only way his boss can comprehend it. Rather, it is located outside society's entire framework of how one should live. Interestingly, this passage suggests that Meursault didn't always feel this way – he was ambitious once, as a student, like many others. It seems that it was a certain event in his life, having to give up his studies, that prompted him to consider life as meaningless and all choices as interchangeable.

That evening, Marie came by to see me and asked me if I wanted to marry her. I said it didn't make any difference to me and that we could if she wanted to. Then she wanted to know if I loved her. I answered the same way I had the last time, that it didn't mean anything but that I probably didn't love her. "So why marry me, then?" she said. I explained to her that it didn't really matter and that if she wanted to, we could get married. Besides, she was the one who was doing the asking and all I was saying was yes. Then she pointed out that marriage was a serious thing. I said, "No"...She just wanted to know if I would have accepted the same proposal from another woman, with whom I was involved in the same way. I said, "Sure."

Related Characters: Meursault (speaker), Marie Cordona (speaker)
Page Number: 41-42
Explanation and Analysis:

This passage is quite unlike a typical scene of a marriage proposal. Meursault comes across as cold, while Marie seems quietly distraught even as she is intent on figuring out exactly how Meursault feels about her. As a result of her questions, we learn that, once again, Meursault both doesn't love Marie and doesn't think love really exists, nor that it would be worth pursuing if it did. At the same time, he has no feelings against Marie – he does enjoy spending time with her – and with such a lack of animosity, he considers it perfectly acceptable for them to get married. While Marie considers marriage as an important step, as a declaration of love and commitment, Meursault thinks of it as an act of convenience, which doesn't mean anything one way or another, but which he'll take part in should Marie really want to. 

Meursault also shows great coldness in suggesting to Marie that she means nothing to him as a unique individual: she could be replaced with any woman at all, and he would feel the same way (even if the way he feels is indifferent and passive). While this interchangeability is part of Meursault's general belief in the inconsequential, random nature of events, its logical conclusion when applied to human beings proves difficult for Marie to bear.

Book 1, Chapter 6 Quotes

The sun was the same as it had been the day I'd buried Maman, and like then, my forehead especially was hurting me, all the veins in it throbbing under the skin. It was this burning, which I couldn't stand anymore, that made me move forward. I knew that it was stupid, that I wouldn't get the sun off me by stepping forward. But I took a step, one step, forward.

Related Characters: Meursault (speaker), Madame Meursault
Related Symbols: Heat, Glare (shimmer, glisten, dazzle)
Page Number: 58-59
Explanation and Analysis:

Usually, Meursault moves through life passively, as if taking step after step without his own volition, driven by nothing other than the vicissitudes of existence. Here, at least, there is one major source of his actions: the physically excruciating experience of heat and glare – the "burning" that propels him forwards, even though he knows it won't do anything. Meursault explicitly links this feeling of overwhelming heat to the day of Maman's funeral. In both cases, a scene that one could consider as important because of other people, because of interpersonal relationships, instead becomes a reminder of the overwhelming power of physical reality to bend humans to its will. 

It seemed to me as if the sky split open from one end to the other to rain down fire. My whole being tensed and I squeezed my hand around the revolver. The trigger gave; I felt the smooth underside of the butt; and there, in that noise, sharp and deafening at the same time, is where it all started. I shook off the sweat and the sun. I knew that I had shattered the harmony of the day, the exceptional silence of a beach where I'd been happy. Then I fired four more times at the motionless body where the bullets lodged without leaving a trace. And it was like knocking four quick times on the door of unhappiness.

Related Characters: Meursault (speaker)
Related Symbols: Glare (shimmer, glisten, dazzle)
Page Number: 59
Explanation and Analysis:

Even after reading this passage again and again, the reader may not have any better sense of why exactly Meursault kills the "Arab" on the beach. He doesn't feel threatened, nor does he seem to want to defend Raymond or the other women. Meursault's reasoning once again takes place outside the societal standards and norms by which we seek to understand and to judge human activity. All the more striking, then, that what we do have is a huge amount of concrete details and sensory description. Meursault is tense, sweaty, and hot, a feeling that he violently shakes off with the noise of the revolver's shot. 

Although we have no sense of why Meursault shoots, at least according to our own expectations of why people kill, Meursault does not at all claim that he was outside himself, unaware of what he was doing – indeed, it is precisely the opposite. He knows not only that he is committing murder, but also that he is shattering an idyllic moment – a change that he experiences, indeed, as a physical "knock." This tense, climactic moment seems to contradict Meursault's feeling that all life choices are indifferent and interchangeable, even if the man he shoots is indeed, in his eyes, random and interchangeable. Or else, perhaps, this is the extreme but logical conclusion of considering absolutely everything, even life and death, as ultimately interchangeable.

Book 2, Chapter 1 Quotes

The investigators had learned that I had "shown insensitivity" the day of Maman's funeral. "You understand," my lawyer said, "it's a little embarrassing for me to have to ask you this. But it's very important. And it will be a strong argument for the prosecution if I can't come up with some answers." He wanted me to help him. He asked if I had felt any sadness that day. The question caught me by surprise and it seemed to me that I would have been very embarrassed if I'd had to ask it. Nevertheless I answered that I had pretty much lost the habit of analyzing myself and that it was hard for me to tell him what he wanted to know. I probably did love Maman, but that didn't mean anything…I explained to him…that my nature was such that my physical needs often got in the way of my feelings.

Related Characters: Meursault (speaker), The Defense Lawyer (speaker), Madame Meursault
Page Number: 64-65
Explanation and Analysis:

While Meursault's lawyer seems committed to helping him in his defense against the prosecution, Meursault seems indifferent about these efforts. He also is surprised by the way in which the investigator brings up past events in the hope of explaining Meursault's emotions and the relationship of his emotions to his behavior. But while the investigator is genuinely confused about Meursault's lack of emotions in a situation that would be highly affecting to most people, Meursault can't bring himself to even recognize this confusion. He doesn't impede the lawyer's questions or refuse to help him, but he also doesn't care that he can't answer these questions.

He asked me if I could say that that day I had held back my natural feelings. I said, "No, because it's not true." He gave me a strange look, as if he found me slightly disgusting…I pointed out to him that none of this had anything to do with my case, but all he said was that it was obvious I had never had any dealings with the law.

Related Characters: Meursault (speaker), The Defense Lawyer
Page Number: 77
Explanation and Analysis:

Like Marie, the defense lawyer – even though he may be on Meursault's side – finds his behavior not only strange but repellent, wildly different as it is from any "normal" person's actions. Here, the lawyer is disturbed that Meursault won't admit to having had "natural feelings" – that is, feelings of grief and sorrow that for some reason he may have held back. The lawyer's disgust seems to indicate that he finds such lack of feelings to be inhuman.

At the same time, the lawyer finds it frustrating that Meursault won't even agree to speak or act as if he felt a certain way. The lawyer knows that in a legal case, the motivations of the suspect will be crucial for whether or not the jury gains sympathy for him. Meursault, however, seems to believe that the law will be indifferent to emotion or other issues. He thinks the law will care only about facts, about what happened. What's interesting here is that Meursault's idea of the law seems to be an idealistic vision of the law, that it is something based on action and evidence rather than tangentially connected appearances of how someone "felt." This interaction is just the first hint of how the law will really work, how it's findings are based on human emotions rather than some hard framework of pure evidence.

But he cut me off and urged me one last time, drawing himself up to his full height and asking me if I believed in God. I said no. He sat down indignantly. He said it was impossible; all men believed in God, even those who turn their backs on him. That was his belief, and if he were ever to doubt it, his life would become meaningless. "Do you want my life to be meaningless?" he shouted. As far as I could see, it didn't have anything to do with me, and I told him so. But from across the table he had already thrust the crucifix in my face and was screaming irrationally…

Related Characters: Meursault (speaker), The Examining Magistrate (speaker)
Page Number: 69
Explanation and Analysis:

As the magistrate tries to convince Meursault to believe in God – really, to agree to act according to existing beliefs and customs in society – it becomes increasingly clear that Meursault's own belief system (or lack thereof) is a threat to society itself. The magistrate grows shockingly frantic and upset here: Meursault's indifferent reaction makes the magistrate feel like he himself is being threatened, that the meaning he draws from his own life is dangerously close to collapsing. Ironically, the magistrate's attempt to convert Meursault ends up becoming a question of his own faith. 

Meursault, as usual, is unable to see how different people's belief systems can have anything to do with those of others, or how one person's attitude and actions might affect another. His absolute passivity in the face of his own potential conviction and death is not only incomprehensible to others, but maddeningly so. Even though it is Meursault whose beliefs are strange and confusing, however, it is the magistrate who is made to look absurd here, as Meursault's own refusal to submit to social codes and beliefs suggests just how fragile and possibly unjustifiable those codes may be. 

Book 2, Chapter 2 Quotes

There were others worse off than me. Anyway, it was one of Maman's ideas…that after a while you could get used to anything.

Related Characters: Meursault (speaker), Madame Meursault
Page Number: 77
Explanation and Analysis:

One of Meursault's most distinctive qualities, of course, is his indifferent attitude towards whatever happens to him, and his belief that even when he acts dramatically – shooting a man, for instance – he is convinced that he is simply moving through life without any agency of his own. Here, in an instance of what in another book might count as tragic irony, Meursault twists his mother's "idea" into something she probably would never have agreed with. For Maman, the idea that one can get used to anything allowed her to surmount obstacles, to permit her to carry on even in difficult, unpleasant situations. 

That Meursault thinks of his mother's idea here suggests that his philosophy of life can, in fact, be traced back towards his own individual experiences. However, he now takes the idea to mean that it doesn't matter what one does or how one acts, since one person's experience and situation is indistinguishable from another. Meursault thus reinterprets a message meant to encourage and reassure into one that stands for his own brand of passive indifference towards the world.

Of course I had read that eventually you wind up losing track of time in prison. But it hadn't meant much to me when I'd read it. I hadn't understood how days could be both long and short at the same time: long to live through, maybe, but so drawn out that they ended up flowing into one another. They lost their names. Only the words "yesterday" and "tomorrow" still had any meaning for me.
One day when the guard told me that I'd been in for five months, I believed it, but I didn't understand it. For me it was one and the same unending day that was unfolding in my cell and the same thing I was trying to do.

Related Characters: Meursault (speaker)
Page Number: 80
Explanation and Analysis:

In some ways, this passage suggests that prison, for Meursault, becomes an extreme opportunity to test out his theories on the lack of meaning in life in general. It is particularly evident how one day is indistinguishable from another, how nothing is more meaningful than anything else, when Meursault indeed is restricted to a cell with little to do and less to think about.

The "same unending day" that unfolds in his cell is another way to think about Meursault's life, or at least his life in the way he imagines it. The boundaries that divide up endless time – "yesterday" and "tomorrow" – are arbitrary, able to be understood only in an abstract way. As he lives out his months in prison, then, Meursault is only further convinced that there is no other way to interpret his own experience than the absurdist view he subscribes to.

Book 2, Chapter 3 Quotes

Come now, is my client on trail for burying his mother or for killing a man?

Related Characters: The Defense Lawyer (speaker)
Page Number: 96
Explanation and Analysis:

As Meursault's lawyer had expected, the prosecutor has continued to emphasize the coldness of Meursault's attitude as he buried his mother, the lack of feeling that he showed at her death, in order to convince the jury of how callous and unfeeling he is as a person. Here, the lawyer attempts to expose the irrelevance of Maman's burial, how silly it is to unite two disparate events. Indeed, this is the way that Meursault considers events as well, as distinct units irrelevant to each other, without any meaningful narrative able to emerge from them. 

However, this is not the way that most people think: it's not the way that society is set up to function. The prosecutor is playing into most people's innate hunger for narrative and for meaning, for stringing apparently disparate events together into a coherent story. Even Meursault is not immune to this kind of thinking, as he himself did find certain similarities between the heat of Maman's burial and the heat of the day at the beach, for instance. Still, he refuses to draw any significance from these similarities.

Here, the prosecutor's opposite strategy is suggested to be disingenuous or even arbitrary, despite the equal confusion stemming from Meursault's own refusal to assign any meaning to a sequence of events.

Book 2, Chapter 4 Quotes

But were their two speeches so different after all? My lawyer raised his arms and pleaded guilty, but with an explanation. The prosecutor waved his hands and proclaimed my guilt, but without an explanation…In a way, they seemed to be arguing the case as if it had nothing to do with me…There were times when I felt like breaking in on all of them and saying, "Wait a minute! Who's the accused here? Being the accused counts for something. And I have something to say!" But on second thought, I didn't have anything to say.

Related Characters: Meursault (speaker), The Prosecutor, The Defense Lawyer
Page Number: 98
Explanation and Analysis:

Meursault is watching and listening with detached, even bemused interest, as the lawyers on both side of the case attempt to argue their case. While the prosecutor condemns the killing as a cold-blooded crime, Meursault's lawyer attempts to explain it and shed light on it. Both lawyers efforts involve emphasizing the meaning inherent to the crime. Meursault, of course, would object to both characterizations, since for him the murder meant and means absolutely nothing. 

In this passage, Meursault also has the strange feeling that he has had before, that he is witnessing life and experience unfold before him without playing any role in it himself. Here, however, what is unfolding before him actually has very much to do with himself and his own life. And yet, after remarking on the strangeness of this closeness, Meursault realizes that he nonetheless has no more expertise on or interest in the matter than he would if the lawyers were arguing about a stranger. 

Book 2, Chapter 5 Quotes

But everybody knows life isn't worth living. Deep down I knew perfectly well that it doesn't much matter whether you die at thirty or at seventy, since in either case other men and women will naturally go on living – and for thousands of years …At that point, what would disturb my train of thought was the terrifying leap I would feel my heart take at the idea of having twenty more years of life ahead of me. But I simply had to stifle it by imagining what I'd be thinking in twenty years when it would all come down to the same thing anyway… Therefore (and the difficult thing was not to lose sight of all the reasoning that went into this "therefore"), I had to accept the rejection of my appeal.
Then and only then would I have the right…to consider the alternative hypothesis: I was pardoned…It would take all my strength to quiet my heart, to be rational. In order to make my resignation to the first hypothesis more plausible, I had to be level-headed about this one as well.

Related Characters: Meursault (speaker)
Page Number: 114-115
Explanation and Analysis:

Earlier in the novel, Meursault has had little trouble considering other people's life and death, as well as his own, coolly and apparently objectively: he has never mustered feelings of care, nor does he imagine that he should muster such feelings. Now, though, Meursault's indifference is not his natural state but a philosophical attitude that he has to strive to return to. His heart leaps when he thinks of being able to live twenty years longer, even though he knows it makes little difference, and he'll have to die anyway. 

Interestingly, this change does not make Meursault realize the value of life or convince himself that he has been wrong all along about the meaninglessness of existence. Instead, it simply shows how even someone as "level-headed" and rational as Meursault can be carried away by his own, (importantly) physical feelings – his body's desire to keep on living – and temporarily forget what the truth of existence really is. To combat what he sees as a weakness, Meursault sternly orders himself to follow the train of logic that he has always embraced, and to once again coldly consider all the options available to him as indifferent and interchangeable.

Throughout the whole absurd life I'd lived, a dark wind had been rising toward me from somewhere deep in my future, across years that were still to come, and as it passed, this wind leveled whatever was offered to me at the time, in years no more real than the ones I was living. What did other people's deaths or a mother's love matter to me; what did his God or the lives people choose or the fate they think they elect matter to me when we're all elected by the same fate, me and billions of privileged people like him who also called themselves my brother?...Everybody was privileged…The others would all be condemned one day. And he would be condemned, too.

Related Characters: Meursault (speaker)
Page Number: 121
Explanation and Analysis:

At this climactic moment, Meursault does not exactly have an epiphany – that is, a realization that will fundamentally change his actions or change the way he sees the world. Indeed, the "absurd life" he's lived until now is only strengthened in this passage. What is different, of course, is the way in which Meursault expresses his views. Whereas beforehand, his commitment to the indifference and meaninglessness of life was expressed through an indifferent attitude, now he finds himself forced to take a stand, to openly and explicitly embrace these views and to champion them as correct. 

Indeed, indifference becomes far more than a day-to-day attitude here. Meursault argues that everyone is subject to the universe's ultimate indifference to us all. What makes us privileged, he argues, is simply the fact that we are alive today. And this same fact is also what condemns us, not only to die, but also to live in the knowledge that our existence means nothing. Meursault's refusal to care about other people's death, another's love towards him, is only the logical continuation of the larger meaninglessness defining all our lives. In a way, ironically, meaninglessness itself becomes the way by which Meursault makes meaning out of the world. Throughout the novel, then, his philosophy towards life has struggled to maintain its rebellious, anti-meaning approach, without this attitude becoming yet another, inevitably meaningful philosophy of its own.

As if that blind rage had washed me clean, rid me of hope; for the first time, in that night alive with signs and stars, I opened myself to the gentle indifference of the world. Finding it so much like myself – so like a brother, really – I felt that I had been happy and that I was happy again.

Related Characters: Meursault (speaker)
Page Number: 123
Explanation and Analysis:

Bolstered by the dramatic outburst that he made to the chaplain, Meursault now has the peace and quiet to be able to think through what his embrace of the absurd, of the world's indifference, implies for the way he will act from now on. Instead of resentfully mirroring the world's indifference with his own, he "opens" himself to this indifference.

In a way, this passage might remind one of the most optimistic lines of the world's religious texts, which encourage people to feel happy at the knowledge of a greater meaning. Meursault's feeling is different – indeed, his happiness comes from the very fact of hopelessness that he knows to be the real nature of the world. Knowing that he is looking clear-eyed into the indifferent universe, and enjoying the mere physical, sensory experience of inhabiting it, Meursault doesn't transcend the meaninglessness of the world, but rather learns to live within it.