What is it about Meursault that makes him “the stranger”? It is not that he is a murderer, but that he tells the truth. He tells you when something doesn’t mean anything and he tells you that he is hot. When his mother dies he is unsure when it happened, but says that doesn’t mean anything. He says the same thing to his girl friend.
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.
Meursault is not seeking for a meaning. He accepts the way things are.
Then he 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.
Meursault is a man who lives in his skin, but he is not always comfortable there. In the water, swimming, he feels something close to joy but, usually, he is too hot. In his room he is hot, walking to his mother’s funeral he is too hot, and when he kills the Arab on the beach he is very hot. At his trial he disastrously speaks the truth about his feelings.
I stood up, and since I did wish to speak, I said, almost at random, in fact, that I never intended to kill the Arab. The judge replied by saying that at least that was an assertion, that until then he hadn’t quite grasped the nature of my defense, and that before hearing from my lawyer he would be happy to have me state precisely the motives for my act. Fumbling a little with my words and realizing how ridiculous I sounded, I blurted out that it was because of the sun. People laughed.
Meursault is sometimes spoken of as an ordinary man. He may be ordinary in the details of his life, but he is a stranger to the deceptions and self deceptions that make living such a life possible.