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Quotes

Quote #13

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. (1.5.3)

Meursault is so dispassionate here that he can’t identify much of a difference between "unhappy" and "happy." He’s neither; he’s just "content," middle of the road.

Quote #14

We [Raymond and Meursault] stared at each other without blinking, and everything came to a stop there between the sea, the sand, and the sun, and the double silence of the flute and the water. It was then that I realized that you could either shoot or not shoot. (1.6.18)

Even if there is no meaning to life, every person faces a choice in every situation. (No fate and no controlling deity = radical personal freedom.) At this point in the novel, however, Meursault’s sense of detachment prevents his thinking or acting rationally. So while he recognizes that choice exists, he isn’t yet able to commit to making one. (Think of it as a half-way point in his evolution.)

Quote #15

The heat was so intense that it was just as bad standing still in the blinding stream falling from the sky. To stay or to go, it amounted to the same thing. A minute later I turned back toward the beach and started walking.

There was the same dazzling red glare. The sea gasped for air with each shallow, stifled little wave that broke on the sand. I was walking slowly toward the rocks and I could feel my forehead swelling under the sun. All that heat was pressing down on me and making it hard for me to go on. And every time I felt a blast of its hot breath strike my face, I gritted my teeth, clenched my fists in my trouser pockets, and strained every nerve in order to overcome the sun and the thick drunkenness it was spilling over me. With every blade of light that flashed off the sand, from a bleached shell or a piece of broken glass, my jaws tightened. (1.6.19-20)

The description of the heat accompanies Meursault’s rising annoyance perfectly, foreshadows the impending conflict exactly, and illustrates just how irrational his forthcoming actions will be.

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