The Stranger's Meursault is an insanely isolated guy. He's isolated from society, from friends, from his lover, from human emotion, and eventually from normal logic.
But don't start feeling sorry for him. His isolation is self-prescribed; Meursault isn’t exiled by any means—he separates himself. Of course, at first he doesn’t view this as a choice at all; isolation is simply the path of least resistance, the series of activities that requires the least activity and effort. By the end of the novel, the narrator realizes that he has the ability to choose; that if he wants, he can wish for a large crowd of people: he can desire to be less alone. Or he can stay as he is. But at least he's conscious of his own ability to decide.
Questions About Isolation
- The physical layout of the visiting room in prison symbolizes the chasm between upstanding citizens of society and immoral criminals in prison. Do you find Meursault more or less detached when he is in prison as compared to when he was free?
- Is isolation damaging to Meursault, or freeing? (Which kind of isolation, by the way? Societal? Emotional? Which impacts him the most?)
Chew on This
Content as a spectator in life, Meursault can be considered solipsistic—he's pretty sure that his self is the only self that can really be known to exist. This is his own irrational response to an irrational world.
The event most characteristic of Meursault’s detachment to this world is his refusal to see his mother one last time.