Life and its ultimate ending in death pervade much of The Outsider. People accept convention and routine events without question. Nothing, Camus seems to be saying, that we do can possibly have any meaning. What we must learn to do is to live within the "absurd", and must behave as if there is significance in life.

Universe versus man

Man’s presence on earth is fleeting in comparison with the power of nature and the eternity of the universe. They appeal visually and sensually in sun, water, earth and sky but they can also be dangerous and destructive. They have no compassion, they are neither good nor bad, they simply are and they exist forever. Meursault accepts this philosophy and rejects God. Yet it is the sun and his inability to look to future consequences that lead to the murder and imprisonment depriving him of all the sensations that made his life worthwhile.

Challenge to social, religious and philosophical values

Society is scandalized over Meursault’s behaviour at his mother’s funeral. Outwardly he shows no remorse, smokes and drinks coffee at her vigil, and the following day takes a girl to the cinema and then sleeps with her. Yet in the trial he flouts convention and chooses to honestly vocalise his thoughts, whereas hypocritical lies would most certainly have made his ordeal much easier. He is also scorned for his lack of faith and belief in the afterlife. Camus attacks conventional notions of love and marriage as its institutional symbol. Meursault says he loves his mother in the way that sons do and that he would marry Marie despite not being in love with her if she really wants him to. Justice as an institution is similarly condemned. At Meursault’s trial no one seems to care why he acted the way he did. The judge simply presumes he is a soulless pathological killer who murdered without remorse and must be removed from society.


Meursault is shown as a person who lives for the moment with no thought to consequences. He wanders into a relationship with Marie and friendship with Raymond; yet he remains true to his ideals and will not lie about his motives. He seems to be governed by the idea of the futility of acting when all life inevitably ends in death.

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