For Mersault, the narrator in The Stranger, what his reality becomes is his choice and his choice
alone. However, what he doesn’t realize that others, like the jury and judge that decide his
execution, are really who control his life and reality. Each person’s reality is often what they want it
to be. They never seem to sacrifice their own realities for the benefit for others. For example when
in prison and thinking about Marie, Mersault believes that Marie means nothing to him and when
thinking about how his execution would effect her he reveals his selfish thoughts:
How was I to know, since apart from our two bodies, now separated, there wasn’t
anything that kept us together or even to remind us of each other? Anyway, after that,
remembering Marie meant nothing to me. I wasn’t interested in her dead. That seemed
perfectly normal to me, since I understood very well that people would forget me when
I was dead (Camus 115).
He has no ability to suspend this reality of being able to say no to questions and offers that give rise
to opportunities that could change his life because he is selfish. Marie clearly wants a future with
him— however twisted it may be and he is unable to lie to the chaplain even if it allows a glimmer
of hope for a life for Marie. He clearly believes that it is much harder to lie than to tell the truth.
However, it is interesting that while I often focus how a character’s reality is flawed, Mersault’s
reality seems to be perfect. He has a grip on what is going on in his life. But that may just be the
issue for Mersault; he is able to be logical and rational about everything in his life that he knows
whether or not evading execution is good for others or not. He wants to avoid becoming Sisyphus
in pushing the rock up the hill repeatedly. The question in the end is which is better: being able to
give meaning to others even if you don’t get any yourself or giving up because there is no meaning.