In The Stranger, by Albert Camus, Camus suggests that mankind is illogical by nature through the illogical actions of the most ideally logical character, Monsieur Meursault. Meursault is habitually indifferent and acts only with regard to his physical being. He is the perfect model for the most logically sound person, as he utterly lacks emotion and thus is able to live life through pure logic. However, Meursault carries out the most illogical actions even though he is supposedly logical, a contradiction that leads to his death sentence and execution.
In the passage where Meursault fires his revolver upon the Arabian man, Camus suggests that Meursault’s actions are illogical, since he has no definite or reasonable reason to commit murder. As “it occur[s] to [Meursault] that all [he] ha[s] to do [is] turn around”(58) and not pursue the Arabian man, the logical thing to do, “the whole beach, the throbbing sun, [presses] on [his] back”(58), “burn[ing] [his] cheeks … the same as it had been the day [he’d] buried Maman … [and] it was this burning, which [he] couldn’t stand anymore, that made him move forward”(58-59) and act illogically. It is not out of his emotions, be it hatred, revenge, anger, or invidious feelings towards the Arabian man that causes Meursault to kill, rather, Meursault kills as a result of his desire “to sh[ake] off the sweat and sun”(59). Meursault, usually logical and defiant of doing any more action than is necessary, contrarily acts out of character and illogically takes the life of another man with the simple reason that his physical surroundings bother him. He feels no remorse or emotion in what he does. He postulates that “the cymbals of sunlight crashing on [his] forehead”(59) and the reflection of the sun’s rays against the knife “[which] slash[es] at [his] eyelashes and stab[s] at his … eyes”(59), along with the sun’s other annoyances, causes him to commit murder. His justification of such an unforgivable crime is illogical, absurd. Meursault, the perfect example of a logical being, illogically kills someone. His reason for doing so is ridiculous, absurd. Camus intentionally has Meursault act illogically, as a basis to suggest that human beings are inclined to be illogical.
Camus further develops Meursault’s illogic behavior in the passage where Meursault engages in a conversation with the magistrate after his arrest. The magistrate forces his beliefs in God on Meursault, in which Meursault “sa[ys] no”(69), that he does not believe that God exists. The magistrate states that Meursault’s claim is “impossible; all men [believe] in God, even those who turn their backs on him”(69). Meursault’s logical perception of physical objects is revealed. He does not believe that God exists, simply because his logic does not allow him to. He has not seen definitive evidence that suggests God exists, ergo his logic concludes that God does not exist. Contrary to Meursault’s opinions, the magistrate proves persistent. He incessantly showers Meursault with his beliefs, that “if he were ever to doubt [his beliefs], his life would become meaningless”(69). He continues to barrage Meursault with the same questions, when asking Meursault, “How can you not believe that He suffered for you”(69). Meursault then feels it “getting hotter and hotter”(69), as he has “had enough”(69) of the magistrates droning. “Whenever [he] want[s] to get rid of someone [he’s] not really listening to, [he] ma[kes] it appear as if [he] agree[s]”(69). The magistrate, whose presence and indulgent questions seem to evoke the “hot” temperature and feeling within Meursault, causes Meursault to act illogically. Meursault illogically degrades himself, feigning his agreement with the magistrate and shaming his own intellectual opinions. The contrast in Meursault’s logical thinking and illogical actions, create uncertainty to the true persona of Meursault. Meursault proves extremely logical as he denies his belief in God, but illogical when belittling himself to purge the feeling of warmth. Similar to the events with the Arabian man, Meursault again, illogically does whatever is necessary without logically thinking to rid himself of the feeling of warmth.
Camus creates Meursault to be the model logical person, as he can act solely on logic without emotions interfering. Human beings are less logical than Meursault in this sense, since they are plagued with emotions and difference. While Camus’ Meursault, a truly logical being, acts illogical with consideration and regards to the idiotic reason of his physical environment, then the logically inferior human beings other than Meursault are then inclined to be illogical by nature. However, the degree of the illogical actions of Meursault, compared to those of human beings is on a different scale. Camus suggests that although human beings are illogical, it is their nature. He also shows that even though humans may act illogical, their actions are justified by their reasons, whereas Meursault’s actions are not justified in the least. He demonstrates this idea through the ultimate conclusion of Meursault’s death. Meursault being condemned to an early death through execution as a result of his illogical actions serves to be a warning to readers.