Consider the end of Chapter 1 in The Stranger. What mood and tone are set by this excerpt? The there was the church and the villagers on the sidewalks, the red geraniums on the graves in the cemetary, Perez fainting, the blood-red earth spilling over Maman's casket, the white flesh of the roots mixed in with it, more people, voices, the village, waiting in front of the cafe, the incessant drone of the motor, and y joy when the bus entered the nest of lights that was Algiers and I knew I was going to go to bed and sleep for twelve hours (18).

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The ending of chapter one of The Stranger is absurd and ironic.  Really, it makes me laugh.  The flood of sensory imagery used by Camus at the end suggests a kind of stream-of-consciousness montage that Meursault wants to forget.  Comically, it ends with him asleep (after also sleeping through the vigil).

By the way, Merusault (Camus) also describes the events leading up to the Arab's death on the beach and his own death by guillotine using a similar flood of imagery and long, extended sentences.

Maman's death is a blur to Meursault: he can't wait to get the funeral over with and get home.  And I don't blame him.  The entire process is ridiculous, if you think about it.  Meursault has to wear black, sit up all night watching over a dead body.  Then, in the heat of sub-Saharan Africa, he's supposed to walk behind a casket for a country mile, escorting a bunch of old people, only to put the body in a casket and cover it with dirt and flowers.  Certainly, it's a sadistic ritual, and Meursault hates the whole grieving process.

Notice the mention of Perez.  It's ironic to note that it sounds like, from his description of the funeral, that Meursault is the one who fainted, but instead of heat exhaustion, Meursault suffers from death exhaustion.  Meursault and Perez are foils.  Whereas Meursault sleeps during the vigil and can't wait for the funeral to be over, Perez stays awake all night and faints during the procession.  Meursault is an anti-mourner, while Perez is a professional one.  What's worse?  Camus would say the latter.

Meursault hates the culture of death because it does not affirm life.  Why should he mourn someone who died of old age and natural causes?  Who was among friends?  Who did not suffer?  Must we push ourselves to the brink of death also for the sake of a dead body?  What are we trying to prove with the guilt and denial?  After all, Perez nearly joins her.

Some have said that Meursault suffers from an Oedipus Complex, that he in fact loves his mother too much so as not to even look at her dead body in the casket, that Meursault sublimates his hurt and anger into apathy so as to dispel the entire episode from his memory out of Oedipal guilt.  I like the theory, but I'm not sure I buy it completely.

Meursault, at the end of chapter 1 and at the end of the book, is the same: he does not follow cultural conventions.  Like Bartleby the Scrivener ("I prefer not to"), Holden Caufield ("sleep tight ya morons!"), Melville ("No in thunder"), and Hester Prynne (wearing the scarlet letter silently on the gallows), Meursault is descended form a long line of literary heroes who willfully detest an illegitimate society that, ironically, detests them.

The end of this chapter is a parody of the funeral, a mockery of the grieving process, a satire of the culture of death, a ridicule against guilt.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The mood/tone can be considered morbid because it paints a picture of death that is likely to be necessary to understand in the future.

Camus paints this picture of death first with the understanding of color. Red can represent danger or death. I think it is important to note that Camus uses the term "blood-red" to express a color. He could have used crimson, scarlet, or maroon, but he chose to use the word blood to describe it. This not only foreshadows something to come, but it develops the mood as morbid. Further use of color occurs when Camus describes the "white flesh" of the roots mixed with the blood-red of the earth as they are tossed over Maman's casket. We know the color white to often represent innocence or purity. The act of death can purify, or innocent people can die. Whatever extra message Camus is trying to present, the color of white mixing with red suggests the morbid tone more clearly. It is as if this innocent life being cast away into death doesn't matter at all. To me, that is sick and twisted, or morbid.

Finally, Mersault can't wait until the bus takes him away. At this moment when he should be experiencing great sorrow and pain, he is looking forward to relief from the necessity of this task as if it is a chore. That is also morbid to me.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
Soaring plane image

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial