In The Stranger, prove if Meursault should be found guilty or not guilty.

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Name VonRueden eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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There is obviously no rational argument or evidence by which we can establish that Meursault should be acquitted of murder. There are no mitigating factors, and I believe this is the way Camus intended the scenario to be.

The question becomes not one of guilt or innocence but rather the meaning of Meursault's very real guilt within the context of the story. Throughout literary history we can identify similar scenarios in which deliberate killings are emblematic of some deeper problem or mystery at the heart of human actions. Why does Macbeth kill? Why does Raskolnikov kill in Dostoevsky's Crime...

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leanne3185 | Student

In an attempt to prove if Meursault should be found guilty or not it would be helpful to quote the passage:

When Meursault steps toward the cool water of the spring, the Arab draws his knife. The sunlight reflects off the blade and directly into Meursault’s eyes, which are already stinging with sweat and heat. Meursault fires the gun once. He pauses and then fires four more times into the Arab’s motionless body. Meursault has killed the Arab.

The text quite clearly explains that Meursault killed the man, but the further question of whether this can be determined to be self defense because the other man pulled a knife first is how we decide which argument to make. There is evidence to support both arguments in this story.

An argument in favor of his being guilty could include emphasis on the fact that Meursault returned to the area where the man was known to be with a gun and the fact that he shot the man four additional times after he stopped moving. It should also point out the fact that the man only had a knife and Meursault had the more deadly weapon and Meursault made no attempt to leave without a conflict.

An argument against Meursault being guilty could include references to his state of mental health, that early in the text it is made clear to the reader that Meursault functions differently in the world and seems to lack basic human emotions and, in some cases, rational thought processes. One could argue that Meursault really does not understand the difference between right and wrong and hence needs medical treatment rather than punitive justice. This argument can be coupled with the self-defense argument in that the other man pulled the knife first and Meursault was unable to think through the consequences of his actions.