How does Meursault's reaction to the sun affect his mood and behavior in Camus's The Stranger?

Meursault's negative reaction to the sun's heat and glare in Camus's The Stranger makes him act with even greater indifference to the world, even contributing to his absurd killing of the Arab.

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The sun is a major motif in The Stranger, affecting Meursault greatly. Many stories associate the sun with life and even goodness, due to the warmth it radiates and its place in the cycles of the natural world.

But for Meursault, the sun is a figure of absurdity and suffering. He associates the sun with a killing heat that renders him dizzy and makes his head ache, even considering it "inhuman and oppressive." He experiences such intense heat during his mother's funeral, on the day he kills the Arab, and during his trial. Interestingly, all three of these situations deal with death, with the last a prelude to Meursault's own death by execution.

Rather than being seen as part of a benign natural order, the sun for Camus is a symbol of the universe's indifference to human beings. The sun does not care whether or not its heat makes humans comfortable. It shines on no matter what. It is much the same with Meursault: he reacts with indifference to his mother's death, the Arab's death, and his own imminent death, reflecting the greater callousness of the universe.

The sun's causing a glint on the Arab's knife also becomes a factor in Meursault's killing of the man—a very slight reasoning for murder, but the point of the novel is that life is just as absurd as this climactic murder. The sun's heat and glare are enough for Meursault to kill a man, just as in the whole of life, there is no greater meaning there. Ultimately, the sun appears to encourage Meursault, who is already a rather passive fellow to begin with, to react to the world with the same indifference as reality itself.

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