In "The Stranger," how and why is Meursault condemned?

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William Delaney | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Meursault, after all, did kill another man. His best defense would be that he acted in self-defense, but the text makes it sound like deliberate and possibly premeditated murder. Camus was opposed to capital punishment, and his novel seems intended more to show that capital punishment is absurd than that the legal system is absurd. If he had written a story about an innocent man who gets sentenced to death through circumstantial evidential or some other mistake, that would make us feel more sympathetic towards Meursault. But it is clear that he didn't have to kill the Arab, and it is also clear that he is lacking in normal human feelings for whatever reason. He not only seems indifferent to killing another human being, but he seems indifferent to his own fate, thereby creating a bad impression throughout his trial. The best that can be said for him is that he is honest. He resembles Bartleby in Herman Melville's "Batleby the Scrivener."

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